By on May 21, 2014

 

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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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42 Comments on “Mobius Motors: A Different Kind Of Low-Cost Car...”


  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    My father was a food importer for 60 years. I remember talking with him one day in New York’s Chinatown (where he did much of his business), and debating with him a personal thought about the evolution of countries and cultures.

    I believed that the main difference between a developing country, and a third world country, was the ability to build automobiles.

    You didn’t have to be successful at it. But you have to be able to do more than simply assemble a knock-down kit. The ability to design, engineer and manufacture a distinct automobile that appeals to the needs of the local market is a watershed moment for many modern civilizations.

    Now with that said, I hope someone buys one of these vehicles in Kenya so that Bark Maruth can fly down and review it.

  • avatar
    Rday

    LOL. WIth all of Africa’s problems I would hate to have to do business there. And getting paid would definitely be a big problem.

  • avatar
    th009

    A little bit more care in writing, please: the price of 950K shillings is about one THIRD of the price of a new Corolla. For the price of the Mobius, you can find a used 2006 or 2007-model Corolla, but nothing recent.

    The concept of the Mobius is great for Africa: it’s a low-cost modern implementation of the Land Rover/Land Cruiser. Now, can the company execute on this concept?

  • avatar
    korvetkeith

    I’m curious to see if this whole concept of Africa as the next major economic growth region actually plays out.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      The Chinese seem to think so. They’ve invested billions in Africa, upgrading infrastructure and other enhancements to the countries with which they do business.

      WRT to the Mobius truck, I’ve seen this before, it makes absolute sense for a place like un-developed Africa. Hopefully this “homegrown” solution will work out over an imported one.

      • 0 avatar
        Battles

        The Chinese haven’t so much invested in Africa as bought up big bits of it. It’s quite a touchy subject in the oil/gas/mineral exploitation world at the moment. Conventional exploration/exploitation rights would see a fixed term and have the Government as a partner of some kind, most Chinese deals are more exclusive than that.
        Nobody wants to criticise the Chinese because if you work in Africa you’ll probably end up working for them at some point but there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that they carried out extensive surveys on the quiet. very agressive tactics.

    • 0 avatar

      Much of it is because Africa is sitting on a ton of natural resources (gold, diamonds, oil, rare earth metals) that the rest of the world needs. The problem is dealing with all political instability.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I feel like it won’t, if simply because of organization. When you see other developing countries and their economies they always have:

      Accessible resources
      Political stability (somewhat)
      People striving to improve
      Organization
      Infrastructure (however feeble)
      At least some people who are educated

      Most of Africa has maybe 0 or 1 of these things, it’s not like other places which have developed. Yeah they’ll put a Chinese-built highway across Rwanda, but for what? Who’s using it? Who maintains it? What are your chances of getting murdered if you break down along it at night?

      Governments have extreme corruption, nothing gets accomplished, there are few accessible resources, nothing is organized. I’m sure somebody will disagree and lambast me, but oh well.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        I talked to a guy from Africa. He said the problem with his country was the dictator ran off or killed everyone educated that wasn’t a crony. It was his job security plan. Many of those places would actually benefit from some serious head knocking about, but there is a big question about the UN and outside world would do. Look at Syria. Without Russia, that SOB would be gone. If someone stirred up Zimbabwe in the name of Democracy would they get aid to match what the government got?

  • avatar
    ZekeToronto

    Whether Mobius succeeds or fails (and I hope it succeeds) kudos to Mr. Lauder for trying to make a difference.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Curious on the drive train layout and engine specs (beyond horsepower rating).

    Always imagined something like this should be good for the market. My design was a bit more of a VW-thing knock off, style wise, but FWD with a longitudinal 3cyl-4cyl engine mounted directly to a transaxle. Something real easy to work on, and engines could be swapped with ease.

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      its fwd

      http://www.mobiusmotors.com/mobius-II/affordable.html

      no rear diff

      as much as i like this in the western world you know it has all the hallmarks of price creep and ncap 1 safety

      price has gone from $6k to $10k to $12k

  • avatar
    bills79jeep

    Looks like a modern-day 2CV. If it’s rugged and dependable, and the price is right, they could have a winner. I think the real hurdle is finding a stable market where you can find buyers year after year. Civil wars and abject poverty are the biggest hurdle facing any automaker in Africa.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    They are doing a lot right. I think they could ultimately grab a lot of their local market, but part of the value would be improved with more local content. If you live in Nigeria, do you care if your car is imported from Somalia instead of Japan? Is the plan to put a factory in every country?

    The other big need is simplicity. Modern cars break once a year, but wouldn’t this car be better off breaking more often if it meant you could fix the problem using ersatz parts rather than needing the particular module only available in Nairobi?

    Overall, this is a great idea, and I wish them success.

    • 0 avatar

      The one advantage I can think of for building in-country is avoiding import tariffs. Government is also probably going to be more friendly in general to companies that have a factory within their borders.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Government also has much easier access to confiscate what’s in their country. Cheaper cars for themselves and others who “need” one more than the rest.

  • avatar
    imag

    This makes a ridiculous amount of sense: no safety standards, billion dollar platforms, or recalls. Just an basic vehicle for very straightforward use.

    I hope they are tremendously successful. But I do hope they put a bit of padding on that roll cage ;)

  • avatar
    vvk

    It is too expensive. A good price for this would be $7500.

  • avatar

    Is it just me, or does the logo look like a chopped up version of the Renault logo that graced the front of my dad’s ’86 Alliance?

