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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Why Northerners Love Cars and Southerners Just Love Toyota

Growing up in a small southwest city, I was exposed to a variety of cars Toyota corolla, Starlet and the Carina,  the Peugeot 404, 504 and 505 evolution, the Volkswagen Golf Mk 2 which my mom used, the Passat and the Jetta, Nissan Laurel and Bluebird, the Mercedes Benz 230E baby Benz 190E, the frog faced 1999 E-class and the C class. I also remember some SUVs like the 4 runner,  Land Cruiser and Toyota Prado that was used by the present Ondo state governor when he was still a commissioner for health and lastly, that car we used to touch and run after triggering the loud anti-theft alarm, the car which after acquiring, the owner would automatically be made a chief in Igbo land, the same one which had small wipers on its headlights, the luxury Mercedes Benz S class that was only used by wealthy people,  the same wealthy folks who had broken pieces of glass cemented on their on their fences. Back in the day, there was an endless list of cars to feed my eyes on.
Fast forward to post 2010 and all I see in the southwest is Toyota  more Toyota products then maybe some Honda, I get to see some of the other brands but not as much as the Toyotas. Needless to say, I am bored and I have only the internet to help fuel my automotive passion until I took a trip to the North. The diversity was more than I ever imagined, you get to see all brands of cars from the Italian Alfa Romeo to the German Beamers and Mercedes Benz, Peugeots, Chryslers, Cadillacs, Chevrolets, Fords, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bugatti Veyrons and all of the exotic cars you only see on TV. One gets very excited with the presence of these cars making their noises around, gallivanting and disturbing the peace. OK, I confess, there is a high chance that I might have included some form of exaggeration in what I've written above. A city like Lagos in the southwest is somewhat different. Though we still have a multitude of Toyota loyalists who would  reject a G63 AMG( G wagon)  for a Toyota Camry without second thoughts. There are quite a number of brands available for the healthy consumption of the human eyes. Same applies to places like Warri and Port-Harcourt, our rich lands of black palm oil, I have my resident friends constantly telling me of stories of families who have endless fleets of Rolls Royce Mercedes and Bentleys but the undisputed  fact remains, the Toyotas and Hondas are in so much abundant abundance. I agree, there are Toyotas everywhere in Nigeria, heck! everywhere in the world but the question coming from all edges of the universe still remains, why is there such an imbalance of this distribution in southern Nigeria? I have some reasons I think are responsible for this phenomenon: Here is some of what I have to say.
Imitation: This is one of the biggest reason for the Toyota fever we have in the south today. If my friend today gets a Toyota Camry (Muscle), definitely when it's time for me to purchase my own car, I would definitely go for Muscle Camry without feeling the need to research other brands just because I want to measure up to his status as a proud muscle owner. As funny as this sounds, this is a serious thing that I have experienced myself and seen happen with my 'korokoro' eyes. It is true and it happens.
Cheap Cost of Maintenance and Good fuel Economy: A perfect example of a car like this is the 2003-2006 Corolla and Corolla sport with a 1.6 litre engine, the car with the highest demand from the middle class. Buying as low as N500 fuel can get you around town for upwards of 2 days. The cost of maintenance is not left out as the parts are very cheap and easily accessible not leaving out the fact that the owners of these cars hardly visit the mechanic because of the durability despite the state of our roads. Honda products would have fitted well into this category but for the constant problems associated with Honda products such as transmission problems and of course that thing Honda vehicles do when one of its front tyres act like it's possessed by Benin witches and takes a turn more than the other, you know what I'm talking about!!??
High Population of Middle Class citizens: Well this is self explanatory,  there is a high population of middle class citizens in the south who just want a good looking , easy to maintain car to move around town  without having too much hassles. Once again, the Toyota fits well in this category.
Bad state of roads: It is a common conception that roads in the north are better than the ones in the south. If this were true, it means northerners have the luxury to put other brands on the road. While I have no evidence of this conception to be true, I support the notion and there is also this conception that Toyota cars were made with Nigeria in mind hence, no brand of cars can handle bad roads as much as Toyota products can without turning motorists to their mechanics best friends.
Simple Technology: You would agree with me that our mechanics, even the most useless of them can handle Toyota faults and Toyota models can also handle a good number of abuse being meted out to them on a daily basis.
Fading Car Culture in the South:  I remember my Dad telling me about people who did crazy things with cars back in the 70s, an example I can't forget is that of a man called Dr Olunloyo, a former governor of Oyo state and former commissioner of the western region who was said to have bought a brand new Citroen (Dad did not specify the model name) and drove it to a speed of around 200km/h just to see if it would summersault when he suddenly deployed the handbrake, well, he deployed the handbrake  and did not end up in a ditch. I admit, that was a bit crazy but a lot fun for him. I can imagine his tyres screeching hard with the sweet aroma of burning rubber all around his car. Now, the only place you would find this sort of thing in Nigeria is the North,  Car Culture in the north has even gone crazier with all sorts of stunts, burnouts and drifting happening every weekend at various locations. Southerners just buy cars, drive to their work place and go home.
The combination of all these factors have made Toyota incredibly popular in southern Nigeria. Of course, there are more reasons why they are more popular in the south than in the north as there are just a few mentioned in this piece. Feel free to drop your comments stating your own reasons why you feel they are more popular.

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