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Chinese vehicle brands welcomed in Kenya

01 July 2014, 17:23

Nairobi - Motorists and pedestrians in Kenya turn their necks to look at the vehicle as it zooms past them. One of the things that make it stand out on Kenyan roads is its unique design, which fascinates other road users.

For many years, Kenyans have been used to Japanese vehicles, that include Isuzu, Toyota and Mitsubishi, but Chinese models are now making inroads on the country.

The number of people and institutions acquiring Chinese models, among them Beiqi Foton and Chery Tiggo, is fast rising, and so are the vehicles on Kenyan roads.

The brands are slowly gaining popularity in different sectors in Kenya, key among them public transport and security.

In the public transport sector, the Beiqi Foton trucks are gaining footprints. While the vehicles are not being used in ferrying passengers, unlike Japanese Isuzus and Mitsubishis, they are becoming popular among distributors of goods.

Their unique model is turning out to be the vehicle's selling point, with distributors of goods like wholesalers finding them effective.

Unlike the other vehicle models that Kenyans are used to in the transport sector, Beiqi Foton trucks are small in size. This makes them perfect for distribution of goods, especially for medium- sized wholesalers.

Abdi Mohamed is a transport operator in Kakamega in western Kenya and owns a medium-sized Beiqi Foton truck, which he hires out to people in the town.

"I do not see any difference between this vehicle and the Isuzu trucks. It has been serving me well ever since I bought it in late 2012. I went for it because it was affordable and its size was perfect for my work," said the young entrepreneur on Monday.

The businessman says he bought the vehicle in Nairobi, where the company has an assembling plant.

"It cost me 34,482 dollars. If I had gone for the other trucks, I would have spent more, perhaps up to 57,471 dollars," said Mohamed. However, one of the things that the transporter noted about the vehicle is that it is lighter.

"I find the vehicle lighter as compared to other brands in the market. I know this is their make but I have already told the manufacturers in my assessment of the vehicles as their customer," said Mohamed, who also noted that he has to buy spare parts from Nairobi because they are not available in the town.

Beiqi-Foton set up shop in the eastern African nation in 2011. The company established the 14.1-million-dollar plant to assemble light trucks, motorbikes and pickups, among other vehicles.

Foton established the plant in Nairobi to avoid paying a 25 percent import duty, which pushes up prices of vehicles. The Kenya government has also given boost to Chinese vehicles.

In departure from traditional last year, the government acquired for its security and provincial administration officers Chery Tiggo vehicles, boosting their number on the eastern African nation's roads.

The Tiggo, which is described as a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), replaced the British Land Rover and Japan's Toyata Land Cruiser, which the police and members of provincial administration have used for eons.

The Kenya government bought at least 400 Chery Tiggo vehicles for use in the sectors in a 16.1 million dollars deal.

The vehicles were sourced from Chery Automobile Company in China. They included Chery Tiggo estate cars, Land Mark SUV and Grand Tiger.

The Chery Tiggo resembles the Toyota models but it costs lower. The Kenya government acquired each vehicle at 24,137 dollars, which is half the price of what it used to buy the other models.

The growing presence of Chinese vehicle models in Kenya comes at a time when relations between China and the eastern African nation are becoming closer.

- Xinhua

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