By on December 11, 2014

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Today, 50 units from Nairobi-based manufacturer Mobius are set to be delivered to customers, marking the first step for the company as it aims to prove Kenya — and the continent of Africa — can produce just as well as it supplies raw materials.

Reuters reports the vehicle, known as the II, will go for KSh950,000 ($10,500 USD) before taxes, and is meant to tackle the rough roads the Chinese have yet to pave over. Thus, for ease of maintenance and repairs, the II has little more than a front windscreen, minimal electronics, and a sturdy suspension upon which its aluminum body rests. Forty-five percent of the vehicle is derived from local sources, while the engine and other pieces come from outside suppliers.

Mobius joins Ugandan automaker Kiira Motor Project in designing, building and selling an African-made vehicle for Africa, overcoming long-standing concerns that the continent cannot make anything like the II for its people, let alone the rest of the world; the last attempt by a local concern — the Nyayo Pioneer in 1990 — fell apart soon after production began.

So far, Mobius is doing well for itself with its business model, with enquiries from neighboring nations, western Africa and beyond. Kiira, meanwhile, received an initial commitment of $70 million from the Ugandan government, and is seeking a total of $350 million to build a factory for its planned vehicle, a $20,000 sedan in the vein of the Toyota Camry aimed at office workers and executives.

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58 Comments on “Mobius Leads Path Toward Local Manufacturing For African Consumers...”


  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Aluminum body? Wow, did not expect to read that. F-150 technology!

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      Aluminum bodied vehicles have been around for a long, long time so I would not say F150 tech. However it is fairly impressive that a country such as Kenya is producing a car made from aluminum. I say fairly because Kenya has been relatively stable for some time now and has a relatively strong economy.

    • 0 avatar
      NeilM

      F-150 technology? No, Land Rover technology. Aluminum isn’t so hard to to work with when you’re talking simple shapes like these.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I got an email from them, If I help them out by sending money (apparently the CEO is a prince who can’t access his vast fortune) I’ll share in the profits and be rich beyond my wildest imagination

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Silliness aside, China has been pouring piles of cash into building infrastructure in Africa lately. May or may not pay off for them in the long term- depends on stable, non-kleptocratic governments that can discourage or suppress Islamist sentiments.

  • avatar
    DukeMantee

    So, just how many Swiss bank accounts are being funded by US taxpayers to get this scheme off the ground?
    Its not that Africa has a lack of talent or resources,more like an over abundance of corruption.
    And no matter how much wishing and hoping,or bribing or cajoling you are not going to change a culture with a glorified go-kart.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I liked how they parked it in the photo next to their prior prototypes.

    • 0 avatar
      mshenzi

      From the website, it looks like a start-up using private funding– they seem to be looking for their funding from socially-minded venture capitalists, of whom there seem to be a fair number these days. At least at first glance, it looks like there’s no need to worry about our US tax dollars.

      I used to live in Kenya and drove a 15 yr old FJ40 that was ridiculously expensive when I bought it and $100 cheaper when I sold it two years later. Replacement parts cost outlandish money, so there was a thriving local market in (often lousy) rebuilding old ones. There’s potentially a real market for this vehicle in lots of sub-Saharan Africa. It doesn’t have to meet US comfort and safety standards to potentially be a better, safer than many other options its target customers have.

      Its supply-lines and pricing are clearly aiming to maneuver in the most low-cost niches of Kenya’s elaborate import bureaucracy, and there may well be plenty of government corruption to navigate. Its a start up, and it’s founders seem to be young, idealistic, and ambitious. Sure, odds are that it’ll fail; maybe the product won’t cut it, maybe the state will undercut it, maybe the funding will dry up. But the hair-trigger dumping on it is all too cheap and easy, almost like readers want it to fail so that their contempt can be confirmed.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Oh, stop, we’re not a bunch of nasties trying to circumvent innovation and entrepreneurialism. Skepticism is natural about a region that has given us little reason to feel otherwise. Succeed despite the naysayers if you really want to impress the world

      • 0 avatar
        Signal11

        When were you there?

