By Moses Akaigwe 08072100049
Kia Motors Corporation has affirmed that the initiative to build a plant in Lagos by its representative and distributor in Nigeria was a strategic investment aimed at ensuring that the brand maintained its popularity and comparative affordability in the local market.
Encouraged by the automotive policy introduced the previous year, Kia Motors Nigeria (Dana Motors) had in 2015 commenced the assembly of a range of passenger cars at its plant in Isolo area of Lagos with capacity to produce between 25, 000 and 27, 000 units annually.
Speaking on the project recently through the President, Regional Headquarters, Middle East & Africa, Mr. Soon-Nam Lee, in Tunisia, Kia Motors Corporation, disclosed that the plant called United Vehicle Assembly Limited (UVAL), was built to produce the same top quality vehicles at affordable prices for the buyers in Nigeria.
Lee who was reacting to questions by the Daily Sun Motoring Editor at a press conference held as part of the test-drive of the all-new Kia Picanto by the motoring press from the Middle East and Africa, in Tunis, remarked that it would have been more expensive to continue importing the vehicles as finished products.
With the vehicles reliable and available at competitive prices, Kia would be able to retain its position as one of the best-selling brands across various segments in the Nigerian market, Lee explained..
The UVAL plant commenced operation with a team of engineering graduates from Nigerian universities while the Managing Director, Mr. Jacky Hathiramani, assured that more experienced engineers and fresh graduates would be employed as production expanded.
Hathiramani had stated: “The establishment of an assembly plant was aimed at keying into the country’s automotive policy. We are committed to making Nigeria a leading auto manufacturing country in Africa as well as contributing immensely to the development of the nation through this multi-billion naira investment.”
At inception, the range of made-in-Nigeria Kia included Rio, Cerato, Optima, Sorento, and Soul, while the line-up was later widened with the addition of another sedan, the Picanto; Mohave a large SUV; and the K-series light trucks. Only the top-of –the-range luxury Quoris is not driving out of the assembly line in Isolo at present.
Interestingly, at the all-new Picanto press conference, the Middle East and Africa Regional President confirmed that the vehicles assembled in Lagos by Kia Motors Nigeria are as good as the imported fully built up versions.
Lee was also asked to comment on the wave-making Stinger GT – Kia’s first rear-wheel-drive sports sedan and the first that can hit 0-60 in under five seconds (powered by a 3.3-liter V-6), thus making it the fastest car by the Korean auto maker!
Though Nigeria is not one of the major target markets for the sports car, which will be launched globally much later in the year, a couple of units might be made available to satisfy the enthusiasts here.
Award-winning Ford Ranger returns to North America, rules pick-ups in Nigeria
In deference to the wishes of its customers in North America, Ford plans to take back the multi-award-winning Ranger mid-size pick-up truck to its vehicle lineup in that market, in 2019.
This is coming at a time the Ranger is the reigning king of pickups in Nigeria – having been crowned, two months ago in Lagos, the 2016 Pick-up of the Year at the Nigeria Auto Journalists Association (NAJA) Awards.
Industry experts believe the award in Nigeria and similar honours in various other markets, comfirm that the model has managed to achieve popularity across the globe due to its impressive range of technologies, bold design and outstanding capabilities.
Reacting to return of the model to North America, Ford’s President of The Americas, Joe Hinrichs, said: “We have heard our customers loud and clear. They want a new generation of vehicles that are incredibly capable yet fun to drive. Ranger is for truck buyers who want an affordable, functional, rugged and maneuverable pickup that’s Built Ford Tough.”
For the Nigerian buyers, the Ranger is currently assembled at a plant in Lagos by Ford representative in Nigeria, Coscharis Motors. The facility, according to a manager at the plant, ensures that the pick-up is designed from the ground up with Nigerian conditions and consumers in mind.
“It’s one of the toughest, smartest and most capable pick-ups in the market and is packed with features aimed at providing customers with improved utility, comfort and convenience,” the manager said.
A full line-up of Ford Rangers is provided in the Nigerian market by Coscharis Motors, including the single cab commercial models, the versatile super cab (or RAP cab) versions with the additional rear-hinged doors, and the extensive range of practical double cab derivatives which include the XL, XLT, Limited and range-topping Wildtrak versions.
Ford has leveraged its global engineering resources in building tough pick-up trucks, known and trusted for durability, safety and capacity. The Ford Ranger has set the benchmark in the pickup segment with an uncompromising blend of robust capability, craftsmanship, safety and advanced technologies that provide Nigerians with solutions to everyday challenges.
The Ford Ranger also features a stylish, smart and functional interior, alongside a best-in-class combination of water-wading, towing and payload capabilities – factors that tilted the Pick-up of the Year honour in its favour at the NAJA Awards.
It was also described as the perfect vehicle for the Nigerian motoring conditions which can be used for anything from a family vehicle to a rugged work horse.