The Truth About Cars » Africa The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:48:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Africa Mobius Motors: A Different Kind Of Low-Cost Car Wed, 21 May 2014 11:00:50 +0000  


Africa is quickly becoming the focus for auto makers looking to discover the last island of growth in an overly saturated global marketplace. Toyota, PSA and Renault-Nissan are hoping to make inroads on the continent beyond their current strongholds in trucks (Toyota) and North Africa (PSA/Renault) respectively. But a new start-up is proposing a very different kind of car for Africa, one far removed from the current crop of compact offerings.

With a price of $10,000 USD, the Mobius retails for the same price as a used Toyota Corolla does in Kenya, but has a very different mission. The tube frame SUV packs a 1.6L 4-cylinder making 86 horsepower and 94 lb-ft of torque, while lacking comforts like windows or air-conditioning. Top speed is a mere 75 mph, but with 9 inches of ground clearance and a payload capacity of 1,375 lbs, the Mobius is designed to carry people and goods across rough African roads, and nothing else.

With $50 million in funding, Mobius should be able to bring their first 50 trucks – and there could be more money on the way. Mobius is backed by the Pan-African Investment Company, which is partially controlled by billionaire cosmetics magnate Ronald Lauder. While $50 million is barely a drop in the bucket for most automotive companies, there’s clearly much more available, provided that the Mobius succeeds.

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Morocco’s Cash For Clunkers Means Discounted Dacias Mon, 12 May 2014 12:48:45 +0000 Dacia Lodgy

Fans of the W123 Mercedes better book the next flight to Marrakech. If the Moroccan government has its way, the country’s ubiquitous fleet of W123 taxi cabs will be scrapped, in favor of Renault and Dacia minivans.

Around 55,000 W123 taxis (the vast majority 240D models) are set to be targeted under the program, with Morocco’s Interior Ministry citing safety and environmental concerns. Instead, drivers will be pushed towards two models – the Renault Trafic, which is a large commercial van, and the locally-made Dacia Lodgy compact minivan.

According to Ran When Parked

The government will pay around 50,000 Dirhams (roughly $6,100 / €4,400 / £3,600) per w123 and Renault – Dacia will provide up to 10,000 Dirhams (approximately $2,700 / €2,000 / £1,600) towards the purchase of a new car or van.

A brand new Lodgy costs about $18,000 USD, while a Trafic retails for about $27,000 USD. The subsidies would drastically reduce the price of a new Lodgy, which would also have the benefit of supporting a locally made vehicle. Both the Trafic and Lodgy will provide a safer alternative to the standard practice of shoving 7 passengers in a five-seater vehicle (that is now 30 years old, at minimum), while also offering much cleaner diesel engines.

(Correction: the currency rates cited are incorrect. 10,000 Dirhams works out to about $1,277 USD. Thanks to reader minivanman for the tip-DK)

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Ford to Fight for the Heart of Middle East, Africa Fri, 08 Nov 2013 06:24:41 +0000 Ford Ranger International

From the Blade Runner future in Dubai to the shores of Tripoli, Ford aims to launch an aggressive campaign in the Middle East and Africa markets through the creation of a fifth business unit that will consolidate the Blue Oval’s operations in the two regions.

The automaker will launch 17 new or refreshed models from both Ford and Lincoln in the next two years to increase its market and mind share in the newest emerging market; Ford has 5 percent of said shares.

The prize? A huge piece of a pie composed of 7 million sales by 2020, the majority of which to come from Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Iran. At present, Ford sells around 200,000 vehicles annually in the Middle East and Africa, with 160,000 units sold to customers in Saudi Arabia and South Africa alone. The automaker expects total sales to increase 40 percent by 2020, on top of the 60 percent growth experienced in the previous four years.

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Beyond The BRICs Wed, 23 Oct 2013 12:30:02 +0000 Not business as usual_1

Emerging markets have been a big theme at TTAC for the past few years, with our coverage going beyond the cursory articles on automotive developments in the BRIC countries. Our articles on places like North Africa and Indonesia aren’t always the most popular, but we keep an eye on them for a very important reason. These countries are the final frontier for growth in the automotive sector.

