Category Archives: Kenya motoring

Land Rover Defender 90 launch in Nairobi

Inchcape Kenya, the official distributor of Land Rover, Jaguar and BMW has launched the Land Rover Defender 90 to the Kenyan market. The Land Rover brand is synonymous with Africa and safaris and has found a variety of uses in homes, companies and governments where it is known for handling rough terrain, offering comfort, and being a long-lasting vehicle.

The new Defender 90 is a capable, short wheelbase, all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicle, capable of seating 6, and is the first Defender model to receive over-the-air software updates. It is available in four models; the Defender S (standard), X-Dynamic, First Edition and its top range Defender X. Some features on the vehicles include a 10” touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, local navigation, 3D surround cameras, air suspension, and a folding fabric sunroof.

Buyers can pick their Defender from four accessory pack options. They can set up the vehicle further to handle off-road driving even better with options like a raised air intake, a lightweight roof rack, an air compressor for inflating tyres/ mattresses and side-mounted gear carriers.

The Defender 90 is available in four engine options– two diesel and two petrol. Also, the Jaguar Land Rover group has also committed to go fully electric in the year 2025.

Inchcape is a London-listed group that retails vehicles in 34 markets. They launched in Kenya in 2018 and this is now their second-largest market in Africa, after Ethiopia where they also sell Toyota models. 

The Chief Guest at the launch was the UK High Commissioner to Kenya, Jane Marriot who said that vehicles were among her country’s top 5 exports to Kenya, amounting to £31.5 million last year.

The Defender 90 launch comes after Inchcape introduced the Defender 110 in Kenya in August 2020. It sold well after Kenyans got a chance to test drive the models and attracted a young buyer segment. Pricing for the Defender 90 starts at Kshs 17 million. Motorists are invited to Inchcape to make enquiries on servicing, training on vehicle features and a chance to test-drive the different Defender models.

Safari Rally return Postponed

Today was supposed to be the start of the return of the Safari Rally after several years of preparation had resulted in an announcement by the President of Kenya and the WRC in September 2019 that the race was back. 

The Safari Rally was legendary as being one of the WRC’s (World Rally Championship) toughest rounds with a route, at about 5,000 kilometres, that was twice as long as other rallies. It used to be run around Easter, which is usually the long rain season, and in some years, showers would transform dry, dusty trails into mud baths.

It was run over four or five days and nights, on open roads that drew in more hazards, such as encounters with other motorists and wildlife and all these ensured that a Safari win was one of motorsport’s most coveted prizes for drivers, teams, and car manufacturers.

But rallying has not aged well in the era of modern TV and having drivers race for several days and nights on open remote roads means it is tough to sell the action to a global television audience.

This years’ rally, that was set to take place between July 16 – 19, and now been pushed to 2021, had evolved to fit the modern-day WRC. It is organised by the WRC Safari Rally Project, a joint venture between Kenya’s Sports Ministry and the Kenya Motor Sports Federation to return the Safari to the WRC calendar which it had been dropped from in 2002.

But its Safari character remains, with racing on challenging dirt roads,  with picturesque African scenes. It was to be based in Nairobi with the service park and stages on closed roads in the Hells Gate National Park and around Lakes Naivasha and Elementaita in the Great Rift Valley.

Before the Coronavirus shut down world travel, it was expected to feature several, if not all of the current top WRC teams and cars. These include the Hyundai i20, Ford Fiesta, Citroen C3, Toyota Yaris, and others from Skoda and Volkswagen that are all 4WD cars with 1.6-litre turbo engines able to reach 200 kilometres per hour.

Here is a Pinterest series of older WRC Safari rally pictures.  

https://www.pinterest.com/bankelele/safari-rally-kenya-wrc-era/

Other:

  • Kenya has an annual local rally series sponsored by banking giant, the KCB Group.
  • There has also been a classic safari rally series featuring older rally cars. sponsored for many years by Kenya Airways, and more recently by Safaricom, it took racers around East Africa in the grand old style of the 1960’s rallies.

EDIT Oct 9, 2020: Kenya’s iconic Safari Rally and Japan, which were both included in this year’s schedule but cancelled due to the pandemic, are on the 2021 WRC calendar. Kenya is slotted for 24 – 27 June, 2021 as the WRC returns to Africa for the first time since 2002.

SWVL and Little shuttles shut in Kenya

Unique shuttle services by SWVL and Little Ride were ordered to halt operating this week by Kenya’s transport regulator, the National Transport and Safety Authority.

Excerpts from a recent  column about the services:

SWVL has interesting routes all over Nairobi from residential areas to business hubs. Examples are for people who make daily commutes from Ruiru or Kahawa Sukari to offices in Westlands, or others who live in Kitengela and work in Upper Hill. Traditionally they would have to use two (matatu) vehicles and walk across the central business district (CBD) which they only pass because it is where most bus routes terminate. 

 But now, enticed with free introduction rides, they can get to work in half the time, by booking a ride in advance on an app, and paying a flat fee of Kshs 200 per journey. Some get to ride in comfortable shuttles with Wi-Fi, not the old, creaky matatus, that serve many ‘posh’ areas of Nairobi. Little Shuttle has now branched into long-haul services with several daily trips between Nairobi and Nakuru.

The news was first revealed by Kamal Budhabhatti, Chief Executive of Little in one of his regular email updates to customers of Little. He noted that the shuttles they used were from partners who were fully licensed  but that the NTSA had said it was not the correct license. 

He asked that the NTSA do dialogue with them as a technology companies trying to change public transportation through a popular service that had run for almost a year and which has been very popular. He added that when Safaricom launched M-Pesa there was no regulation on mobile  money and that the Central Bank of Kenya was able to come up with a legal model afterwards. He also wondered if the decision to stop Little was instigated by pressure from the public transport cartels.

