As Innoson Motors Targets Market Expansion

Dike Onwuamaeze

The Founder and Executive Chairman of Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company Limited (IVM), Mr. Innocent Chukwuma has disclosed plan to make the automobile company’s brand widely acceptable in the continent.

According to him, his vision is to his IVM in every part of Africa in the next five years.

“My plan for the next five years is to see Innoson vehicles in every part of Africa,” he told journalists during a recent interactive session at his auto manufacturing plant in Nnewi, Anambra State.

“Today, Innoson’s vehicles have penetrated several markets in West Africa with the vision of stamping its feet firmly in the African continental market.

“We are sourcing FX like every other business in the country. But I hope to do more exports to earn more forex. So, I am planning how to do more exports,” he said, adding that “we are an indigenous privately owned Nigerian group of companies committed to driving the Nigerian economy forward through industrialisation.

“Today, our products lines include heavy duty vehicles, middle and high level buses, special environment friendly vehicles as well as saloon automobiles and SUVs. The company carries out optimization design and assembly according to African road condition so as produce suitable products at affordable prices.”

Chukwuma praised former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi for the support and encouragement IVM got when it commenced the manufacturing of vehicles.

Obi’s administration, he said, first ordered 700 units of buses for schools in Anambra State and made an upfront payment.

“This upfront payment helped me a lot because I was just getting started. Later on he ordered for another 500 units of pick-ups for security agencies in the state. He also came back to me to say that he needed 500 SUVs for all the traditional rulers in Anambra State.

“Then, I have not started to produce SUVs. I asked him to give me 14 days to study about it. I called all my engineers together. It was Obi that made me to start producing SUVs and pick-ups. The only snag is that he would beat the price very low. But the good thing about him is that he will never owe you. He gave me a lot of encouragement,” he said.

Since then, the IVM has been broadening its market share by winning the patronage of public and private corporate entities and individual consumers.

“The market is responding well. I build based on received order. This industry is not meant solely for government’s patronage. It is meant for everybody in this country. I want everyone to know that Innoson’s vehicles are for all Nigerians. It is a Nigerian idea and I will like every Nigerian to see it as its own.

“If this happens, the problem of sale will be over. Innoson vehicle is a brand Nigerians should recognise as one of the country’s ambassador anywhere they see it in the world. The important thing is for Nigerians to own the brand,” he said.

He added that the IVM produced vehicles that have good anti-rust treatment, which could withstand corrosion when driven in salty areas.

Chukwuma also disclosed that the IVM selected engines from different auto manufacturers like Nissan, Isuzu, Toyota, etc., could match its models.

“You can see that we have Nissan, Isuzu and Toyota. In the whole world the best engine for diesel for small motors is Isuzu. If it is truck I can use Mitsubishi. Our auto design is done locally. This motor, J6, can challenge any motor in the world,” he said.

However, the Innoson Group has had its own share of challenges that come with manufacturing in Nigeria. These challenges, sometimes, emanated from stifling regulation.

He recalled that his tricycle tire manufacturing arm was shut down by a regulatory agency and has not been running for some years now. The plant had a production capacity of about 8,000 pieces of motorcycle tyres daily and 13,000 tubes daily.

“Normally, challenges will never stop. We will always have challenges. The most important thing is that we resolve them as they come,” he said.

Yes, by solving problems and challenges, the Innoson Group has grown from a mere N20,000 investment to a multi-billion Naira enterprise that has over 7,000 employees.

In addition, the IVM would soon relocate its plant from its current 100,000 square metres to a 400,000 square metres plant that would accommodate its fast growing automobile production.

“I want to be in Nigeria and work for Nigerians. I do not have anything in any other country,” he said.

According to him, what mattered most to him as an entrepreneur is the quality of ideas he brought to the table to further his business ventures.

Chukwuma said: “The volume of investment in terms of money is not the most important thing to me. What is of more important to me is the conceptualisation of business ideas. So, what cost me more is the idea we bring to the table. We study hard to find a good idea to use. That is the reason the business is going well.”

Indeed, bright and strong business ideas were the spring board of IVM and it went all the way back to 1981, when launched out independently with the startup capital of N20,000 from his elder brother to start his own motorcycle spare-parts business.

