‘Made in Africa’ SUV hits the market
Africa’s roads are notorious. More than half of them are unpaved.
It’s no surprise then that Kenyan car manufacturer, Mobius Motors, is looking to introduce an affordable, no thrills, but robust and classy SUV for the African mass market.
The Mobius II is set to be on the road by next year. The company has started accepting orders. This, their second model, is aiming to be a significant step up of the inaugural car released in 2014.
Will it pave the way for a new homegrown car industry?
The idea behind the wheel
Mobius Motors was founded in 2009 by British entrepreneur Joel Jackson.
Jackson was working in rural Kenya where he found people had vehicles that weren’t up to the task of negotiating the country’s rough terrain and long distances.
“Millions of people are having their productivity undermined because of the time it takes to move around and get from place to place, and that problem could be solved with a better type of product,” Jackson tells CNN.
Mobius Motors hasn’t just got its sights on Kenya, but anywhere with poor quality roads.
“Car companies are still focused on the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies. Africa is an overlooked market in general, and there is an opportunity to do something different,” Jackson explains.
The entry level model costs 1.3million Kenyan Shillings ($12,500). “The price is roughly the equivalent to a 5 to 6 year old sedan car in Kenya,” Jackson claims.
That being said, Kenya’s GDP per capita at $1,455 means the car at this price, while cheaper than other imported options, is some way off for the average earner.
Built in Kenya
Initially, Jackson bootstrapped the company.
“We started with a very humble shed in Kilifi, a fishing town on the coast of Kenya, and then we moved to Mombasa, and eventually we set up in Nairobi where we have research and development and production facilities,” Jackson says.
The car features rear wheel drive, and has a 1.8 litre power frame. The company sources parts both locally and globally.
Mobius Motors told CNN the top speed will be released shortly.
In August, addressing TEDGlobal 2017 in Arusha, Tanzania, Jackson said “there is a supply demand-disconnect, with the vast majority of automotive spending on the continent today essentially funding an international network of car exporters, instead of fueling the growth of local industry.”
Africa’s rising car industry
Mobius Motors is part of growing movement towards homegrown cars.
Kiira Motors, based in Uganda, is developing Africa’s first hybrid car set to sell at $20,000 each.
Nigeria is also leading the charge. Its first car brand Innoson launched a range of private cars in 2014 made from mostly locally sourced parts. A report by PWC highlighted Nigeria’s potential to become the automotive hub of Africa.
Previous and less successful attempts include the Nyayo Car, initiated by the Kenyan government in 1986. It never made it into production.
As African nations aim to move from low to middle-income status, the continent’s car industries could look to move up the gears.