Out Of Africa, A Car For Africa

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

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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  • Signal11 Signal11 on Jul 28, 2011

    I don't know what this is, but it can't be serious. In Mombassa, which is the port of entry for cars into the east African market, 5000 USD will buy you a used, direct import JDM 4WD diesel HiLux or HiAce in decent shape. Spare parts and shade tree mechanics with at least a passing familiarity at every wide spot on the road. 2500 USD anywhere in more developed west Africa will buy you a decent Peugeot. What African in his right mind is going to take this risk of buying this?

    • See 1 previous
    • Signal11 Signal11 on Jul 29, 2011

      @M 1 Good point. I wasn't even thinking about kei trucks. Though I've seen them around everywhere, I don't have much experience with them. Is that what you're putting down as market value when you ship? You end up paying a bit more after all the unlisted "taxes." About 5-6 years ago, when I was buying a lot of cars in east Africa, one of the best ways to get in great used vehicles was to fly to Abu Dhabi and spend a day grabbing cars with good bones. The volume of used cars going through Abu Dhabi is amazing.

  • Obruni Obruni on Jul 29, 2011

    the peugeot 504 was produced under license in Nigeria and Kenya until a few years ago. why not try again with the Dacia Logan? or the Tata Nano?

  • Tassos The EQS is the best looking BEV, better than even the only Tesla I would ever consider (the S) and more luxurious inside etc etcThe self driving features will come in handy when I'm 110 and my eyesight and reaction times start to suffer.But that's four decades away, and only Tim recommends 40 year old "used cars"
  • Tassos "Baby, Baby light my fire!""Oh God please give me a Kia Forte" --Janis Joplin
  • Tassos The fugly looks of any Subaru, and especially the non-sporty non-elegant, fugly, low-rent looks and interior of the WRX are alone a sufficient turnoff to never want to own one.One can be a 100% car enthusiast but ALSO demand a beautiful AND luxurious vehicle one can be truly proud of and which makes one very happy every time one drives it.The above is obviously totally foreign to Subaru Designers and managers.
  • Thehyundaigarage Am I the only one that sees a Peugeot 508?
  • Lou_BC I realized it wasn't EV's burning by the absence of the usual suspects.