Namco (National Motor Company of Greece) is a Greek vehicle manufacturer, a creation of the Kontogouris Brothers who have been in the automotive industry business since the 1950s.
Namco would resurface in 1972, when a light passenger-utility vehicle called the Pony was introduced in the Thessaloniki Trade Fair, after an agreement was signed with Citroën. The car, of rather basic technology, had been designed by Citroën on a 2CV platform as part of 'basic world car' project that eventually lead to the Citroën FAF (the Pony and other similar cars preceded the FAF and were not derived from it, as is often erroneously reported). Indeed, cars on the same basis were produced around the world from Iran to Portugal, but the Pony became by far the most successful. In 1974 Namco started business officially and production started in a new plant in Thessaloniki. The Pony (also called Pony-Citroën), helped by a law giving tax breaks for light utility-passenger vehicles became an instant success, being the cheapest car in the market and, at the same time, an incredibly robust and practical automobile (about half a dozen Greek companies would follow Namco's example, with similar contraptions, none of which, though, came close to Pony's success). A large number of versions and facelifts followed, keeping the car up to standards. Almost 30,000 Pony's were produced, while exports to many countries around the world (a few were even exported to the U.S.) were made, "helped" by the Citroën logo on the vehicle.
In 1978 Namco decided to move into other fields, introducing a series of very advanced 4x4 and 6x6 (3 to 6.5 tonne) multi-purpose trucks featuring a novel Swiss-designed, patented axle/suspension system. A complete lineup was made for many uses, consisting of the Agricar, Milicar, Pyrcar and Multi-trac vehicles. It is somewhat of a mystery why those advanced vehicles had limited success, with only small numbers ordered by Greek state authorities. Similarly Namco designed a number of military vehicles including the Panther (only 2 were produced), as well as the Tiger and Aquilles armored vehicles and 4x4's, some of which did not even reach the stage of complete prototype. It has been argued that it was simply the wrong time, since the Greek state favored a state company (ELBO) for its supplies in that period.
The first generation Pony (Pony-Citroën) was produced until 1983; in the meanwhile, the law concerning taxation of similar vehicles had been modified. Plans to manufacture other cars under licence were not realized and for a moment it seemed that Namco would once more be out of business. But the company would resurface again with a completely new model, the Pony Super, introduced in 1985. The second generation Pony had no connection with Citroën technology and was a much more modern car with Ford engines, coming in a large number of versions (950 cc , 1100 cc , 1300 cc and 1600 cc diesel, in two- and four-door arrangements). It was essentially developed by Namco, since Inthelco, a German company also involved in its development was majority-owned by Namco at the time. An ambitious plan was made to export the car to the U.S. with a 1900 cc engine via Inthelco as the Desta at a rate of 20,000 per year. However, the costs and prospects proved to be grossly miscalculated and the plan was abandoned. No matter how improved the new Pony was, it was still a far cry from the needs of the contemporary Greek market made of progressively more affluent and demanding consumers. Only a few hundred Pony Super's were built until 1992.
Once more, when it seemed that Namco would vanish, the company created one more chance for rebirth, as its founders were stubbornly attached to the car-making business. So, although they also diversified into imports and trade of vehicles keeping Namco alive, they transformed the company into a technology exporter, offering design and construction of vehicle producing miniplants (as an antidote, they argued, to the giant conglomerates created by globalism) together with the Pony and their 4x4 truck technology. In 1994, the first Pony Supers produced under licence in Bulgaria came out of the assembly plant in that country.
Namco is still alive today, indeed representing the stubbornness and vision of its creators. It is characteristic that production of the Pony Super and the trucks never "officially" ended, as the company maintains a factory ready to resume production. Actually, a "third-generation" Pony (in reality a Pony Super with minor improvements) was introduced in 2003. One who knows Namco's history, could easily anticipate a new phase in its evolution.