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Sights, sound at Lagos motor fair

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Marketing Manager, Kia Nigeria, Olawale Jimoh (right); Director General, National Automotive Development and Design Council (NADDC), Jelani Aliyu, during the tour of Kia’s stand at the Lagos Auto Fair.

•Low turnout raises fear over future fairs
*Absence of NAIDP stalls sector’s growth

Stakeholders are worried over future of automotive fairs in the country given low patronage recently recorded.

These fears came to the fore recently following the low turnout recorded at the Lagos International Auto Fair, one of the major events in Nigeria’s auto industry.

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Few weeks ago, the fair’s 15th edition, organised by BKG Exhibitions Limited recorded an all-time low turnout.

However, stakeholders are of the opinion that the lack of a proper National Automotive Industry Development Plan (NAIDP) is practically killing the industry.

The NAIDP Bill, popularly known as Auto Policy, is central to the development of the automotive industry, which is said to be currently underperforming.

Apart from vehicle dealers, regular spare parts exhibitors from overseas and other dealers in auto and allied products and services were absent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Findings revealed that apart from the outbreak of COVID-19, the downturn in economy, which has drastically reduced purchasing power of car users, also added fuel to the fire.

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Unlike other editions where over 50 vehicles would be on display by different Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and dealers, the fair witnessed fewer number of sedan and Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) from Mikano Motors, Kia, OMAA, Jet Systems and Coscharis Motors displayed.

Massilia Motors, distributors of Mitsubishi Motors; CFAO/Suzuki, Stallion Motors, dealers of over seven brands; Westar Limited, dealers of Mercedes, Toyota Nigeria Limited among others were absent.

Alluding to the poor turnout at the fair, Managing Director, BKG Exhibitions Limited, Ifeanyichukwu Agwu, said it is indeed a seriously challenging time in the automotive industry in Nigeria.

Agwu said it is a season that has thrown up more challenges than ever before. A lot of companies have closed shop while a large number are merely existing and in dire need of life supports.

This, he said, can be confirmed by the number of exhibitors in this year’s edition.

In his words: “Ordinarily, it is the delight and wish of any serious player in the industry to showcase amongst others but here we are witnessing the opposite.

“All the relevant stakeholders must join hands and release the synergy that will see the sector regain its traction with the introduction of the NAIDP. This will help to fast track the development of the sector.”

Former Director of Policy and Planning, National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), Mamudu Lukman, said the industry is now in a ‘state of suspended animation’.

He said the absence of the NAIDP, is virtually killing the industry.

“We are hopeful that the Minister of Industry and Finance will soon realise that they were wrongly advised and send a revised NAIDP to the Federal Executive Council for consideration. I understand it’s ready but I don’t know why they are keeping it.

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“We just lost Toyota to Ghana. They approached us first. I know. I led the investment delegate to meet with Toyota Tsumitomo in Japan and the company was quite receptive. The only key demand was that Nigeria should legislate the NAIDP but the president was advised not to sign it. Those who so advised know themselves.”

An Automotive and Communications Consultant, Dr. Oscar Odiboh, said that the low turnout is clearly a backlash from the economic situation, together with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Odiboh, due to the economic downturn, people have not been able to raise enough money to buy new cars, adding that even Tokunbo vehicles were equally affected.

Odiboh, who is also a senior lecturer, Mass Communications Department, Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, said the only people who participated in the show were ardent visitors as very few people are buying cars.

“The economic situation has a role to play in it. In 2009/2010, it affected the auto show. The same in 2011- 2015. The show was affected these previous years and attendance was based on the factors I mentioned above,” he said.

General Manager, Marketing and Corporate Communication, Coscharis Group, Babarinde Abiona, said the event was not a jamboree but an opportunity to showcase what is new in the sector.

He appealed to the government to create an enabling environment and policy that supports the business that makes the automotive industry a viable economy.

He said with the entry of more players in the industry it shows there is a win-win solution for everyone.

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For Toyota, their absence in the fair has to do with cutting of expenses which are usually associated with such fairs.

A source at the Toyota Nigeria Limited attributed its non-appearance at the fair to the short notice from the organisers and finance issue.

“Everyone is cutting down on cost and eliminating expenses that have no direct bearing on sales”, the source hinted.

Marketing Manager, Kia Motors, Nigeria, Olawale Jimoh, who confirmed attendance, said the event was okay and that it afforded them opportunity to display their new models.

Jimoh hinted that the fair was the first major event that was able to bring auto assemblers together.

Attributing the low turnout to COVID-19 pandemic, he said part of the cause also is the continued reduction in the purchasing power of the people. There has been continued reduction of the purchasing power of the people because the economy has been unstable, which has affected the auto sector.

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