Fighting For Share Of East African Pickup, Heavy Commercial Markets


Demand for pickup trucks and heavy commercial vehicles in East Africa is driven by growth in agriculture, telecommunications, transportation and construction. In the pickup segment, small businesses are turning away from used cars and going for brand new ones, one local industry leader says.

It’s a battle of the titans as Toyota Kenya, Simba Colt and General Motors East Africa fight for a share of the growing pickup truck market. But this is not only segment that is attracting interest. Dealers in buses, trucks and heavy commercial vehicles are also gearing up for competition. Data from Kenya Motor Industry (KMI) indicate that one-ton pickup trucks had the largest number of sales in December, 2013 with 2,873 units sold compared to 2,729 units in 2012 — a 5.3 percent increase.

Joseph Njenga is managing director at Vas Auto Garages Ltd., a dealer in Nairobi. “We are seeing Toyota models as the most popular in the market, followed by the Nissan pickups,” Njenga told AFKInsider. “Others models such as the Ford Ranger have been struggling to gain a foothold in this fiercely competitive segment.”

General Motors East Africa (GMEA) recently launched the new sixth-generation Isuzu D Max. This is the second time General Motors East Africa rolled out a new model. It came less than a year afterChevrolet, under the distributorship of General Motors East Africa, rolled out the three-quarter-ton Chevrolet utility pickup.

“We have seen significant increases in demand for prime movers as well as in the pickup segment,” said Caroline Wamai, a manager at DT Dobie Kenya Ltd., in an AFKInsider interview. “Cargo transport business has been booming partly due to a railway system that is inefficient and clogged.

“In the pickup segment, small businesses are slowly turning away from used cars to going for brand new ones, to have better returns.” The Double Cabin model pickup truck has grown popular with small business and the commercial sector, as sales figures in 2013 indicate. Competing for a share of this market are General Motors East Africa and Toyota.

The Isuzu D Max model, sold by General Motors East Africa, will be available in seven diesel models that will offer great driving options and flexibility to customers when it comes to work horse capability, leisure and off-road driving.

Isuzu claims to have dominated the Kenyan market for most of its 50 years in the country, said Rita Kavashe, managing director of General Motors East Africa in an AFKInsider interview. General Motors East Africa’s new models come at a time when Toyota Kenya has been making inroads into the commercial segment. Toyota Kenya put up a Hino showroom and workshop adjacent to Toyota Tsusho in Nairobi. Hino is the commercial division of Toyota introduced into Kenya in February 2013 in Mombasa. The project is the first phase of a $40-million investment.

But what has got the East Africa auto industry excited is the entry into Kenya of Scania East Africa Ltd. A subsidiary of Scania CV Sweden, the company sells Scania trucks and buses. These include 44-to-67-seat luxury and standard model buses as well as trucks used mostly in cargo transport business.

Latest figures from Kenya Motor Industry show that in December 2013, the industry closed at 1,385 units, a 22.24 percent increase compared to 1,133 units sold in December 2012. Toyota Kenya is ranked at the top with 37.83-percent market share and sales of 524 units during the same period.

It is followed by General Motors East Africa with 23.47-percent market share and sales of 325 units. Simba Colt ranks third with 11.05-percent market share and sales of 153 units. General Motors East Africa invested more than $2 million in 2013 in a plant upgrade that included a bus body technology center and improved production capacity by 30 percent.

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