Product developers have lately come to the realization that customers' unique preferences and needs when selecting a product keep changing. This is aided by multiple sources of information via the internet, companies just to mention a few.
The theory of one size fits all will no longer apply to the recent, knowledgeable customer who knows exactly what he or she wants. For instance, products, for Africa are now being tropicalized, as they are now produced with an African twist to make them resonate better with the local user for easy acceptance.
This is not different in the automobile industry. Previously, the African automobile industry was made up of cars that were produced for the western world. Standardization was the thing - same vehicle features for all markets. There were some features that could never be useful or beneficial to the Ghanaian user. But the situation is different now. There are customized vehicles for Africa.
The African automobile industry has over the years gained much prominence and an example is South African companies such as BMW, Ford (incorporating Mazda), General Motors, Toyota, Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, and Renault.
The sector produces tailor-made vehicles to suit the lifestyle of South Africa and other African countries. It also considers budget, weather conditions, road network, and environmentally friendly vehicles with relevant features to meet the local user's demands. Gradually, other African countries including Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Rwanda are beginning to assemble vehicles. Relying heavily on the spirit of 'by Africa for Africa', most multinational vehicle manufacturers including Toyota are now producing vehicles with the African user in mind and not generalizing their production.
Engine Downsizing Making the vehicles economical is one key factor. Haven't you realized that recently, most cars are now being manufactured with smaller engine sizes, but performance is not compromised? For instance, consider Toyota V6 3.3L, diesel engine on the newly introduced Land Cruiser 300 versus the V8 4.5L diesel engine on Land Cruiser 200. One might think the engine downsizing will not make it as fast as the V8, but I beg to differ. Smaller engines provide a myriad of benefits versus huge engines. Mainly, is its fuel efficiency which translates into less emissions. The less fuel you burn, the fewer amount of harmful gasses that get expelled from the engine. Not only that, but a smaller engine improves higher power output as well. Advances in engine technology have made it possible for some of today's smaller engines to produce more power than certain bigger, more old-fashioned engines. One key to this is turbocharging, which forces more air into the engine cylinders.
The Toyota Example For instance, Toyota has over the years continuously set benchmarks of fuel efficiency in the entire range of cars. It is in this pursuit that they constantly innovate and push the boundaries of technology to ensure reliable, fuel-efficient, and high on performance cars for customers. Have you heard of the newly launched Toyota Rumion by Toyota Ghana? It is a 7-seater vehicle with a 1.5-liter engine capacity. One would have expected it to be at least 2.0 or above. However, we all know the economic challenges now, not to talk about the rise in fuel costs. Toyota wants to give customers economical vehicles with powerful performance but budget-friendly.
The African Customer During a summit in 2013, the former CEO of Toyota South Africa made a comment which really struck me most. He said, "People tend to think if you sell things to Africa, you can sell them inferior things. I think that will be the biggest mistake you can make". He added that the consumer in Africa is as much aware of quality as anybody else." This is very true. We are all enlightened and know what we want. In as much as Toyota is producing budget-friendly vehicles, they also have in mind that the customer in Africa would want to see tech-savvy innovations. Features such as parking sensors, pinch prevention system, ISOFIX child seat anchorage, infotainment systems compatible with our local navigations, Android Auto, Apple Car play, and so on are being fitted in most vehicles including sedans making them elegant. The newly launched Belta by Toyota Ghana for instance has all the above features and more. For a sedan, you will agree with me that this makes it luxurious.
In wrapping up, I believe Africa has made a huge impact in the automobile industry thus the focus on producing specifically for Africa. It's not surprising a lot of vehicle assembly plants are being set up in Africa with Ghana inclusive.