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The Nigerian market has become the most sought after for car makers on the continent because of its huge market potentials. Sadly, the lack of good road network and low purchasing power caused by the recent economic contraction has impacted negatively on the volume of sales in recent times.

In the past, there were very few established car brands in the country and only a certain class of people were able to afford them.  Over time, a lot has changed as there are now lots of car brands in the Nigerian market, with every individual who earns a decent income left with the opportunity to purchase a car.

On this week’s edition of Product Review, a weekly article where we feature products contending for prominence in Nigeria’s Red Ocean consumer market, we bring to you the various brands in the automobile market and how they are competing for visibility and profitability.

Some facts and figures

According to the data released by the NBS last year, Nigeria has a total of 11,547,236 motor vehicles in the country, recording a 0.78% growth from the 11,458,370 vehicle population reported in the first quarter of 2017. This means, a total of 88,886 vehicles were bought between March 2017 and September 2017.

With an estimated population of 193.3 million, the data suggests that the total number of Nigerians available to one vehicle is 16.75. In terms of vehicles per 1000 Nigerians, it comes to about 59.7.

Private vehicle data in the country currently stands at about 4,656,725 or 40.33% of total vehicle population. The data also reveals that Nigeria has a total of 6,749,461 commercial vehicles which is about 58.4% of total vehicle population in the country.

Car brands in the Nigerian Market

Popular brands 

The Japanese car brand, Toyota, is among the leading brands in the country, accounting for almost half of vehicles imported, and is very popular on Nigerian roads. Its best selling models include the Hilux and Corolla.

A global outlook shows that the Toyota automaker is the largest in the world, which sold around 10.4 million vehicles in the first quarter of this year. This is the largest number of sales in terms of global car sales. The company is also believed to be the most profitable carmaker worldwide.

Another brand that has come a long way is the South Korean brand, Kia. The brand has also improved on its design and engine capacity over time. According to car website, Carmudi, the Kia brand is another popular brand in Nigeria and is mostly used for official vehicles because of its affordability and fuel conservation. Over the years, the Kia models, Rio, Picanto, and Sportage SUV, have become choice vehicles among Nigerians.

Hyundai is another South Korean brand that continues to enjoy patronage from the Nigerian market, largely because of its designs and affordability.

Other brands, such as Nissan and Renault, continue to play on the fringes. For Nissan, it was quite a tale of woes under former handlers, Alliance Autos (CFAO Group), until the franchise was acquired by Stallion Motors under the company of Stallion Nissan Motor Nigeria. The Renault brand was also mismanaged by Alliance Autos Nigeria Ltd before Dana Motors and Services Ltd acquired the franchise in 2013.


However, while the Nissan brand continues to enjoy a massive injection of funds under Stallion to reposition the brand, the same cannot be said of Renault, as the brand continues to struggle in the Nigerian market.

Luxury brands in the market

In the luxury segment of the market, the German brand, Mercedes-Benz, remains the brand to beat with its revolutionary designs. Some of the popular models include C-Class, SUV ML63 AMG and the G-wagon.  The brand is known for its durability, sleek designs, and the social status attached to its acquisition. Major buyers of the brand include top government officials, wealthy businessmen, and senior corporate executives.

Germany’s Mercedez Benz a division of Stuttgart-based car and truck maker Daimler manufactures luxury and crossover automobiles. Last year, its car division Mercedez Benz, had a total revenue of around 94.7 billion euros.

Other auto brands that dominate the luxury segment, include Porsche and BMW. The Porsche brand remains a car for the few rich in the society, although it is quite visible on the road, especially the Porsche Cayenne model.

Legacy brands (Peugeot and Volkswagen) have been kicked out

In the past, brands like Peugeot and Volkswagen were among the big players in the Nigerian market. However, Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN), assemblers of the Peugeot brand in Nigeria, incorporated on December 15, 1972, ran into stormy waters after series of policy somersaults by the Nigerian Government (its major customer) and inadequate tariff protection for local assembly plants.

Laden with a huge debt of ₦30 billion by 2011 and no prospect of a private investor willing to risk his money in turning it around, the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) acquired a controlling 80% shareholding and assumed board and management control in 2012. In 2016, AMCON invited prospective investors to bid for its 80% percent stake in Peugeot Automobile Nigeria.


There are, however, reports that Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, may be expanding his business frontier into car assembly business. Recently the Dangote Group was granted a franchise by the Peugeot of France Groupe to construct and operate an assembly plant in Nigeria.

The Volkswagen brand has also been unable to produce that ‘spark’ that made it the brand of choice in the 80s and early 90s. Its famous Beetle model has since died a natural death with the advent of sleek and trendy brands.

SWOT Analysis of the Nigerian Market


Considering the huge population in the country and its growing young population, Nigeria is definitely a prime market for investors and manufacturers.


The continued lack of infrastructures such as power, road network, and multiple taxations, pose a great threat to the survival of this industry in the country. Smuggling activities in Nigeria’s porous border areas is another major challenge. Recently, the Director General (DG) of the National Automotive Council, NAC, Mr. Aminu Jalal also revealed that Nigerians spend about ₦600 billion annually on importation of vehicles. He further revealed that about 50,000 new and 150,000 used vehicles are imported into the country yearly.


The government remains one of the biggest customers for most of the brands. The continued patronage from various public institutions, ministries, departments, and agencies of the government is crucial to the survival of the industry. Recently, the government pledged its commitment to continue patronising the local brands in the country. Innoson motors, a local manufacturer, has benefitted immensely from this gesture from the government.


The major threat faced by the automobile industry is the rate at which manufacturers churn out new models with eye-catching features. Only big players have the financial muscle to invest in research and development to keep up with changes in the industry.

Here is an interesting chart on value of notable car brands.

What consumers are saying

During an interview by Nairametrics, many motorists expressed their love for the Toyota brand because it is relatively affordable, durable, easy to maintain and can be sold off for a profitable price after being used.

A respondent on our twitter page, @Dokwor, singles out the BMW brand as his preferred brand because of its blend of power and control, coupled with its sleek body.

Another respondent, @folly, noted that her choice depends on her net worth at the material time.

“If I’m just buying a car for convenience, I’ll go for a Toyota or any cheaper but a solid brand. If I’m buying a luxury car, I’m going German and the other luxury brands”.

Another respondent, Babajide Adesugba, a graduate of Babcock University noted that lack of funds means he will settle for a Toyota because of maintenance cost and all but otherwise it’s Benz for the swag.

@folurunsh, another respondent, said fuel consumption, maintenance cost, state of roads determines the type of brands he goes for.

“While Benz is the ultimate goal, Toyota is reliable & the fuel economy is great. Honda’s (the 2008 -2017 Accord to be specific) performance and design (in & out) edges the Camry.”


In a Twitter poll conducted by Nairametrics, Mercedes Benz got 52%, closely followed by Toyota with 41%, Honda and Kia got 5% and 2% respectively. Regular upgrades, better features, and motor components also make this brand popular among motorists.

Car manufacturers looking for a huge sale and prominence in the Nigerian market must come with models that are fuel efficient, durable and pocket-friendly. Small players in the market must also improve on their product marketability to further position their products in the face of their customers.


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