Car dealers race to unveil saloons as rivalry grows


Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and British High Commissioner to Kenya Christian Turner during the unveiling of a new Range Rover model in Nairobi. Photo/Correspondent

New car dealers are scrambling to introduce saloon car models as pressure to grow sales in an intensely competitive segment mounts.

DT Dobie, Simba Corporation, RMA Kenya, and Toyota Kenya are some of the dealers that have lined up new models, in a move set to raise competition in the industry.

This comes as sale of new saloon cars rose 10.3 per cent to 1,484 units in the seven months to July, trailing that of buses, pick-ups and trucks that grew 13.2 per cent to 6,146 units in the same period. Dealers are betting on the models to attract new customers and encourage others to upgrade their cars.

The firms heavily rely on repeat purchases from wealthy individuals and private companies, with majority of Kenyans going for used cars that account for about 70 per cent of all vehicles sold in the country.

Simba Corporation has introduced five car models under Geely, a new franchise from Chinese auto manufacturer Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. They include Geely Panda and MK.

“These are fairly priced models for the budget saloon car market that we are targeting,” said Adil Popat, Simba’s chief executive.

The cars are retailing from Sh1.2 million or half of the cheapest models sold by Toyota Kenya that has dominated the local saloon car market.

Geely, which acquired Swedish vehicle manufacturer Volvo in 2010, is the latest Chinese auto firm to enter the local market after its peers including Beiqi Foton.

Mr Popat said that Simba will later in the year launch an updated BMW X5 model in the luxury car segment where its rivals RMA Kenyan and DT Dobie have also shipped in new models.

RMA, for instance, has introduced the Jaguar XF and the Range Rover 2013 which retail at Sh6.9 million and up to Sh27 million respectively. The dealer will also launch the Jaguar F-Type, a convertible sports car, in November.

The firm’s CEO Sanjiv Shah said the company will focus on relatively cheaper and more fuel efficient models to gain market share in the luxury segment dominated by DT Dobie.

“We are bringing in some of the more affordable Jaguar models with prices that have never been seen in this market before,” Mr Shah said.

RMA—which took over the Jaguar Land Rover franchise from CMC Holdings in June— has so far sold 17 units according to data from the Kenya Motor Industry Association (KMI).

DT Dobie has lined up Mercedes CLA class, a new model in the luxury car market where Mercedes leads with a market share of over 50 per cent.

The dealer has also launched new versions of its A-Class and S-Class Mercedes—the most expensive of its luxury models. “Introduction of the Mercedes CLA class will particularly boost our presence in the luxury car market,” said Razak Khan, DT Dobie’s managing director.

Toyota Kenya has also introduced a number of new models but declined to reveal the details, saying the units will be on display at the Total Motor Show that opens in Nairobi on Friday.

The new saloon car models are set to increase competition in the market, with dealers betting on a mix of pricing and brand reputation to grow sales.

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