Kenya’s first car maker a decade later

Here is where the story of Joel Jackson comes about. 

What began as a whim of intrigue, solving an open problem or a strong yearning for adventure, transformed one’s fortune and life trajectory into a motor vehicle manufacturer. While that might no surprise if we comb through history, this case is special.

The motivation behind the venture 

As the founder of the Kenyan car manufacturing company, Mobius motors, Jakson's story only gets better. In a market where 130,000 cars are imported annually according to the Daily Nation. Only 5 in 100 people own a motor vehicle, a clear indication that most people find them out of their affordability.

With proposed law changes such as the 2019 National Automotive Policy, the directive will lower the age limit on imported cars to 5 years, raising the price of second-hand vehicles significantly. High import duties charged on imported cars double their purchase price and the poor state of rural or peri-urban roads also pose a challenge. That leaves a demand gap for affordable high-performance all-terrain SUVs. 

An affordable option for all?

Mobius Motors wants to solve these challenges by producing cars that can comfortably run on the interior unpaved roads. To make the cars affordable for everyone, the design can be described as a strip down. It is no surprise that the Mobius flagship vehicles cost way less than a regular sedan car. It goes without saying that some Kenyans won’t mind sacrificing air conditioning, automatic windows and leather seats for reliable all-terrain performance vehicles.

The pioneer model sold for $9,314 before tax. A brand new Mobius 2 luxury model is available for purchase in three versions: the Cargo, the Adventure, and the Adventure Plus going for $12,849, $14,331 and $15,517 respectively depending on the features. 

Plans for expansion

In 2018, Mobius closed a series of funding rounds that aimed to accelerate its product launch and growth strategy. Same year in May, the Kenyanwallsetreet reported a $500,000 capital infusion from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which is part of the United States government developmental finance institution. The funds were for the setup of a new factory.

One of the biggest challenges Mobius Motors faces is customer preference for vehicles with extra features. A problem that can be solved by scaling production and bringing down costs. World Bank data shows Kenya has a GDP per capita of $1,455, meaning pricing is still a major impediment to widespread vehicle ownership.

Africa looking at locally produced cars

At a TEDGlobal2017, in Arusha, Tanzania, Jackson pointed out how automotive spending across the continent finances an international ecosystem of car exporters. Mobius also strives to position itself as a champion for homegrown motor industries after an unsuccessful car production project in 1986 dubbed the Nyayo car. In other positive developments across Africa, Kiira motors in Uganda are working on their first hybrid car, to retail at $20,000 each. In 2014, Nigeria launched its first local car brand Innoson - mostly sourced from locally sourced parts. 

($1 = 101.18 Kenyan shillings)