Boston Consulting Group released a report that urges auto makers to look beyond the BRICs, to a group of 88 countries that contain roughly 40 percent of the world’s population. Collectively, annual growth of 6 percent is expected, below India’s 10 percent, but on par with China and outpacing both Brazil and Russia.

Rather than cover all 88 nations, BCG identified the “Future 15″ countries where car sales are expected to show strong increases in sales (Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Ukraine, Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, South Africa and Algeria), as well as four regional areas that will serve not only as sales hot spots, but also as future locations for assembly plants, R&D and sourcing. Not surprisingly, these are based in North Africa, the ASEAN region, the Middle East and the Andean region in South America.

The need for specific regional strategies is a key theme in the report, with BCG devoting plenty of space to the need for product, financing and sourcing solutions that are best adapted to regional characteristics. Among their examples are the importance of offering a vehicle with a low tax burden in the Middle East, a tailor-made financing plan for Latin American consumers from Chevrolet and Renault’s North African assembly efforts for its Dacia brand.

One of the more interesting examples highlighted by the report was that of the ASEAN countries. Toyota is overwhelmingly dominant in Indonesia, its biggest market, and one possible reason is because of its ability to build products at an appropriate price-point that strongly resonate with local buyers. A side by side comparison between the Japanese market Sienta MPV and the Indonesian Avanza shows how this is done.

On the surface, the two seem indistinguishable, but under the skin, they are vastly different cars. The Sienta rides on a platform shared with the Yaris, while the Avanza uses a rugged, body-on-frame rear-drive layout with increased ground clearance, to handle Indonesia’s rougher roads and frequent flooding. Its powertrain and interior are much less advanced, and the Avanza has fewer creature comforts. But it’s built to a price, costing as much as $5,000 less than a Sienta, a fact that’s reflected in the slab-sided body panels, which are easier and cheaper to stamp. This kind of specialization is what’s allowed Toyota to capture 90 percent of Indonesia’s market, giving them an enormous head start in what is expected to be the next big place to sell cars.

ASEAN is not the only region where Toyota enjoys the top spot. The auto maker is leading slightly in volume in the Middle East, though second-place Kia is essentially equal in terms of market share. Chevrolet is regarded as the leader in the Andean belt, while Renault and Dacia are tops in North Africa. While Korean OEMs also have a strong showing, both Renault and Peugeot are strong in the Middle East and Africa, even as their efforts falter in Europe.

The common thread with all of this is an emerging middle class in regions where that notion did not exist. With prosperity on the rise, they are eager to attain greater mobility and freedom though an automobile of their own. Along with personal transportation comes the possibility of good jobs in assembly plants, sales and after-sales, logistics and other related industries. Renault and Dacia have begun to look to North Africa as a regional hub not only for the African market, but for the Middle East and even Europe. Nissan’s Datsun brand is one of the first to explicit target the “Beyond BRIC” countries, with stated aims to expand into Indonesia and Africa in the near future.

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Datsun Looking To Latin America, Africa For Expansion Thu, 29 Aug 2013 12:00:56 +0000 2014-Datsun-Go-01

Datsun’s first product, the GO subcompact, has yet to go on sale in its first market, but Datsun is already looking elsewhere to expand its offerings beyond the initial four markets of India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Datsun is focusing on Central America as well as other African markets as targets for expansion following Datsun’s rollout. The WSJ quotes Datsun head Vincent Cobee as stating that the two regions are “…vastly underserved by the auto industry.”

Africa has been a target of European automakers like PSA and Dacia in recent years. Dacia, which is part of the Renault-Nissan group, has been aggressively expanding in North African countries like Morocco and Algeria with its own low-cost cars, though the new Datsun product is arguably an even more basic proposition.

