Chinese brands may soon replace Japanese brands as Africa’s most popular vehicles – here’s why

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Japanese brands have long dominated new vehicle sales and used vehicle imports on the African continent. Toyota is the most popular brand on the continent. The Washington DC-based Brookings Institution report says African consumers are brand aware and loyal. When it comes to cars, that brand is Toyota!

In the new vehicle market, the Toyota Hilux is king in South Africa. The Hilux is generally the leader in new vehicle sales across Africa. Other popular models in the new vehicle market are the Corolla and the Fortuner. With the exception of Egypt, South Africa, Sudan and Morocco where the import of used vehicles is prohibited, the majority of vehicles brought to the continent are used vehicles. Toyota is also the sales leader in the used vehicle import market. Other popular models in the used vehicle market imported mainly from Japan include the Corolla, Vitz, Belta, Passo, Fielder, Noah, Hiace and Crown. Models from Nissan, Mazda and Honda are also popular on the continent.

Japanese brands like Toyota are popular because most Africans see them as affordable, reliable and easy to maintain vehicles. But people are also starting to appreciate Chinese brands on the ICE front. Take South Africa for example, which is the continent’s largest market for new vehicle sales. The Haval Jolion, of the Chinese team Great Wall Motors, was the second best-selling vehicle in the crossover and SUV segment in South Africa last month. The Haval Jolion sold 708 units, 111 less than its perennial favorite, the Toyota Fortuner. The Jolion has received rave reviews in South Africa and neighboring countries. When you look at its great price, it won’t be long before it takes the top spot.

The fact that a Chinese model has reached second place in one of the most popular vehicle segments in South Africa is very significant. It shows that consumers are starting to trust these relatively new Chinese brands in this market.

Best-selling ICE SUVs and crossovers in South Africa in June 2021

In the pickup segment in South Africa, the Hilux was also the top-selling vehicle in June with 3,320 units. Great Wall’s P-series pickup also entered the top 5 with 387 units, and it should soon start climbing the charts in South Africa’s highly competitive pickup market.

Chinese brands will continue to increase their market share in the future, especially now as the transition to electric mobility accelerates. This is because Japanese automakers have been quite lethargic when it comes to electric vehicles. Honda has some pretty cool but expensive options like the Honda E. Late last year Jennifer Sensiba wrote an interesting article summarizing some of Honda’s recent moves. In this article, she says, “Honda has made several completely silly moves when it comes to electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. He misses important opportunities and does strange things that damage his image. Nissan was once one of the electric vehicle leaders in terms of electric vehicle sales when it released the first generation Nissan Leaf. The company has sold over 500,000 Leafs worldwide over the past 10 years. Nissan will begin deliveries of the new Ariya to Japan later this year. Hopefully he will do everything to drive sales and make it available in many markets. Mazda put one leg in the water too – maybe we could call it putting a toe out to test the waters with one model, the Mazda MX-30. Then there’s Toyota with its well-documented obsession with ICE vehicles and mild hybrids.

The slow sales of electric vehicles in the Japanese market does not help either as it is the source of many used vehicles that come to Africa. Just over 290,000 electric vehicles were registered in total in Japan as of December 2020. Used Nissan Leafs were the earliest entrants to the African used vehicle market, but with weak sales of electric vehicles in Japan and competing importers of used Nissan Leafs in places like New Zealand, there won’t be a lot of electric vehicles coming from Japan. On the other hand, there were more than 190,000 registrations of plug-in vehicles in China for the month of May 2021 alone!

Although the numbers are still low, Chinese EVs are starting to find their way into some African markets through official partners bringing in new EVs, as well as independent dealers who are also starting to import used Chinese EVs. In Zimbabwe, BYD Zimbabwe has started offering the T3 electric van as well as the new E6 with the Blade battery. Meta Electric in Kenya now also offers the BYD T3 electric van. In Egypt, El Nasr Automotive has partnered with Dongfeng to locally produce electric vehicles, starting with the Nasr E70 sedan.

In Ghana, SolarTaxi Ghana wants to ensure that many more fully electric models are available to potential buyers. They now offer over 15 models (yes, 15 different electric vehicle models) in Ghana which are available on a long term lease, lease or outright purchase basis. Most of them are Chinese models, including the Xpeng G3. The SolarTaxi range includes a selection of new and used Chinese electric vehicles, catering to a wide range of prices for customers.

Chinese automakers and new energy vehicle startups are pushing very hard on the electric vehicle front while Japanese automakers are still holding back and essentially playing a waiting game. There will simply be more Chinese models available in the market very soon which are really very good and affordable for new and used vehicle customers on the mainland. The good thing is that there is also a growing amount of affordable small electric vehicles with decent range made in China right now. These will obviously be more attractive to young buyers in Africa’s growing first and second tier cities. Most of these buyers, who will be in the market for their very first vehicle, typically opt for used Japanese vehicles priced between $ 6,000 and $ 14,000. Now, if they can have the option of getting a brand new electric vehicle that is easier and cheaper to maintain and in a similar price bracket with a decent range, they will surely switch to a new electric vehicle. Some of these EVs are part of a group of vehicles that I like to call ICE Killers. Great Wall Motors, which is already present on the continent, should closely monitor this market and bring in its “Cats”, ie the Ora R1 (Black Cat), the Ora R2 (White Cat) , the Good Cat and maybe even bring the Punk Cat too.

There are some really good affordable electric vehicles that are now starting to appear regularly in the Chinese sales charts, such as the Changan Benni EV and the Leap Motor T03. We hope that these companies will increase their production and see the export market soon. We also hope that upgraded versions of the blockbuster Wuling Hongguang Mini EV will also soon be available for the export market. While Japanese brands such as Honda still embark on low volume production, expensive $ 38,000 small-town electric vehicles with actual range less than 200 kilometers, China’s NEV companies are now offering vehicles of a similar size. for the price of a used 5 to 7. -in ICE Honda Fit. It won’t be long before these small Chinese EV towns arrive in Africa as new or used vehicles to disrupt the import market for used ICE vehicles. This is a huge opportunity for some innovative markets, coupled with good funding models. Traditional brands and traditional OEMs will most likely ignore this market, mainly because African countries have low levels of motorization and traditionally have low sales of new vehicles. New affordable models from Chinese brands will step in to conquer this market with their electric vehicles for less than $ 10,000.


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