Smaller Engines for Fuel Economy

With the rise in crude oil pricing in Africa, vehicle dealers have considered boosting fuel economy as a core motor vehicle selling point. Local consumers are then offered with options to shift in car choice. Motor vehicle dealers recommend the consumers to take smaller engines and low fuel consuming cars that can help them beat the high pump prices.

Since the beginning of the year, petroleum price rose by about Sh15 to stand at an average of Sh83 per liter of premium petrol in Nairobi. This fact has made Cooper Motor Corporation (CMC) tap into the market segment with its Volkswagen Polo 1.2, which has been introduced in Kenya last June.

According to Volkswagen Sales Manager George Ngatiri, “Many motorists are now looking for ways of lowering running costs and affordability and this is what the Polo offers.”

The vehicles that are brought to the market come in different models and are priced differently.

About four months ago, CMC has added a new player into the market – the Maruti Suzuki Swift. It is a 1.3 L engine that sold six units in the past two months.

However, dealers said, the increasing petroleum price is yet to impact on the sale of big cars, which turns out to be the favorite of many buyers.

With steady sales of top range Land Rover and Range Rover, Ngatiri said, “Those who buy the Land Rover are mainly looking for reliability.”

Josephine Wahome, the marketing manager at DT Dobie (the marketers of Mercedes Benz and Nissan range of vehicles), said that the demands for All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) or four-wheel-drives (4WD) have fallen because of the changing lifestyles and the state of roads in the country. She said, “Young families are more outgoing, adventurous and want a car that can endure the rough roads.”

DT Dobie is planning to introduce four models of Nissan’s AWD range next year. It is part of the effort to tighten the company’s grip on the market segment. Wahome said, “As cars become more electronic than mechanical, gains are being made on fuel economy… Car makers have invented new technology such as electronic fuel injection that regulates the mixture of air and fuel to optimize the fuel combustion.”

To support fuel economy, changes were made on materials used in the creation of cars. Some used light weight aluminum alloy in minimizing energy loss via heat. Wahome said that Nissan Tiida is an example of a car that has been equipped with an engine made of such material.

Car designers have also considered turning to curvy shapes, which are proven to be more aero dynamic, to reduce air resistance. However, Ngatiri said that smaller engines are poised to be the main drivers of market growth in the next few years. He said, “About 60 per cent of the population is under 25 years and they will want cars they can afford.”

Toyota East Africa also joined the race for market control. It has planned to introduce the 1300cc, 1000cc and 800cc engines of the Toyota Vitz, which will compete with CMC’s Maruti Suzuki’s Swift and Volkswagen Polo 1.2. Toyota Sales Executive James Theuri said, “People want cars with good fuel consumption and can be squeezed in a small parking space.”

A good thing here is that they have the same goal, which is to provide the customers what they need – fuel economy, in times like this that gas prices keeps on surging.


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