Kenya’s Automotive Market

By on November 7, 2016

Kenya’s GDP per capita is expected to reach US$1,432 by the end of 2015 and to grow at a CAGR of 7.5% between till 2020. This is expected to result in an increase in private consumption and amongst other things, drive the sales of motor vehicles. Expenditure on the purchase of cars, motorcycles and other vehicles accounted for 1.5% of total consumer expenditure in 2015 and is expected to remain relatively stable to 2025 as incomes rise.

cars kenya marketThe volume of imported cars and motorcycles has been on the increase due to the availability of attractive credit from financial institutions and the rise of the middle class. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) the volume of imported vehicles between 2003 and 2012 have grown at over 300% from 33,000 units to 110,474 units. Passenger vehicles were Kenya’s fourth largest import overall in 2015, valued at approximately US$440 million and making up 2.4% of total imports (by value) while commercial vehicles ranked seventh, valued at US$380 million. If the current trend of 10% to 12% growth per annum on vehicle imports is to be maintained, Kenya will have five million vehicles on the road by the year 2030.

In the early 1980s, Kenya banned the importation of FBUs. At the time, Kenya was assembling approximately 18,000 units locally. Following a World Bank-imposed structural adjustment programme (SAP) in mid-1993, the country removed a large number of trade restrictions and the economy underwent liberalisation, allowing the importation of FBUs. As no age limit was imposed on vehicles imported, second-hand imports, some up to 20 years old, flooded the market.

To date, Kenya is still highly dependent on imports to meet domestic demand, with imports making up 94% of bilateral automotive trade and second-hand vehicles accounting for over 80% of those imports. Both passenger and commercial vehicles feature in Kenya’s top ten imports by value. As the regional gateway on account of the Port of Mombasa, 99.9% of Kenya’s automotive exports are to other African countries, with Uganda and Tanzania being the biggest markets.

Although Kenya used to have large volumes of grey and illegal imports, this has been reduced through a number of government interventions, and as a result the used imported market is now more regulated. The Kenya Revenue Authority and the Kenya Bureau of Standards are situated at entry ports such as the Port of Mombasa and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to monitor and record the arrival of vehicles. Vehicles entering through these ports that are destined for countries other than Kenya, such as Uganda, have to receive their clearance and payment confirmation of registration fees from the destination country before they are able to leave the port of entry.

Vehicles Numbers
It is estimated that approximately 80% of Kenya’s total vehicle fleet are second-hand vehicles,

Workers assemble Ford cars at a plant of Ford India in Chengalpattu on the outskirts of Chennai, India March 5, 2012. REUTERS/Babu/File Photo

Workers assemble Ford cars at a plant of Ford India in Chengalpattu on the outskirts of Chennai, India March 5, 2012. REUTERS/Babu/File Photo

with a total vehicle fleet of around 1.4 million units in 2015. In 2014, the average age of vehicles on Kenya’s roads was 15 years, which has resulted in high levels of pollution, frequent break-downs of vehicles, and a large non-genuine spare parts industry developing. The total number of vehicles in use grew at a CAGR of 7.7% between 2005 and 2015. Figures for Kenya’s motorisation rate differ depending on the source, and range between 26 and 28 vehicles per 1,000 persons. This is forecast to increase to 31.5 in 2019, reflecting vehicle ownership growing faster than Kenya’s population.

Vehicle Sales
According to the KNBS, a total of 112,536 vehicles were registered in 2015 – this included newly registered and re-registered vehicles. KNBS does not differentiate between the registration of new vehicles and the re-registration of used vehicles, whereas the Kenya Motor Industry (KMI) only records new vehicles sold.

KMI states that 19,523 new vehicles were sold in Kenya in 2015, reflecting the dominance of used vehicles in the retail market. In 2015 light and heavy commercial vehicles combined accounted for 86% of total vehicle sales, highlighting the importance of larger vehicles, such as light commercial vehicles, minibuses, heavy trucks, and buses. Sedans and SUVs made up 14%. Heavy commercial vehicles too saw the highest growth, with a CAGR of 17.5% between 2005 and 2015 and thus were key drivers underpinning new vehicle sales growth over that period.

mobius-kenyaSales of new vehicles in Kenya are driven by the demand for transportation in the construction, mining, agri-business, tourism, energy and retail sectors. The government and in particular its law enforcement and security authorities are significant buyers of new vehicles.

The most popular second-hand vehicles cost between Ksh350,000 and Ksh500,000.


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