More often than not, this discussion has raised divergent views, which is a normal thing. There is no wrong or right opinion since different users have different preferences, budget and priorities. In addition, government policies have a big hand in this. Manufacturers will always set up factories where policies and markets favor them. Whereas car manufacturers want to give consumers the best they can, margins always come first. That’s why they won’t hesitate closing shop and moving to another country, where the cost of doing business is friendlier.
On the market side, the trims(different levels of luxury, gadgets, accessories on the same car) offered are guided by the user profile of the majority. For example, a Yaris GR will be sold in countries with high numbers of racing fans who have the financial muscle(being a fan isn’t enough if one can’t afford buying). A Hilux assembly in country Z will offer entry level trims if the market analysis dictates so(target market), and so on and so forth. Main focus in such a case, is usually on reliability especially in relation to suspension, ground clearance, cargo capacity etc.
From the consumer perspective, use of the car and the available budget will dictate whether it’s worthwhile buying a new car from the dealership or not. Based on what manufacturer A is offering in country X, an individual can be left out if a certain model or trim isn’t available. That alone can prompt the individual in question to look for alternatives, including importing a used car as long as it falls in the desired trim and specs. On the other hand, acquisition of a used car can be cheaper( even a higher trim of the same vehicle) with importation costs included, compared to a new car in the dealership. In this scenario, the buyer doesn’t care much about the difference in mileage(zero vs 100k km) as long as his/her taste and preference are fulfilled.
Majority of cases, especially in African countries where imports are permitted, cost and variety are the main factors. Currently, most dealerships in these countries focus on the luxury and off-road segment, leaving out budget car users without many options than to import. Part of the factors informing these decisions on the manufacturers’ side might be the terrain. In most African countries, terrain outside the cities is challenging. From unpaved roads to unkempt dirt roads, 4x4s or any car with higher ground clearance does better. Whereas they are also available for import as used vehicles, the price isn’t cut for everyone due to demand. This leaves the budget customer with the small cars within their budget. Lately we have seen a rise in numbers for Suzuki alto, Nissan March, Toyota Viz, Honda fit etc. Owners have to improvise especially on the ground clearance by replacing the suspension set up in order to tackle the challenging terrain while staying on the budget.
Whether to buy a new or a used car, the decision lies solely on the user. While new cars may be costly, they normally come with a warranty of a few years and/or hundred of kilometres tied to it. This ensures that the user/owner gets peace of mind, because anything that breaks within the warranty period is covered. In addition, the first three to four years don’t require major service. On the flip side used cars, especially imports, are shipped immediately once they have run out of warranty in the country of origin. It can be a gamble when buying such, since there’s no security in case anything breaks down. This can be minor or major repair depending on the car model, maintenance history etc. However, everything isn’t grim since most exporters of such have inspection protocols and certificates before shipping. Any major fault(mechanical and electrical) is eliminated at this stage. Another thing, some of manufacturers’ major faults are mostly noted and repaired/recalled within the first few years of a brand new car’s life under warranty.
Would I buy a new or a used car? The answer is yes to both. The decision would be reached after evaluating all the factors mentioned above.
Author: Johnson Ngunju aka @TDIplug
Technician & Consultant at Skoda Auto Kuopio, Finland.