What Innoson Motors is Doing Wrong?

Peugeot was the official government car in Nigeria, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen and others picked the remnants of the market. There were very few middle class targets, owning a car in a community was next to play God.

Times have since changed, the middle class in Nigeria has grown to not less than 15 percent, consumer durable goods financing by banks and other financial institutions have exploded unlike when government happens to be the biggest spender.

Indeed, those fringe players survived and Peugeot now struggles. Why? The fringe players concentrated on a consistent and continuous building of their brands in rain and in the sunshine. The lesson for this generation of auto marketers is that if you build your bottom-line on government patronage, like the first generation of auto makers in Nigeria, you may indeed need a rethink.

Will Innoson identify its position in the heart of this 170 million potential customers and begin to impress the now and tomorrow of its audience?  What a chance of a generation? Innoson is at the verge of consolidating history, just on its lap.

In many countries of the world, the automotive industry plays both strategic roles in economic development, particularly in employment creation and wealth generation. In fact, the Barrack Obama democratic government in the United States had to intervene to bail out its country’s auto industry.

So, the recent development in the Nigerian automotive industry, where the Federal Government, placed a new tariff on the importation of cars has made the importation of cars more expensive thus, promoting the purchase of locally manufactured vehicles.

With this new measure, the automotive industry is expected to create significant employment and a wide range of technologically advanced manufacturing opportunities. Since then, not less than 12 automobile manufacturing firms have indicated interest in setting up vehicle assembly plants in Nigeria. Meanwhile, Nissan, Hyundai and some others have since commenced operations.

According to the Director-General, National Automobile Council, Mr. Aminu Jalal, old assembly plants such as those of Leyland and Leventis Motors are being revived to give a new lease of life to the nation’s auto industry. This means a more competitive automotive market, lower car prices, promotion of indigenous companies, more foreign investment, the emergence of a potential internationally recognized Nigerian brand, more jobs and ultimately more development.

Before government’s recent policy action, Nigeria’s flagship indigenous vehicle manufacturer, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company (IVM) has over the years been into the production of passenger buses and trucks, but never explored the production of cars and SUVs on a large scale but it was not well known in the country until recently, when the president commissioned its manufacturing plant in Nnewi. Even with the commissioning, the Innoson brand does not come up in first ten mentions of vehicles by sampled audience.  Maybe, the brand did not make enough attempts to leverage on that occasion to push the brand into the consciousness of Nigerians which serves to be its primary and the biggest market.

Most internationally visible brand started just like Innoson but their initial and sustained success hinged not only on the resourcefulness and strength of their founders, but also on the support of the populace and this made the economic transformation of their various countries possible.

The people’s support did not come that easy for them and that is why IVM needs to win the trust of Nigerians and stand the test of time, by proving that it is different from what we are already used to. He must also convince them of the safety, durability and performance of his products. However, IVM’s marketing strategies or an apparent lack of it, especially online might be its bane in a world where technological innovation has become the in- thing.

Innoson certainly needs a top marketing structure (not charlatans), people that have done auto marketing and excelled in it to do a good job of pushing the brand into the consciousness of Nigerians.

Capitalising on government’s patronage is good, but limited, rather than the people will not get the brand far as expected. Once government’s patronage drops or stops, the brand will have to rely on the people like other automobile companies to survive and eventually drive Tokunbo away from Nigeria just like he did with motorcycles.

Several years ago when Peugeot cars were the in-thing, Toyota launched with an advert and an aggressive marketing. Today, out of ten cars on Nigerian roads, Toyota owns not less than six if not more.

Automobile brands like KIA, Toyota, Ford, Hyundai and others spend huge sums of money on newspaper adverts announcing their entry into the Nigerian market many years back and now they are household names,  they now give Toyota stiff competition .

In today’s highly competitive and innovative business world, marketing is key; these are the signals customers and potential investors’ lookout for. We are in the internet age where a brand that is not strong in well structured market means no credibility.


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