        I lived and worked in Africa, mostly East Africa for years and had fleets of HiLuxes and Land Cruisers of various stripes. Relatively reasonable parts pricing was never an issue.

        OTOH, an FJ40 is a different, relatively rare beast.

        • 0 avatar
          ReSa

          I agree. Recently came back from Malawi and even there there’s an abundance of toyota hiluxes, nissan hardbodies and the likes. The cars retain their value due to massive import taxes, but parts are cheap and mechanics creative.

          As long as you don’t drive a more exotic beast, or a dinosaur (FJ40. i’m talking to you), you’re fine.

          I have a hard time seeing this thing compete against the
          second hand Japanese car imports. Even Boko Haram will probably favour the Land Cruiser over this Spartan….

      • 0 avatar
        andrewallen

        And if you look in the background of the pictures on the factory website you will see the real Africa crawler: to wit, a Toyota Hi-Ace, a vehicle that not only can carry in excess of 24 Africans but can be steered with a vice grip (mole grip) once the steering wheel has been broken and also hydraulic brakes that can be prevented from leaking by cutting the pipe, folding it over and clamping with a bit of bloudraad (fence/bailing wire). Only one wheel brake actually needed to slow the vehicle and an ability to drive through traffic signals that have been red for 15 seconds as well as against oncoming traffic in the opposite lane if it seems faster that way.
        In other words a vehicle of such superb engineering and quality that it can usually survive up to 250 000 kilometres of use while being maintained by bush mechanics and spanner boys. On the other hand the 3 series 4 door BMW’s and Mercedes C class vehicles you are driving in the states are very likely made in Africa….South Africa.

    • 0 avatar
      Exfordtech

      Model T might want to speak to you.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        You’re comparing this with a Model T?

        Well, mechanically and technologically they’re similar, I guess

        • 0 avatar
          Exfordtech

          If it is reasonably inexpensive to the potential customers, mechanically simple, relatively cheap to own, then yes in terms of transportation for the masses the Model T comparison is appropriate. I don’t know whether or not this is true, and likely it is not, but a significant cultural line can be drawn in the US after the introduction of the Model T.

        • 0 avatar
          andrewallen

          Nope, model T better but too expensive, US roads in the model T’s time were no better and sometimes worse than those in Africa today (a friend of mine has one and delights in shaming Toyota Land Cruisers…… hooting at them to get out of the way and stop slowing him down on very bad roads sometimes) Henry’s dream is VERY tough and built before American planned obsolescence was invented.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I’d be interested in hearing comparison prices on some first-world vehicles available there (or even a second-world Citroen or something), to know how big the price gap is between this and a real car.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Good for them. Any information on where the engine and other “imported” parts comes from?

    • 0 avatar
      schmitt trigger

      Most likely candidate: China.

      The Chinese have invested heavily in Africa, to have a foot placed firmly on the continent’s vast reserves of strategic materials, and to have access to the one of last untapped emerging markets.

      It also helps that the Chinese government is not excessively preoccupied with human right abuses.

  • avatar
    jdash1972

    This is another one of this business plans using creative math. Even at 10,500 USD profit is marginal at best. This project has been going on for a number of years and the initial capital is gone. They’re going to have to build over 100k vehicles a year to turn a profit and I doubt their little factory is gearing up to put out 300 cars a day. Richard Branson said if you can’t make a business case by doing some simple math with a pencil on the back of an envelope, it’s not going to work.

  • avatar
    Garak

    That could be a decent off-roader for horrible conditions, but it seems to be FWD only. I’m not impressed.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      I’m sure they have a good fix on local road conditions. It’s not marketed at the US recreational 4×4 market (“let’s see how deep I can get stuck this weekend”), or the poseur 4×4 market (“I need a 4 inch lift kit to drive from my subdivision to the Dairy Queen”).