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Well, it is as barebones as they come. But I wonder who is supplying the running gear. I doubt that a small startup like this would economically be able to engineer and build its own engines.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      I was thinking the same thing. Reinventing 100 years of wheels and the means of producing them, seems a tall order for an African startup.

      Being Nigerian, they should be pretty good at the fund raising part, though :)

  • avatar
    Pch101

    This sounds like an underfunded pipe dream, not like a real plan.

    The best way to make cars for this sort of market would be to reuse an old design that has probably been retired from service in the developed world. I don’t see how they could sell enough of these to recover the costs of developing a new model, particularly at those prices.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      I thought the same thing about old designs, but I’m not sure it’s really true. Old like might be the better compromise. It would seem there would be parts, for example headlights, where you can get a newer, better design for cheaper.

      I do think, given the likely use of these vehicles, a frame would be better, but older unibody designs are just inferior. It can’t take much modern know how to improve those.

      My solution for this niche was to rebuild Land Rover Series with the simplest modern engines you could get, but these guys might have a better idea. They certainly have put in a lot of effort.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        It ordinarily takes several hundred million dollars to develop the design and create the tooling. Even a cheap car wouldn’t be cheap to design.

        That’s why these designs tend to get milked to death when possible, such as VW selling a variant of the Mk1 Golf in South Africa until 2009, 35 years after it had been first released and more than 25 years after it had been discontinued in Europe. Recycling is cheap, and the savings can be passed on to the customer.

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          But does that really work when you move the factory to Africa without all the rest of the chain? Would Tata sell the old jeep tooling? Is it still in a warehouse?

        • 0 avatar
          th009

          Tube frames don’t need much tooling. They are labour-intensive, but labour in Africa is not expensive. Tube frame apart, it really is super simple, and they can reuse standard components for just about everything bar the sheet metal.

          And any reasonably recent first-world vehicle would have far higher complexity and maintenance costs. This is dead simple compared to a Wrangler, for example.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            Wait until the safety people and environmentalists reach critical mass numbers and start pressuring governments for first world standards.

            Until then, I can see some problems. With no windows and an open back, what about lion attacks? Baboons? Rhinos charging? Canvas curtains won’t get the job done, especially in the back.

            Also, Africans with $10 grand will want first world amenities and status, while Africans for whom this vehicle would be useful aren’t likely to have $10 grand. Mobius will have to be like Henry Ford building the cheapest form of Model T to succeed.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            Lorenzo,

            In a few short days, a bunch of dudes in Rwanda with cheap machetes, killed more Africans than the combined animal kingdom has managed to do since the dawn of humanity.

            As long as the Nigerians keep remembering that the UN and various entourages, are only there as easy scam targets, the various busybodies you refer to, will be kept at bay as well. The fact that the West descended into a progressive hellhole at shortly after they could afford to do so without flat out starving to death, does not make it inevitable. You’d hope the Africans, should they ever manage to amass much wealth, would have learned from our example. At least the Somalis seem to have figured it out.

            Instead of thinking this being a car designed to appeal to the vanity of “those who can afford 10K”, think of it as an infinite improvement over pack animals (that’d be women in parts of Africa :) ) hauliong stuff on their backs wherever they go. Taxis, delivery vans, ambulances etc. The difference between noone in a village of 250 having a car, and one person/group having one, can be tremendous. Look at how cell phones spread there: Initially, some entrepreneurs got one, and hired them out to people wanting to make calls. Getting much better utilization out of available capital, than if everyone had their own. Cars could well spread similarly.

            But you need cheap and reliable. So that there becomes a stable market making it worth vile for someone so inclined to learn to be a mechanic. For others to bother reliably stocking gas, etc….

            Toyota seems to have the biggest continent wide organization as of now, but their cars are generally fairly complex, requiring a fair amount of expensive equipment to maintain and fix. If Mobius can offer something requiring a substantial reduction in infrastructure requirements across the whole product life cycle, they may just have a shot.

            I can see there may well be an opportunity there, but have no way of assessing whether it is likely to go anywhere or not. Hence, I’m unfortunately with PCH; from where I’m sitting, it most likely is a pipe dream. Or, perhaps the latest way for some Nigerians to get “investor money” from naive foreigners….

          • 0 avatar
            th009

            @Lorenzo, look at the Mobius Motors web site, and you will see that it’s clearly not aimed at the upwardly mobile middle class.

            Seating for eight, capability to handle the atrocious roads outside the cities, and a high level of simplicity/repairability, and it’s clearly aimed at the rural market, transporting both goods and people.

            Mobius is doing low volume (less than 50 units/month), and at that level this certainly could work. Third-world problems sometimes require very different thinking than first-world problems.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    So…. no 12 speaker Bose infotainments system, Navigation plus rearview cameras, leather seats or heated steering wheels as options?
    And available in any color of the rainbow as long as it is black?

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    So it’s an updated metal version of the wooden 2CV based Africar. I guess the question is will they make and sell enough of these, since a bush mechanic buildable car does seem like a good proposition for much of Africa.

  • avatar

    Mobius Motors is mostly known for African low cost car maker. They aim at providing low cost transportation in Africa and are quite successful in doing so.

  • avatar
    CapVandal

    I think this sort of vehicle has more potential … http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/Tuk-tuk_in_Nairobi_2.JPG

    And on the outside chance that they succeed, their design can be copied by Korean or Chinese companies.

    As far as Africa in general — and to the extent that anyone can generalize about a continent — Americans don’t get a representative view of their state of development. I was behind the curve and never saw pre development China. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if parts of it develop quickly.

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