Car importers in the East Africa Community (EAC) region are slowly shifting their focus to the UK market following fraud reports and rising number of vehicle thefts in Japan.
Japan cities have for a long time been the major supplying markets of used and reconditioned vehicles for the East African market.
Many Tanzanians complain of having been cheated billions of dollars by Japanese companies that have been luring customers with prospects of owning posh vehicles on their websites at relatively lower prices.
Last month, the Kenyan embassy in Japan posted a warning on its website after meeting with the victims of the racket saying it had been inundated with requests for intervention from many Kenyans who had been duped.
This, together with the strengthening Japanese yen has made vehicles from the oriental country expensive. The trend could be a major hit to the Japanese second-hand vehicle market and a major boon to UK car exporters, who have lately been warming up to the Kenyan market.
In the past few months, one of the largest car exporters in the UK, MHH International has engaged a number of East African car traders as well as private buyers seeking to have access to quality vehicles from Europe.
According to imported car dealer based in Tanzania, who also supplies to other markets in the region, Benn Alistair, he traditionally prefers vehicles from Japan, but says the rising deception trend has made more people to turn to the European market for quality and convenience.”
“MHH International has been exporting cars to the region for the past few years, but the last few months have been phenomenal as our business continues to benefit from Japan’s debacle,” he said.
He said the firm has already sold over 600 vehicles from the UK in East Africa.
The shift to the UK market has greatly benefited the pound, which has maintained a relatively stable exchange rate as that of the yen continues to soar.
Alistar said emerging car exporters rely on the internet to drive their sales, but added that it is not easy as it takes a lot of trust for someone to buy a car from an internet site.
“You’ve got to deliver an excellent product and the service has to be very professional. If you consistently provide these, it becomes easier to build trust. That is what strong reputations are built on.