Auto giants battle used car dealers for Africa's huge market

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JOHANNESBURG/NAIROBI (Reuters) – At the edge of Nairobi’s Ngong Forest, thousands of used cars glitter in the hot sun on a dusty field, waiting for buyers.

The Mobius II first generation SUV by Kenyan car maker Mobius Motors is seen in the company’s show room in Nairobi, Kenya March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Imported from Japan or the Middle East, they offer an affordable route to vehicle ownership in Kenya and have dominated the market for decades.

That is an obstacle big carmakers must overcome if they are to crack Africa, a market promising rapid growth as trade tensions threaten sales elsewhere. African consumers also still need conventional engines just as demand in more traditional markets is curbed by restrictions on carbon emissions.

Volkswagen, BMW, Toyota, Nissan and others have joined forces to lobby governments for steps that would reduce the imports that have made sub-Saharan Africa notoriously difficult terrain and allow local production to flourish.

“The question on Africa isn’t, ‘Is it a market of the future?’” Mike Whitfield, Nissan’s top executive for Africa, told Reuters. “It’s a case of when.”

Four years after forming the Association of African Automotive Manufacturers (AAAM) their efforts are starting to bear fruit. Carmakers