On the SWVL side, the General Manager, SWVL Kenya, Shivachi Muleji, stated that: We have been engaging with the government and are still in the process. There have been a few milestones and we are happy with the progress. We’ll remain committed to ensuring that we build a business that’s fully compliant.

Government Initiatives: Meanwhile the Government’s plan for Bus Rapid Transit system and a Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (NaMATA) are still at the drawing plan stage. It’s also been a few years since Google and Equity bank tries to reorder the finances of the public transportation sector.

Kobo360 and SWVL launch in Nairobi on the same day

On one day late in August 2019, two young disruptive, but non-competing, logistics companies had parallel breakfast events to mark significant milestones in Nairobi.

Kobo360: There was the formal launch of Kobo 360, the pan-African logistics company which has been operating for five months in Kenya. Kobo360 pairs cargo owners with transporters, enabling the seamless booking and transport of goods to destinations while lorry owners get extra business and revenue from the running their trucks on the company’s platforms.

Kobo360 aims to is introduce efficiency and predictability to the $150 billion Africa logistics industry through real-time data, by providing insurance & tracking, and all to facilitate trust in delivery and payments. They operate in Nigeria, Kenya, Togo, Ghana, and Uganda and make deliveries to other countries in West, Central and Southern Africa from port cities.

Founded in Nigeria, they view tech adoption as being  higher in Kenya and they want to use it as a launchpad for the East Africa region. Kobo360 has offices in Mombasa and Nairobi and currently have 3,000 trucks and access to 4,000 drivers on their platforms. They have raised funding from the IFC, Goldman Sachs, TL Com, Chandaria Capital, Verod, Asia Africa and WTI.

SWVL Kenya official launch: The same day as the Kobo event, SWVL also announced their official launch in Kenya with a Kshs 1.5 billion expansion of its Kenya operation. This is equivalent to $15 million which is a lot of money that will go towards increasing their route network offering of high-quality public transportation. The company which was started in Egypt in 2017 has been operating in Nairobi for six months now and recently raised $42 million from its investors including BECO Capital and Sweden’s Vostok New Ventures. It has gone from operating four routes on which passengers can book rides on SWVL shuttles to fifty-five routes now across Nairobi. Here is a rice review of using SWVL by a Nairobi commuter.

Renault Trucks launch in East Africa with CMC

In Nairobi this week, Renault Trucks launched a new Range K line as part of an ambitious plan to expand in Eastern Africa. The Range K is a versatile, rugged truck that is designed for local owners engaged in a variety of sectors such as long-distance haulage to neighbouring countries and consumer goods delivery, or rugged conditions like mining and construction operations.

Renault Trucks are part of the Volvo Group and are completely separate from the Renault car company. In Kenya, Renault Trucks are exclusively distributed by the CMC Group, which was acquired by Majid Al Futtaim Auto in 2014. Renault Trucks sold 55,000 of their award-winning line of trucks in 2018. They lead in Franco-phone (Northern, Western, and Central) Africa, and their plans to expand further in Eastern and Southern Africa, led to a partnership deal with CMC, under Majid Al Futtaim Auto.

CMC Group, which is now in 3 countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania), plans to grow to 10 countries – including Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, Burundi Zambia, Zimbabwe Malawi over the next few years and the global brand of Renault Trucks will be part of that push. CMC Group will sell K440 (Range K) series and C440 Renault Truck model.

The Range K’s are fitted with robust chassis and heavy-duty robotized gearbox, which make them easier for their drivers. The trucks all have Optidrive Xtrem, described as the best gearbox in the market, which is a clutch-less manual gearbox. Drivers have an adjustable steering wheel with controls similar to a private car and there is a 7-inch screen for them to view all vehicle settings during operations.

The Range K trucks are designed can carry up to 13 tons per axle and they have heavy-duty “fifth wheels'” that can pull trailers of over 33 tons in this region with a range of over 1,000 kilometers on a single diesel tank. The trucks have load sensors and low range gears for use on project work like street sweeping, tarmac laying and water-spraying. They have electronic parking brakes and hill-start aids that prevent roll-back, and with drum brakes on all wheels that can go for up to 750,000 kilometres without needing change.

The K440 trucks have high ground clearance with engine under-guards and are designed to manoeuvre in tight spaces and climb out of hilly places like construction sites without damaging the underbelly of the trucks. The vehicle design encompasses steel protection of parts that are sensitive like headlights and license plates, so they are not damaged at rough worksites. For companies, there is also a large front advertising area above the radiator grilles, which itself easily opens to allow for drivers to do quick maintenance checks.

At the launch, key managers of CMC and Renault Trucks highlighted how operating expenses take up 76% of the ownership cost of a truck for investors – with fuel accounting for 37%, driver costs 23% and repairs for another 16%. Renault configures trucks for each owner in terms of axle ratios, braking and power modes. There is also mandatory driver training to ensure reliable vehicle usage while reducing fuel consumption and maintenance costs with the goal of having the trucks always available and working on the road. The trucks come with an international 12-month warranty and CMC also offers start-and-drive 5-year contracts and personalized maintenance plans in addition to after-sales services and genuine parts at its wide network of distribution centres around East Africa.

CMC Group has entered a partnership that will see Kenya Vehicle Manufacturers assemble Renault Trucks from CKD’s at Thika, and which the French Ambassador said would create 200 skilled jobs in the country.

Also at the launch, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Peter Munya, spoke of the government plans to increase manufacturing’s share of the economy through the formulation of policies and tax incentives that would secure investments by auto manufacturers to set up more assembly plants in Kenya.

Looking to the future, Renault Trucks plan to launch a line of all-electric trucks, from 2019, for Europe, but sadly not for East Africa, yet.