Beyond the GO, Datsun is developing as many as 5 other models to flesh out its product lineup.  While conventional wisdom dictates that customers would be moved up the ladder from a Datsun to a Nissan, the aim is to keep customers moving up to different products within the Datsun brand.

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French Authorities Sell Off Ultra Luxury Cars Seized From Son of Dictator Wed, 17 Jul 2013 16:25:03 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

While Equitorial Guinea is one of the wealthiest countries in Africa,  only half of the people have access to clean, safe drinking water. One fifth of children born in the country die before they are five years old. Two years ago the French government raided the €80 million, 101-room mansion near the Champs Elysees belonging to Teodorin Obiang, the son of the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, in power since 1979. Among the treasures found in the mansion were a cache of supercars, which have now been sold off.

The raid was part of a “bien mals aquis” investigation into ill-gotten gains. According to French authorities, those ill-gotten gains were funds belonging to the African country looted by the Obiang family. Though Obiang is claiming diplomatic immunity due to having been named Second Vice President of Equatorial Guinea, a recent ruling in French courts said that such immunity did not protect property bought with stolen public money. As a result of that ruling, French authorities have gone through with the seizure of vintage wines, antique furniture, fine art including a Degas and a Renoir, and jewelry from the mansion as well as Teodorin Obiang’s impressive collection of low mileage high dollar cars. Those cars have now been sold off by the Drouot auction house in Paris, fetching over $4 million (€3.1 million, £2.7 million), and included two Bugattis, two Bentleys, a Rolls-Royce, a Ferrari, a Porsche, a Maserati and a Maybach.

Court documents show that 4 years ago, Obiang imported 26 high end luxury cars worth $12 million to France from the United States. The fleet was comprised of one each from Aston Martin, Porsche, Lamborghini and Maserati, plus two Bugattis, four Mercedes-Benzes, four Rolls-Royces, five Bentleys, and seven Ferraris. Despite the fact that the roads in Equatorial Guinea are generally not paved and require serious 4X4 vehicles, many of those cars were shipped to Africa for his use there. The cars that were auctioned were the ones left in his Paris pied a terre.

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Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: How The Chinese Are Setting Themselves Up For Success (Part 1: Africa) Mon, 03 Jun 2013 12:49:18 +0000

Today we inaugurate a 5 Part series about how Chinese carmakers are setting themselves up for success abroad. Each day of this week I will publish a new Part for the series. I hope you enjoy it!

For the first time in the history of car manufacturing, Chinese carmakers have sold 1 million cars outside of China in 2012. They are now relying more and more on export markets to boost their bottom-line, especially as conditions have worsened for local passenger cars at home over the last couple of years. However, as I described in my article “China: How local brands may finally find their mojo at home“, the Chinese are learning how to sell low-cost overseas and apply these strategies at home, making themselves more competitive in the process.

In fact, while the long-dreaded Chinese ‘invasion’ of the West European and American car markets is still a long way off, Chinese manufacturers have been working extra-hard under the radar to secure less developed markets that will form the bulk of the global car sales growth over the next couple of decades.

And this is why they will win…

First case in point, Africa.

Speranza A516. Picture courtesy Matt GasnierSperanza A516 in Cairo, Egypt

Apart from Toyota, Hyundai and a bunch of other Japanese manufacturers, no one currently has a lot of time for a continent that is still finding its way into development. Except the Chinese who started assembling cars there almost a decade ago, as part of a push to be deeply involved in the infrastructure building of the continent. So we’re not just talking cars, but roads, rail tracks, mining and much more.

Egypt was the first cab off the rank when Chery used the Cairo plant previously run by Daewoo to assemble its cars under the Egypt-exclusive Speranza brand in 2004 – apparently because the Chery brand suffered poor quality perceptions after an earlier launch there. Success: Speranza was the 4th most popular passenger car brand in Egypt between 2008 and 2011, selling more than Toyota! Successful models include the A516 (#9 from 2007 to 2009) and the Tiggo (#14 in 2011). Since 2012 however, other Chinese manufacturers have stepped up a notch in Egypt…

Golden Dragon Haice. Picture courtesy Golden DragonThe Golden Dragon Haice was the best-selling Chinese model in Egypt in 2012.

