Dr. Cosmas Maduka is the chairman/CEO of Coscharis Group of Companies and sole distributor for BMW in Nigeria. He is an achieving entrepreneur that has made remarkable impact in the auto industry.
In this interview with Saturday Vanguard, he spoke on the company’s partnership with Ford, at same time appeals to government and other stakeholders to support manufacturing outfits for Nigeria to develop its economy. Excerpts:
What informed your decision of partnering with Ford?
It’s about business opportunity. Every business person is looking for opportunity to expand his business and gain a market share. We have worked with Ford for about 17 years, so we didn’t just start today. So when the auto policy came on board we spoke to them, as you know Ford is a big organisation, moving them is like moving a big vessel. The good thing is that eventually they got their head office to accept to partner with us to start production of Ford in Nigeria. Ford has been in South Africa since 1923 and in the last 50 years they have not had any other manufacturing outfit in Africa except what they have just done now. So, Nigeria is like the second manufacturing outfit for its setting, and is something both Ford family has understood and are very excited about it because a lot of companies got it wrong with China when Volkswagen moved in there and they hesitated, and there is always a first time opportunity benefit. Company like Ford doesn’t want you to repeat again. So, if you truly know whom we consider our competitors, Toyota, they are yet to start production even though they have built a factory. That is why when we said we are ahead, those are things we are saying without breaking it down. There are very many we don’t consider competitors even though they are in manufacturing. Those are people who have similar products like us and we think we all drag and share market, if you look at our Pick Ups and theirs. Whatever they have, Ford have something similar in that range.
Ford once had the challenge of pushing enough volume into the market, what is the assurance it will not repeat now that a plant is built here?
I would be surprised to say that we run out of stock because as I speak to you now, we have over 1,400 units of Ford Ranger in addition to what we started producing. We never ran out of stock. We have enough capacity and capability to make product available. Unlike our competitors who have been in the market, people were testing our capability but today we have working customers who have driven our products in the last three years and they have come back to repurchase again and again. Take for instance I always asked people go to UK, Europe, Volkswagen is number one, Ford is number two. So where are the Toyotas and the Japanese in that place. Just because they walked away from you, many of us forget about them and interception became more than real. No matter what, Ford is a strong brand that is respected around the world, an American icon.
Looking at the investment climate in Nigeria, and with the recent auto policy, where would you want government to help out?
It is important there should not be a policy somersault in the auto industry. If it ever happens in this modern age, the international communities are watching and they are very observant. There has always been this African kind of thing, ‘be careful they are not sure, whether they meant what they are saying’, and these are not good signals to investors who want to come into a country to invest. I listened to Olamade, former governor of Central Bank when they held an event recently. He said, we should not be looking at investors as criminals, people who are bringing in their money to create job in your country and take a benefit. Of course that is what a capitalist is all about; to bridge the gap of service, offer you service and get benefit out of it, but ultimately you are the one benefiting most. That was how China opened their market for the rest of the world. All great brands of auto mobile today is available in China, partnering with Chinese local partners. In fact, no factory in China is hundred percent owned by foreigners – maximum is 50%. Looking at what Ford has done in South Africa, South Africa started auto policy 20 years ago, they shut their door to other markets. This is what we talk about, are you willing to pay the price? No woman gave birth to a child that never cried. Women go through pains, that is how children are born. But when that child is born, the joy of a new born covers labour pains. You can say you are going to be auto manufacturer without going through some pain in the process. So if we are willing to industrialise, every other country in the world including South Africa started building vehicles the way we have started to build them now.
How could you still drive volume when importation of second hand (Tokunbo) vehicles are not restricted by government?
For us, it is left for government to make up their mind. Again, it is bad leadership when you lead with indecision. You must decide, whether you made a wrong decision, make a decision. Don’t keep people in rainbow, that is the worse way to handle things. If government is willing to go with auto policy, they should make a clear statement and do the needful for it to be a success because there is no way the manufacturers can make this a success until the market is created. And how do you create the market, you need to support local manufacturers by driving volume, then you can see upper component spring up to support those manufacturers, because manufacturing is the key to economic growth. It supplies work to all categories of people, unlike buying and selling and others. Any country that wants to grow its economy must support manufacturing and that is the way to go.