January 28, 2023

High fuel price: Demand for small, fuel efficient cars rises

2015 Toyota Camry model.

By Theodore Opara

AS rising cost of fuel bites harder, many Nigerians are now opting for cars with smaller engines and higher fuel efficiency to save money.

Unlike in the past when fuel was cheap and affordable, and people were buying cars with big engine capacities that guzzle fuel, the recent rise in fuel prices has changed the dynamics. Car buyers, both new and used, now go for cars with small engines that are efficient.

Cars with 1.2-litre to 2.0-litre engines, particularly Japanese models, are the most popular in this development.

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Vanguard investigation revealed the Tokunbo versions of the Toyota Corolla, Yaris, as well as the Honda Civic and City, have become most people’s choices. They have almost everything that larger cars have but lack space, particularly leg and shoulder room.

Aside from fuel efficiency, vehicles in this engine category have become popular among wealthy Nigerians who do not want to attract the attention of men of the underworld men on the road.

As a result, the price of vehicles within this category has skyrocketed beyond the reach of average Nigerians. For instance, the 2006 Toyota Corolla, which used to cost N1.8 million before, now costs between N3.2 million and N4 million, likewise the Honda Civic and Honda City. Most people have also opted to place their SUVs on sale to buy these compact cars.

A car dealer at Berger Yard, the biggest used car market in Lagos, who would not like his name on print, told Vanguard that small cars have become hotcakes for auto dealers because they are fast-moving.

He said: “small cars fit all purposes, especially with the high cost of fuel. Who has money to buy big cars now, which cost several million to purchase, and the fueling which leaves your pocket empty, as well as the high cost of maintenance?”

He lamented that most of the big cars he brought in several months ago were still in the showrooms, while the small ones are selling like hotcakes.

Meanwhile, most owners of big cars interviewed at various fuel stations in Lagos said that fuelling these cars has become a huge burden, especially with the hard economy and scarcity.

Mr. Okechukwu Okonkwo said, “Tell me, what sense does it make when you have to fuel an SUV with more than N20,000 and use it for just three days?

“Big cars provide satisfaction, comfort, and prestige, but when you consider the number of hours you have to spend at the filling station and the ones you spend in traffic, you would have no choice but to go for small cars that provide all of the comfort.”

In the last two months, the price of petrol has increased from N169 to N600 per litre in some parts of the country, while diesel sells for between N800 and N1000 per litre.

In Owerri, Imo State, and most parts of eastern Nigeria for instance, a litre of gasoline sells for N450 or more, while people from Orlu and its neighbouring towns have to cough up N600 for a litre of petrol.

A Mercedes Benz SUV ML, which used to cost N16,000 to fill the tank, now costs over N40,000, while a Toyota Highlander, which costs about N11,000 to fill the tank, takes more than N30,000.

However, Mr. Nkem Eze, another car dealer, said it is believed that while people could use these small, fuel-efficient cars in the dry season, there could be more serious challenges when the rainy season comes, especially as the roads are not getting better for most people.

Thus, using the small cars can only be useful in the dry season.