The city of Istanbul has been where Europe meets Asia, going back to the days when it was known as Constantinople and horse-drawn carts were the favorite mode of transportation -- or maybe even earlier to when it was Byzantium and people rode around in chariots.
Now, the surrounding region of modern Turkey is becoming a cost-effective place for automakers to assemble vehicles for sale in Europe. In 2005 the country's factories built 822,420 vehicles.
According to OSD, the Turkish automakers association, 240,000 people work in automaker or supplier plants.
The No. 1 auto producer in Turkey last year was Ford Motor Co., which built nearly a quarter-million cars and trucks there, according to Automotive News Europe.
Meanwhile, light-vehicle sales in Turkey topped 720,000 last year, according to J.D. Power Automotive Forecasting.
Ford, which sold about 125,000 vehicles, also was the best-selling brand in Turkey last year, nosing out Renault.
What makes all of this so intriguing is that after centuries of being neither really European nor Asian, Turkey has economic aspirations to become part of the European Union.
That's probably still a few years off. But it is better for Europe and the United States to have Turkey looking west rather than aligning itself economically with some of the other nations in the Middle East, especially with everything going on in the region these days.
When Turkey finally is admitted to the European Union, you can bet automobiles will play an important role.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]