The Golden Dragon Haice managed to rank as high as #6 in September 2012 and finished the year as the best-selling Chinese model at #15 while the Geely Emgrand EC7 also has already peaked at#6 and 3.8% share in March 2013 less than a year after its initial launch in the country. King Long, Brilliance and JAC models have also started to appear within the monthly Top 30. As a whole, 
Chinese manufacturers commanded 9% of the overall Egyptian market in 2012, which as you will see below is actually not their best share in the continent…

Holland Car Abay. Picture courtesy Holland CarHolland Car assembles the Abay (aka Lifan 520) in Ethiopia.

In Ethiopia, Lifan and JAC have cooperated with Holland Car, the country’s first car brand, to assemble models locally including the Holland Car Abay (a rebadged Lifan 520),Tekeze (JAC Tongyue) and Awash (JAC B-Class), all named after Ethiopian rivers. Since 2010 Lifan assembles cars under its own name in the country and has recently introduced the X60 SUV. No sales data for that country so it’s hard to gauge their success (not as high as Lifan would want according to but a second example of clever re-branding to fit the local culture as a first step.

Foton Slip SUP. Picture courtesy FotonThe Foton SUP is assembled in Kenya since 2011.

In Kenya, Foton launched its first domestically produced truck, the SUP pick-up, in June 2011 using an existing local factory, and has opened its own US$50m assembly plant in Nairobi in March 2012 with a capacity of 10,000 annual units. Chery is also thinking about a Kenyan plant, initially limited to produce 1,000 units in 2013. As a result, Chinese manufacturers now hold 20% of the Kenyan car market…

Geely Emgrand EC8 Kuwait. Picture courtesy of qabaq.comGeely Emgrand EC8 in Kuwait

Either from these 3 assembling hubs or through straight exports from China, Chinese carmakers are organising their expansion towards other African countries. The Egyptian hub makes it more practical to export to Libya, Algeria, Sudan, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and Iraq notably, where the Great Wall Deer seems to be particularly successful. Another potential hub for the region could be Iran where Chery has been assembling cars since 2006, with the Fulwin 2 hitting a record #4 last month.

JAC Tojoy. Picture courtesy JACJAC was the #2 most popular brand in Madagascar at the end of 2012.

Ethiopia and Kenya can also be used as relays to Tanzania, Mozambique or Madagascar where JAC already has an extremely solid presence (#2 brand with over 8% share) below just Nissan in Q3 2012. Further West, Chinese carmakers now hold 20% of the Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire markets, with latest Cote d’Ivoire showing Great Wall at #10 in 2010.

The logical next step in Western Africa for Chinese car makers would be assembling cars in Nigeria… This would enable them to carve up a significant market share there as well as in neighbouring Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, Mali and Burkina Faso, all at various stages of development but destined to grow fast in the next decade and beyond. South Africa also seems to be a missing link right now, however when you realise that it is actually the only mature market on the continent, it’s easier to understand why the Chinese haven’t spent too much energy trying to crack it yet. I will spend more time talking about Chinese carmakers’ strategies in mature markets in Part 5 of this series.

ZX Auto GrandTigerZhongXing/ZX Auto GrandTiger in Libyan Civil War outfit

Another way Chinese models have come under the spotlight in export markets has been through government agreements, notably in Libya, albeit in a totally unexpected way (you will see its impact on the Cuban car market in the next installment of this series). During the 2011 Arab Spring, Libyan rebels got their hands on a batch of 5,000 ZX Auto GrandTiger pick-ups that the government had recently received and fit their heavy artillery on them, catapulting the vehicle onto worldwide TV screens for a solid 6 months. A marketing opportunity that ZX Auto fully embraced, boasting about its reliability and featuring the Libyan civil war on giant LED screens at the 2012 Beijing Auto Show (see the full Libya article here).

