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Saturday, 9 May 2015

Amazing Facts why Nigerians Love Japanese Cars

When compared with the French Peugeot or the German Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, the loved and well embraced Toyota, Nissan and Honda of our time are late comers to the Nigerian automobile market. This is a fact people barely remember owing to the current wave of Japmobiles-Japanese cars-in Nigeria. The shift in the demand for more Japanese cars in Nigeria instead of more European cars is very much in line with the global shift to light-weight vehicles with better fuel economy and reliability.

According to vehicle sales data at the end of 2013, Toyota still held the top spot in total vehicle sales, followed by a strong European contender-Volkswagen. In this article, I will go beyond justifying the current market shift to Japanese vehicles solely from a global market perspective. In line with what obtains in the Nigerian vehicle market and general transport trends in this region, I have observed a few collective trends which may have led to this local market shift beyond key global or western influence. I will go further to try and explain why Nigerians have come to love Japanese cars so much and why this may be a very difficult trend to reverse.

Initial low price required for vehicle and spare-parts purchase: as many people have a very wrong notion about European car spare-parts pricing, for instance Mercedes Benz parts are traditionally tagged ‘too expensive’. But the truth here is the seemingly higher initial expense required to purchase a Mercedes car part is relative to the expected time it will serve you. A Nissan shock-absorber may cost half the price of that of a Mercedes but would hardly match serving half the life-span of the Mercedes spare-part; it’s not a question of durability, it’s just the clear strategies adopted by these distinct vehicle makers. In a cash-based society like ours with a struggling number of the middle-class individuals, without a doubt, the Japanese strategy suits us very well. A significant chunk of individuals are not after owning super vehicles as they need a simple transporter capable of moving them from point A to point B. They want the car with the lowest price tag and lowest spare-part cost regardless of the long-term durability prospects or frequency of repairs owing to more frequent spare-part replacements or maintenance procedures.

Nigerians are largely ‘safe followers’ and poor researchers: this is very glaring in our purchasing attitude. Some just love Toyota cars owing to the safety in numbers. However, in the real sense of it, you can’t rule out popularity of a particular brand when choosing which to spend your money on but, there a several other factors to consider. A typical Nigerian will land at his/her conclusion based on the facts that many people use Japanese cars and many mechanics know their way around these cars- which is hardly true for newer models.

Japanese cars have good 3rd hand value: when it comes to reselling vehicles in Nigeria, European cars are seen as ‘bad market’, as Japanese cars are the ones that ‘move well’ in the market. But why is this the case? Japanese cars have lighter weight and fewer automation making them more reliable even to non-attentive owners, but European cars with more automation require that extra attention most Nigerian buyers are not willing to give.

Fuel economy is the king: over here in Nigeria, the true test of how fuel thirsty a vehicle is happens to be a measure of its fuel consumption when something is wrong with the engine or drivetrain. Nigerians don’t want a car that will consume excess fuel just because a few sensors or an injector is bad, as they will rather manage. If a vehicle can’t maintain reasonable fuel economy levels while they are ‘managing’, it simply means the vehicle is a true fuel guzzler.

Transporters choice: many transporters prefer Japanese vehicles like Mazda buses/cars, Nissan vehicles, Toyota vehicles and the new wave of Chinese vehicles generally. A good example of this shift from European to Asian vehicles is the fleet history of Cross Country transport which operates across West-Africa. They first began in 2002 with Volkswagen buses but today they have a fleet which comprises majorly of Asian brands like Toyota, Nissan, President Hiace , Foton and our locally made Innoson. Preferences of this kind go a long way to cement the motoring public’s perception about the reliability of Japanese vehicles as these inter-state commuter buses are subjected to repeated stresses and road impact more than any city car, hence why they are used as a perfect yard-stick in passenger vehicle selection.

Vehicle dealerships/car sale centers in Nigeria are largely uncreative: every dealer hopes to get a market share and very few really think about a long-term strategy to go up against well embraced and loved Japanese cars. A few notable efforts have been made by dealers like Cosharis, Dana, amongst others in the past to lure Nigerians to try out European, Koreans and American marques but, for there to be a true market shift, there has to be a more sustained and collective approach backed by better after-sales services and better post-warranty policies.

Our average mechanics are lazy and non-progressive, but street smart: the same mechanics that will worship the 1999 ‘tiny light’ Toyota Camry will out rightly regard the 2008 ‘muscle’ Toyota Camry as a problematic car. This is simply because the tiptronic gear system (which is electronically mated to the engine) is any average mechanic’s nightmare. A typical Nigerian mechanic isn’t conscious of technological advancement around him/her. Rather than trying to learn new things, they will rather justify their love for the old technologies, just as they did with the injector system when manufacturers began phasing out carburetors. These same mechanics are however, smart enough to influence purchasing decisions of their clients to enable them remain relevant.

So if you happen to be a Japanese-crazy Nigerian vehicle owner, please share why you love your car so much.

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