Automobile Fashion In Addis
If anything, most people who have been closely watching Ethiopia’s import-dominated economy would agree on the flood of cars that have been passing through the nation’s dominantly-used Port of Djibouti. The import of automobiles has been continuously increasing throughout the last two decades despite the rise in the cost of living and other socio-political challenges. With the mass import of vehicles in the last several years, one also may notice how it has been following various trends of brands and models. In this article, EBR’s Trualem Asmare investigates what dictates the brands of cars seen on the streets of Addis Ababa.
When Eyob Mohammed, Project Manager, got a chance to buy an automobile using a bank loan facilitated with a guarantee by his employing NGO, he didn’t think twice. He rushed to a couple of importers in town and collected a few price quotations and fulfilled the required due processes to get his hands on his first car.
“I also had to learn how to drive for the first time,” Eyob told EBR.
Seeing available options at showrooms, he ended up wanting to buy the 2021 model Suzuki Desire, but without any particular reason for why he selected the brand and model. “It is just what everybody is buying these days.”
For some other car buyers though, it is not because ‘that is what everybody is doing’. Rather, they have specific reasonings for the brand and model of their choice when selecting their four-wheeled mode of transportation. That is at least the case for Mulugeta Fekadu, Businessman, who owns a construction materials shop in Piassa.
“A year ago, I bought the 2021 Suzuki Desire for ETB1.25 million—with the price being my main reason. The automobile was highly praised for its fuel efficiency, comfort, and technology,” Mulugeta told EBR, adding that “I considered all these parameters alongside the price and realized that one may not find such value. So I decided to go with it.”
The streets of Addis Ababa have showcased different models and brands of automobiles at different times for the past two decades, including the commonly-termed Woyane, as well as Atoz, Vitz, Yaris, Corolla Executive, and the recently-fashionable Suzuki models. Brand awareness is usually associated with increasing household income and defined ideas of luxury.
Both Eyob and Mulugeta have noticed the various trends in the fashion of automobiles that are seen widely on the streets at different times. Even though they do not understand the factor that influences the supply, they both admit trends are a massive influence on one’s decision of which brand and model to purchase.
Of course, current trends are not the only influencer of the consumer’s selection. Price, comfort, durability, technology, and availability and price of spare parts all go into the determining mix of factors to consider.
“I also have a Hyundai Sonata which I bought because it was relatively luxurious and modern at the time. It also looks great,” Mulugeta explains how different factors dictate the taste of consumers while buying their automobiles.
The Ethiopian car landscape has been dominated by Japanese cars for some time now, especially by Toyota. The advent of the Suzuki models came especially after the Ethiopian government modified how excise taxes are to be imposed on vehicles. Further, Chinese cars have also come to take their place in the array of vehicles seen at the numerous Addis Ababa car retail outlets.
Fitsum Deressa is an Electrical Engineer and General Manager of Green Technology Africa. His company, which has been operating in different African countries for more than 25 years, has imported a total of seven different models of electric cars which it claims are environmentally friendly and can be charged on solar energy. It currently has more than 400 additional vehicles at the Port of Djibouti. Green Technology Africa primarily imports its automobiles from the Chinese car manufacturer Dongfeng Motor Corporation.
According to Fitsum, of the imported models, three models are most demanded by customers as they give better value considering price and battery efficiency. “These specific demands influence our dealings with manufacturers and is thus manifested as to which car is imported and seen on the streets,” Fitsum told EBR.
Fitsum hopes when Ethiopia goes more into assembling and, perhaps, manufacturing, it could be possible to create an automobile sensitivity that is typical to the local society. His company has established a vehicle assembling factory in Dire Dawa and Sendafa hoping to save forex, create jobs, and contribute more to the local economy.
Assefa Kemal, alias, an experienced Sales Executive at a car importer, says there are other reasons behind any particular type of car that is trending in the city. Sometimes, customers order specific brands and models. However, most other times, importers deal with manufacturers or international traders to secure better prices, access credit, and for other perks. Therefore, these cars would be the ones dominantly seen being driven around.
“I remember we once brought this brand-new model that was given to us by our dealer in the UAE so as to promote it on the streets of Addis,” Assefa told EBR. “It was a very modern automobile and we were offered a very cheap price for it. However, and unfortunately, not a lot of people were interested and so we ignored the offer by our dealer.”
Vehicles are among the top ten imports of Ethiopia next to electrical machinery equipment, accounting for 7.3Pct, according to local media. Ethiopia imported a total of 135,457 vehicles during the 2018/19 fiscal year, as per the Ministry of Transport and Logistics. Ethiopia’s automotive market is dominated by second-hand imported vehicles, particularly commercial vehicles. Such types were Ethiopia’s second most valuable import in 2019 at USD955 million.
Second-hand vehicles in Ethiopia, especially of in-demand vehicles like Toyota models, tend to appreciate in value due to high import duties, a limited supply of vehicles, and the intangible trust which the cars have accumulated. As a result, second-hand vehicles dominate the market. Approximately 85Pct of vehicles are second-hand imports, of which almost 90Pct are Toyota models. These vehicles are imported primarily from the Gulf States, through the Port of Djibouti.
One sees that the consumer’s choice of which vehicle to purchase is primarily not his/ her decision. Due to various factors, that buyer is limited by choice and is usually forced ‘to go with the wind’. This is especially true in a nation dominated by agents which push the consumer towards the certain model which is profitable to them and is available in the market, playing on the lack of information and a skewed market. Stringent forex and duty issues also limit the choices of the aspiring driver. EBR
10th Year •June 2022 • No. 108