Soon after he opened shop, the effects of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) that was launched in 1986 by former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) started having a telling effect on the supply foreign exchange (FX) to the economy and constrained Nigerians to resort to the patronage of second-hand imported goods, including motorcycles.

But the young Chukwuma challenged himself to find a way to reduce the price of new motorcycles in Nnewi markets. He said that his investigations then revealed that Nigerians were importing fully built motor cycles. He, therefore decided to change the pattern to the importation of completely knocked down parts of motorcycles, which he would engage an auto mechanic to couple manually.

He later switched from trading to become a manufacturer of brand new motorcycles in Nigeria through Innoson Nigeria Limited. This move crashed the market price from N150,000 to N70,000 at that time. This audacious move, he claimed, was responsible for the eradication of foreign-used (tokunbo) motorcycles in Nigeria!

Backed by this unprecedented success, the Innoson group launched further into industrial manufacturing through technology transfer. This move birthed the Innoson Group’s motorcycle assembly plant, tricycle assembly plant and the only indigenous vehicle manufacturing plant that is truly Nigerian.

When we started the factory, the roads were very poor in Anambra State. Electricity was also very poor. When Peter Obi came in as governor, he built roads to the factory and many other roads just to encourage industrialization. For electricity, when Governor Willie Obiano came, he made sure that factories have special electricity which he paid for. Obiano paid for special electricity for all industries. Anywhere there are industries he sends that special electricity to. That’s why Anambra has had something close to steady electricity for years.

Chukwuma claimed that what stands out the IVM from its peers is the fact that all the exterior (body shell) and substantial parts of the interior of his vehicles are manufactured from scratch in Nigeria. This also formed the basis of his claim that the IVM “is not an automobile assembly plant but a vehicle manufacturing company.

“I need to correct one impression. While a lot of automobile companies in the country are assembly plants, ours is a manufacturing plant. We source most of our components locally. And that is the edge we have over others. If I see a local company that will add value to what we are doing through production of components, I will patronise them.”

Chukwuma disclosed that the intervention of the incumbent Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Willie Obiano, in the area of power supply to industries in the state boosted his businesses.

He said that Obiano ensured that industrial clusters were connected to a dedicated line on the national grid in order to militate against the crippling effects of epileptic power supply.

The group also has interests in plastic and rubber processing and owns one of the largest materials processing plant in Africa that meet customers’ demands across the continent.

Apart from the IVM, another vibrant arm of the Innoson Group is the Innoson Technical and Industrial Company Limited (ITICL). It was established in 2002 to satisfy the industrial and household plastic requirements of our clients using the highest standard of automation and technology and with well-motivated and trained indigenous workforce to ensure adequate returns for the stakeholders

The ITICL was also established to further consolidate Innoson’s leading position in the motorcycle industry by producing the motorcycle plastic requirement of Innoson Nigeria Limited, which is a sister company.

This effort, according to the group, was in direct response to the federal government’s policy direction towards encouraging private sector as the engine of growth for the economy.

It produces one of the best plastic products in the country like chairs, jerry can, drums, motorcycle parts etc.

It commenced full scale operations and production in October 2002. It is an indigenous blue chip company engaged in the manufacturing of plastic chairs, tables, trays, plates, spoons, cups, jerry cans of different sizes and many other allied products.

Since inception, it has ranked among the biggest in Nigeria’s plastic industry. It produces the highest quality range of the plastic products of international standard and has a production over 10,000 pieces of chairs and tables per day.

Due to the rapid demand of these products, the company’s twelve production lines of injection moulds have since been increased with tremendous and near perfect production lines of international standard.

The ITICL utilised the latest technology and machinery together with its technical partners to produce high quality products at affordable prices within the marketplace.

The Innoson Group said: “We know very well that the demand for plastic products is enormous, and we are growing every year, therefore, utilising the latest technology and being aware of the market prices, the company will ensure that products are produced at high volume output to be competitive.

“We will invest in the latest technology which converts waste plastic at land fill sites into an end product. This project is very important to Nigeria, as the environment is saturated with waste plastic, which will be converted into plastic wood, plastic pallets, and many other end users products. This recycling project converts waste to an end product, and will be an ever growing project,” he added.

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