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series tomorrow: Latin America!

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars Blog, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.

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Piston Slap: Is it Piston Slap? Ja-nee, baby! Tue, 16 Apr 2013 10:00:19 +0000

Mu-een (from Cape Town, South Africa!) writes:

Hi I would like to know what is the difference sound of a tappet noise, or bad rocker, or a piston slap. Thanks regards.


Sajeev answers:

I suspect that –for most engines– piston slap is a deeper, more resonant sound than an out of whack tappet.  Pistons are bigger and buried further in the engine (usually) than tappets, it’s gonna have a different sound by design.  Conversely, you could easily isolate the two sounds with a decent mechanic’s stethoscope, or with a cheap one. So for whatever vehicle you own down in Cape Town, try isolating the noise with a stethoscope…or maybe just a loooooong screwdriver against the cam/valve cover on the top of the motor.

Now on to the important implications of this letter. Put another way, OH MY DAMN SON U KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS? We got us some Piston Slaps from North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia…and now Africa!

TTAC RULEZ THE WORLD! This is Panther Love with an LSX-FTW swap: a fantastic combination of wonderful things in a singular moment.


Wait…is Antarctica a continent too?

AND they drive cars down there?

Do they read TTAC?


We were sooooo close to world domination!




Send your queries to ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE FROM ANTARCTICA. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Renault Says “Kuss Ummak” To VW, French Unions With Algeria Deal Fri, 21 Dec 2012 14:00:28 +0000

Renault’s Algerian plant became a done deal Thursday, with production beginning in mid-2014, which will see the French auto maker become the sole passenger car builder in the North African state.

The Symbol, a re-badged Dacia Logan, will be the sole vehicle produced in Algeria. French labor unions will undoubtedly be unhappy that their domestic auto makers are sending manufacturing jobs offshore as they cut domestic production, but the economics necessitate production in a low-cost country.

A French spokesman told Just-Auto

“It is a win-win partnership between Renault and Algeria. This model has never been produced in France and never will be. We can’t produce low-cost vehicles in a high-cost country – it doesn’t work economically.”

Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande praised the deal during his state visit to Algeria on Thursday. Hollande and the French auto industry have scored a massive coup by ensuring that no auto maker can set up a plant in Algeria for three years after the start of production. Volkswagen was previously vying to be the one to set up shop in the country, but lost out to Renault in the end. With Carlos Ghosn keen to establish a foothold on the continent, Renault-Nissan should have a strong head start thanks to Renault, Dacia and the forthcoming Datsun brand, which is also targeting Africa as one of its main markets

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Renault, VW, In Spat Over North African Plants Fri, 23 Nov 2012 14:00:35 +0000

Renault’s plans for a plant in Algeria have stalled, amid the French auto maker’s desire for an agreement barring auto makers from setting up shop in the country for 5 years after the plant comes online – and Volkswagen is apparently what’s keeping Renault up at night.

France’s La Tribune reports that Renault’s plan for a factory with a capacity for 75,000 units a year, (largely for domestic consumption) is being hampered by Volkswagen’s desire to build a factory in Algeria. The country has a growing market that’s hungry for new cars, and a foothold in North Africa would be beneficial for VW.

Renault doesn’t want VW to set up shop in Algeria, and their government will have to decide on whether to bend to Renault’s demands, or to allow Volkswagen to establish a plant there, at the risk of Renault bailing on a factory of their own. La Tribune seems to think that Renault will get its way, leading to VW turn to  a possible factory in Morocco – where Renault’s presence is already established.

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Datsun May See African Expansion Thu, 23 Aug 2012 15:46:35 +0000

Datsun’s association with Africa might be best linked with the East African Safari rally – but 42 years later, Datsun could return to the continent, though not in a motorsports capacity.

