Why Toyotas are popular in the country
Posted Thursday, September 26 2013 at 01:00
About 30 years ago, Uganda was awash with European cars and most of them were sold brand new as the used car business did not exist then, with Afro Motors for Peugeot, Spear Motors for Mercedes Benz and Wavah Holdings for Volkswagen and Audi. There were some brands that didn’t have dealerships but were somehow still imported into the country and few were of Asian origin.
With the emergence of dealerships such as Walusimbi’s Garage in 1977 selling Toyotas that were cheaper than the European brands, things changed. People who had driven Asian cars such as Nissan, Honda, Mazda, Suzuki and Daihatsu held them in high regard for not only being more affordable but also quite reliable.
This is not to say that European brands were not reliable, it is just everything from Europe was considered to be of better quality than products from Asia.
Having realised Japan could actually make reliable and good quality yet affordable cars, the popularity of such cars rose. Although Walusimbi’s Garage was the main dealer then, Lonrho Motors also emerged and later changed to Toyota Uganda in 2005.
Fast forward 20 years later, a plethora of small parts dealers mainly into Japanese brands emerged and many of them were at what went on to become Kisekka’s Market.
These dealerships flourished at the time when a ban on importation of used cars that were more than seven years old was lifted. As used car dealerships grew, more people fell in love with Japanese cars especially Toyota. Because parts were readily available, Toyota was the brand to beat and still is. There is a way most Ugandans (although aware of other brands’ existence) kind of locked their minds into Toyota.
Blue Ocean Motors’ Bob Mawanda says whenever there is demand for Toyotas, numbers rise. “In Kenya they prefer Nissans. Some Ugandans have begun to appreciate Nissans and Hondas yet they were so into Toyota. I know of motorists who have Land Rover Freelanders fitted with Toyota RAV4 engines,” he notes.
Mawanda adds that Toyotas are usually stolen for parts. “There are cars you can park for two days on a street and nobody will touch them. When demand for parts is low, nobody is interested in stealing such parts. But parts of Harriers, Prados and Premios are fast moving,” Mawanda says.
Jackie Nalubega who works at Kampala Sheraton’s marketing department, echoes Mawanda’s sentiments.
“Although I am driving one now, I am not a Toyota fan. Previously, I drove a VW Golf. I am more into European cars because they are more comfortable. The Toyota thing is just about the mentality. Most people say they are easy to maintain. In Kenya, they drive Nissan maybe parts are readily available.”
She adds, “European parts are expensive because the cars are few. A side mirror of a Toyota Premio or Vitz will go within a day unlike that of a Range Rover that the thief will be stuck with. Because of their availability, sometimes people buy back their own parts.”
The director of Parlos Auto Spares, Paul Mutebi says Toyota is a leading brand. “For us dealers, we go in for what is on demand. There are so many parts and some are even imitated. For an ordinary Ugandan, they usually go for what they hear others talk about. Most people depend on hearsay from car brokers. Mitsubishi is a good brand but people still prefer Toyota. Generally, Toyota parts are cheaper compared to other Japanese brands,” Mutebi explains.