The story of Bosch in Turkey is also the story of a friendship. It began in 1910, when Robert Bosch started selling his magneto ignition in Istanbul. The resulting friendly contacts formed the foundation for the good cooperation between Bosch and Turkey, where the company has also been manufacturing since 1973.
On 1 April 1917, Robert Bosch's heartfelt wish came true. On this day, the foundation stone was laid for the "House of Friendship" in Istanbul, for which he had donated a large sum of money. Robert Bosch felt a lifelong friendship with Turkey. In addition to the beauty of the country, he was particularly impressed by the people.
Robert Bosch had had business interests in Turkey ever since he reached an agreement with a commercial agency in Istanbul in 1910. The first setbacks in the relationship between Bosch and Turkey came during the First World War, while contact between the two ceased altogether during the second.
Not one single German vehicle
After the war, Bosch did everything in its power to revive its business relations with Turkey, sending representatives in the country on the Bosporus.
“(…) the streets of the main cities (Istanbul and Ankara) are flooded with thousands of the very latest American cars, generating a volume of traffic that would be impossible to imagine back home. I did not see one single German vehicle in the entire 14 days I was there,” reported an astonished Karl Zehender in 1948. He was confident that a Bosch sales office in Turkey would be a success and he was to be proved right: in 1948, Bosch appointed the Turkish businessman Ahmet Veli Menger as its sole commercial agent in Turkey. In the following years, Menger further expanded the Bosch customer service network. In addition to imported supplier products for the automotive industry, Bosch refrigerators were very popular in Turkey at the time. Sales of Bosch products flourished in the country.
From nozzles to complete diesel injection pumps
In order to meet the growing demand for nozzles for diesel injection systems in the country itself, Bosch founded its own regional company for local production in 1970. A location was soon found in the industrial district of Bursa. When the first Bosch plant on Turkish soil was dedicated in May 1973, it covered an area of just 4,500 square meters. However, next to the plant was a plot of land measuring some 90,000 square meters — an ideal site for future expansion. This forward planning paid off, and in the years that followed, numerous other diesel products were added to the manufacturing portfolio. The 1990s even saw the construction of a second plant in Bursa devoted primarily to diesel injection systems.
Today, Bosch manufactures a wide range of automotive technology products for diesel and gasoline engines in Bursa. In addition, the company produced gas-fired heating systems, automation technology, household appliances, and other equipment in Istanbul and Manisa, and has also established a presence in Turkey selling a wide selection of Bosch products, such as power tools and security systems. Bosch employs a total of 18,000 associates in Turkey today.
A street name remains
Robert Bosch would no doubt have been pleased to see how successful this business relationship had become. One of his goals had always been to use global business relationships to establish closer links between people of different nations and create an atmosphere of peaceful cooperation and collaboration. This vision was to be reflected in the “House of Friendship” in 1917. Sadly, the course of the first world war put an end to these plans, and construction work got no further than the foundation walls. Today, at least a street name in Istanbul remains to commemorate the project: Dostluk Yurdu Sodak — House of Friendship Street.
I have been working in the Corporate Archives of Robert Bosch GmbH for 18 years. I am responsible for the historical photo and art collection, picture editing and event organization. Furthermore I am writing and reappraising the history of Bosch in France, Benelux, Italy and Turkey. After studying art history, I was in charge of the photo and film collection of the Stuttgart City Archive, among other things.