As Nissan’s new “low-cost” brand, Datsun will be sold in markets like Indonesia, Russia and China. Africa might be another market for the brand, as Nissan looks to expand in countries like South Africa.

According to Automotive News, Nissan produces 90,000 cars a year in Africa, with 50,000 being produced in South Africa. But the cheapest car Nissan sells in the country, the B-segment Micra, sells for about $13,000, where 40 percent of the population lives on less than $3 a year. Nissan is looking to double capacity in South Africa.

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Decades After Bringing Workers To France, Jobs Go Back To Africa While France’s Promise Disappears Mon, 16 Jul 2012 13:00:41 +0000

The establishment of a new manufacturing base in North Africa has fascinated me for the past couple months – though few others seem to really care. The leader in this movement has been Renault, which is setting up plants in Morocco and Algeria to build their popular, low-cost Dacia vehicles in factories where employees earn a fraction of what a French assembly line worker would make.

PSA doesn’t have a low-cost brand of it’s own, so jobs haven’t gone across the Strait of Gibraltar – yet. But the closing of the Aulnay plant, where a massive contingent of North African immigrants (now French citizens) work, is a compelling snapshot of the socioeconomic and racial dynamics of France that happens to intersect with the auto industry.

Volumes have been written on France’s North African population and their integration (or lack thereof) into French society. In the broader scope, the story of Aulnay will be a footnote, but for the workers whom Citroen recruited directly in the early 1970′s, building cars is all they have known since they left the Maghreb.

The North African workers were recruited for the age-old reason that continually draws economic immigrants looking for a better life; the natives consider themselves above such labor. Citroen, which owned the factory at the time, wanted to avoid hiring native French workers, which they felt were tainted by Marxist views on labor relations. One Arab worker delivered an invective that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Rush Limbaugh program, stating

“Today’s Frenchman is spoilt”, says Yassir,an official of the CSL union. “He gets everything on a plate — social security, paid leave, a library, a discothèque. He can count on education helping him up the social ladder. He won’t accept exploitation. He refuses to work on the production line”.

In what would be emblematic of the social problems that exist in contemporary France, Citroen and other automakers domiciled the new immigrants in bleak, high-rise projects, like Cite des 3000, where “…80 percent of the dads work for PSA.” Aulnay and Cite des 3000 was one of the sites of the infamous 2005 riots in Paris, where North African youths clashed violently with police.

Unionization at Aulnay was generally sympathetic to PSA, which kept a tight lid on the CGT, a radical Marxist organization that takes a hard-line adversarial approach to management. The CGT was generally credited with improving working conditions at the plant, but still represents only 40 percent of the workforce.

The CGT, for all its outdated views, can’t shoulder the blame entirely. French President Francois Hollande made reference to PSA’s “strategic choices which have not been good” - Peugeot is lacking in the small cars that once made them great, while Citroen is no longer making the DS, just premium small cars that bear those two letters, with none of the groundbreaking looks or technology that gave the original DS such prestige.

Everything in the middle – precisely what PSA builds – is being decimated, while the low and high end segments are thriving. And rival automaker Renault is having a field day with their low cost Dacia brand. Dacia vehicles, like the Duster SUV and Lodgy minivan are winning critical and commercial acclaim everywhere from India to England – Renault has slashed their British lineup dramatically, leaving only the Renaultsport performance cars and a couple other models, to make room for the bargain-priced Dacias.

And in a twist of poetic justice, the Dacias, which some French observers have cited as a threat to the domestic car industry, are being built in North Africa, by the former countrymen of the first generation Aulnay workers, for a fraction of the wages that Renault would pay to a French worker. The 1,800 euro a month salary is by no means a fortune, but it is a ticket to a middle class life, decent housing and the benefits of the French welfare state. For an ethnic minority in a country where one’s best hope is a middling civil service job, working in a car factory is a highly coveted position, which makes the prospect of an African assembly base, capable of exporting 85 percent of its 400,000 unit capacity, even more threatening.

