Looking at a map of Nigeria I have come to the conclusion that we should make Auchi our Detroit and mass produce low-cost vehicles there

By Ayo Akinfe

(1) We Nigerians love blowing big big grammar whenever we are discussing our country’s socio-economic woes but sometimes this is not necessary as all we need to do is learn from history. There is a popular saying that you do not need to reinvent the wheel and this is most poignant in the global automobile industry. If we sort this sector out, it will spur development in so many other areas, turning Nigeria into an industrial giant within a short space of time

(2) There are 200m Nigerians our there, with maybe about 50m capable of driving a motor car. However, there are only 12m cars on Nigeria’s roads, 6m of which are in Lagos. If we mass-produced a cheap and quality vehicle, not only would it provide millions of jobs but it would also spur unprecedented technological development and double our gross domestic product (GDP) overnight

(3) Left to me, there is no need to supply cars to our urban centres. What we need in our cities are railway networks. Where we need cars are in the rural areas, so farmers can access their farms and get produce to markets quickly. Flashy SUVs are not what the Nigerian economy needs at this point in time

(4) However you look at it, what Nigeria needs is a multi-purpose jeep-like vehicle kind of like the old Peugeot pick-up truck or the American Ford GPW, known as the US Army Truck. Manufacture 10m of these a year and we have resolved the issue of poor rural roads

(5) As we all know, during the rainy season, most of our rural roads are impassable. What farmers need is a four wheel drive vehicle that is trendy, has room for goods and can also serve as a family saloon car. We basically need to come up with a unique vehicle that meets all these requirements. Give it a unique Nigerian name like maybe the Ngozi 1960 and mass-produce it like crazy with the aim of making it the most widely purchased and used car on the African continent

(6) During World War Two, the Americans proved that this can work as Ford, General Motors and Chrysler built the world's first mass-produced four-wheel drive car. They produced 650,000 units of this US Army jeep, constituting about quarter of the total US non-combat motor vehicles produced during the war. It ultimately led to the defeat of Germany and Hitler simply did not have similar vehicles with which to move his troops around

(7) The success of the jeep inspired both an entire category of recreational four wheel drives and SUVs, making four-wheel drive a household term. In 2010, the American Enterprise Institute called the jeep one of the most influential designs in automotive history. Nigerians love trendy things, so what we need is a flashy utility vehicle and the jeep fits the bill brilliantly. A farmer needs a car that can move his cocoa to the local government headquarters in the day and which his undergraduate son can use to take his girlfriend out in the evening

(8) Most of these US Army jeep vehicles were manufactured in Detroit, allowing expertise to be concentrated in one city. It also helped with logistics during World War Two as they could be shipped together. Nigeria today desperately needs her own Detroit and I will go for Auchi because it is equidistant between Ajaokuta and Aladja where we have steel plants and Nnewi, where Innoson Motors is located. For me, the Nnewi plant should be a subsidiary, assembling more upmarket and expensive cars, while the Nigerian workhorse is assembled at Auchi

(9) If we can get Ajaokuta and Aladja working to full capacity, we can produce enough steel to open engine, chassis and body manufacturing plants. Once these are in place, assembly is a stroll in the park. A railway network linking Ajaokuta, Aladja, Auchi, Nnewi and the ports of Lagos, Warri, Port Harcourt and Calabar will radically transform the Nigerian economy. This entire project would create about 5m jobs, double our GDP and then create about another 10m ancillary and associated jobs. It would lift about 50m people out of poverty

(10) As with every economic plan, the devil is in the detail. How do we get this Auchi plant going? Personality, I would invite General Motors to purchase a 50% stake in Innoson and this new company called GM Innoson Nigeria can get on with it. All the Nigerian government has to do is build the railway links. Companies like Oluwa Glass Company and Integrated Rubber Products Nigeria can provide all the other components to the automobile manufacturers