Japanese car maker Honda Automobile Western Africa Limited, a member of the Honda Motor Corporation Limited, has begun assemblage and production of 1,000 units of hi-tech Honda automobiles at its 38-year old assembly plant located in Ota, Ado-Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State.
This is in line with the directive of the National Automotive Council and Federal Government for assembly plants to import completely knocked down (CKD) parts and components of automobiles into the country as part of measures to ensure that automobiles are assembled in the country to create wealth and jobs for Nigerians.
The Honda Automobile Western Africa Limited started a 1,000-unit per year production capacity plant in Ota with Accord brands – LX and EX 2017 models.
The car maker assembled i-VTEC specification, having considered Nigerian factors such as bad roads network, harsh weather condition, and high cost of fuel, among others.
Speaking on the event to mark the assembly of Honda brands in Ogun State, Remi Adams, lead, sales and marketing; Obadeyin Amos, assistant factory manager; Katsuhiro Murooka, managing director, Honda Automobile Western Africa Limited, said that Nigeria would be the first country Honda Motor Corporation Limited would be having assembly plant. They said the plant would employ Nigerians to work in different lines.
Murooka said, “In the last 40 years, Accord has been winning all the way from Japan. Preparing for the future is Accord. It has been improving for the past 40 years. We are very proud to start producing it in Nigeria. This is the first time to produce automobile in Africa, especially we choose Accord because it is most important to us.”
When he was asked the number of local components the firm would be sourcing, Murooka noted that the main area which government must really find and improve upon is that of sourcing automobile components locally.
“Honda, as a brand, does not necessary have to manufacture everything. So we need global content manufacturers that can supply us, that can supply battery and all the items. And those manufacturers have their offices globally as well. It is only from those kind of companies that we can buy from if they eventually come to Nigeria.
“So it is not like Honda will just decide to take glass from any manufacturing company in Nigeria. For instance, our motorcycle section, at one point, tried to source parts locally and already approached one Nigerian manufacturer in the area of seats, but unfortunately, the quality is below our standards.
“So that area, it is more for the government to bring in local contents suppliers. Last time, Engineer Aminu Jalal, director-general of National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), came here and we discussed about sourcing parts locally and proposed for automobile. We thought we can start with motorcycle if we want to source for local contents but maybe someday we can do that.
“Talking about comparison, you cannot compare Honda with any brand. Honda is Honda and the uniqueness of Honda cannot be compared. Among the companies assembling in Nigeria, Honda is the only one that is having direct ownership. That means better quality, guaranteed quality and vast unique services unlike the others that are franchised,” he said.
When the Japanese managing director of Honda Automobile Western African Limited was asked about the patronage so far and possible challenges faced by the automobile company, he disclosed that Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State has already ordered for 40 units of 2017 brand of Honda Accord, but said further that Nigeria must help them to grow.
“We need government to help us in some areas, especially the grey importers. We call them grey importers because they are not licensed, they are not accredited. Any Honda Accord you buy from us directly, you get three years warranty but from grey importers, you cannot get such. Almost zero warranty. And even we, as Honda, each vehicle is designed for different terrain,” he said.
“Another challenge is land border. A lot of smugglers bring in vehicles through that source because they don’t pay the right duties. And if you don’t pay the right duties, of course your selling price will be cheaper. And that is also affecting our sales.”