While CGT leaders and even former President Nicolas Sarkozy have come out against the African plants, there’s no escaping that the low cost cars are the right product at the right time; current economic conditions make car purchases particularly unappealing, and if one can purchase a vehicle as good as a Scenic or Kangoo for a fraction of the cost, then why not? Of course, the Lodgy and Duster can only be priced this way because the 250 euro a month salary makes the cars unaffordable for the Moroccan workers that build them. Unfortunately, it’s looking more and more like the French system that enabled the cradle-to-grave package that came with building cars is equally out of reach.


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Don’t Give LaHood Ideas: They’ll Take Your Phone Away Fri, 06 Jul 2012 13:48:22 +0000

They do that in South Africa.  Use your phone for texting or gabbing, and police in Cape Town will arrest your cell.

Police in unmarked “ghost squad” cars seized 16 phones from motorists who flaunted a new regulation in Cape Town, South Africa, Reuters says.  The new rule allows police to confiscate handsets for 24 hours if the law is broken. Harsher sentences await the distracted driver: Driving While Phoning it in can cost up to 500 rand ($61.50) and/or a jail term of up to three years. They don’t call it cell phone for nothing.


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Out Of Africa, A Car For Africa Thu, 28 Jul 2011 16:34:58 +0000

In the auto industry, as in so many other areas, Africa is something of a forgotten continent. Without the new roads and emerging middle class of a China, the most underdeveloped part of the developing world tends to fly under the radar: for example, until I read a Financial Times piece on an airplane, I had no idea that South Africa’s auto industry was booming. And now, here’s another story that isn’t getting much play in the mainstream of the auto world: Mobius, a Mombasa, Kenya-based firm has built a prototype vehicle that it hopes will be the Model T of Africa, providing robust, low-cost transportation to a continent that is not taken seriously as a market by the global car business.

Based on a monocoque of 1.5 to two-inch steel tubes, an integrated roll cage and a motor one-liter Toyota engine mounted directly to the chassis, the Mobius Prototype One is designed to be a low-cost transportation solution for Africa’s rough roads and unpredictable weather. The body is made of aluminum, with glass and canvas making up the weather protection. The design was intended to have the key qualities of an SUV, while costing no more than the three-wheeled “tuk-tuk”-style rickshaws… about $5,000 US. The design is not final: Mobius is looking for designers to style its second and third prototypes, with an eye to starting production in 2012.

But even if the rough-and-ready look is retained, Mobius emphasizes rugged practicality over tantalizing consumers with a gotta-have-it look. After all, Mobius doesn’t just see itself as a car company, but an agent of change in Africa. They see their SUV-cum-Dirt Buggy-cum-Rickshaw as a tool of mobility for Africa’s poor, as well as a method for transporting people, goods, humanitarian supplies and fresh water to remote parts of the continent. Like the Model T, the Mobius One faces numerous challenges, but it also reconnects the industry to its most noble cause: providing practical, affordable mobility to the world’s poor. Here’s hoping they get the funding to at least attempt to realize this latter-day Fordian dream. [via Autobild]

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South African Auto Industry Takes Off Sat, 16 Jul 2011 18:55:51 +0000

When I think of the South African car industry, I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I first think of the Citi Golf, the ageless Mk.1 VW Golf that was built there from ’84 to 2009 (or possibly armored cars). Of course that’s a grossly inaccurate representation, and the Financial Times recently clued me into South Africa’s booming auto sector growth . Led by screaming exports of Ford’s Global Ranger pickup and the Mercedes C-Class, South Africa will very nearly have doubled its production numbers between 2009 and 2012. And with the government introducing yet another Motor Industry Development Programme in 2013, the plan is to build South African production capacity to 1.2m vehicles per year by 2020. And though South Africa is not immune to the currency, labor and supply chain problems that plague nearly every production location, Mercedes has already promised  to double C-Class production to 95,000 units by 2014. Sounds like a vote of confidence, and another reason to keep a closer eye on South Africa.

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