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        “I need a 4 inch lift kit to drive from my subdivision to the Dairy Queen”

        Geez, I’m going to the Mall too ya know, and the parking lot has a pothole in it. If I don’t have the 4” lift the plastic thingy in the front scrapes and makes noise, so there’s that

    • 0 avatar
      Slow_Joe_Crow

      The Africar was FWD, with Citroen 2CV mechanicals and a plywood body. It handled mud and ruts just fine as long as the drive wheels could hit bottom

      • 0 avatar
        Garak

        The Africar weighed less than half of the Mobius, which at nearly 1300 kg is quite heavy for such a tiny vehicle.

        FWD is OK for off-roading, I have a Lada 110 as a forest tractor, and it rarely gets totally stuck in the mud. But not having four wheel drive seriously limits the appeal of the Mobius even for locals – a “regular” car (with windows and such) costs only a little bit more, and is equally incapable of going into the worst places. It’s basically a crippled specialist vehicle.

  • avatar
    cmoibenlepro

    I guess a Lada Niva would probably have even more equipment and capability for the same price. At least it has windows.

  • avatar
    RHD

    Apparently there is little truth to the rumor that it’s called “Mobius” because after one time around it ends up upside down…

  • avatar
    John

    Mobius needs to make a stripped model.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    C’mon you guys, if it was in brown primer and had a diesel you know you’d love it!

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Now I know where my beer, coke, and cat food cans are going for when I recycle them.

  • avatar
    EAF

    http://Www.Mobiusmotors.com

    Mobius II > Tiguan/Toureg

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    Yeah.. jouncing along into the dusty sunset with Boko Haram on the radio.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    So is it called the II to remind potential investors of the Scout II, even if it more closely resembles the original Scout?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    So is that where my aluminum pie pans went? Those pans might bend but they never rusted. Nice to know that they might use those pot pie pans to make an aluminum vehicle in Africa that might be used by a marijuana grower–gives a new meaning to recycling.
    A Whiter Shade of Pale would be a good name for the color white on their color choices. I wonder what they could call silver?

  • avatar
    EAF

    Honestly, what is most appealing to me about the Mobius II is the wide availability of parts sourced from The Home Depot.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The design does remind me of the IH Scout which would be a good body to start with and then add all the safety and better drive train to and you could have something very marketable even in the US.

  • avatar
    infinitime

    The right tool for the right job… there is a certain minimalist appeal to this vehicle, which seems to be well suited to the purpose it is designed for.

    As to the engine, the performance specs of the 1,598cc engine are suspiciously similar to those found in the Dacia Logan engine of the same displacement.

    http://www.mobiusmotors.com/mobius-II/specs.html
    http://tractors.wikia.com/wiki/Dacia_Logan

    Pictures of the two engine also suggest very similar layouts, with placement of various electrical component in the same locations, and exhaust manifold heat shields that look identical….

    A licensed Renault engine perhaps?

    http://www.jebiga.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/MOBIUS-II-MOBIUS-MOTORS-2.jpg

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/24/Dacia_Logan_MCV_Model_2009_05.JPG

  • avatar
    andrewallen

    I find crumple zones and air bags to be overrated in Africa and rather keep an exceedingly sharp lookout. The affirmative action truck driver in this video has a forged drivers license and managed 540 Kilometers before hitting anyone….note Toyota Hi Aces (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFc6CizjMXM). About 50% of drivers licenses in South Africa are either forged or bought with a bribe to the examiner as the test is easier than California’s (I know as I have both).

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      If the test is easy why not just take it?

      • 0 avatar
        andrewallen

        Because less than 20% of South Africans have a high school diploma so they wont pass without bribery. Also a drivers liscence is a qualification in that it almost certainly gaurantees a job (our unemployment rate has increased from 7% to about 40%-50% in the last 20 or so years since the end of apartheid)


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