Blog: Dave LeggettSouth Africa and Afrokaizen

Dave Leggett | 28 January 2008

I've received an interesting response today from John Storey in South Africa in response to a blog item way back in  the archive. In order that more people read it, I'm posting it here:

As the initiator of Afrokaizen I came across your "wonder what happened to the project query". No David it wasn't the Trabant but the re introduction of the W123Mercedes Benz and a relook at the Peugeot 404 as ideal (and wanted by the populace) vehicles in SA and other emerging economies.

To update:

The project was discussed at length with the senior people at Daimler Chrysler South Africa. (This only after the intial concept and plan was sent to Mr. Schrempp at DC Stuttgart).
The cost of the project of at that time was BP Sterling 40 million.

The bottom line with the Mercedes folk was:

The numbers are VERY do-able.Bear in mind the retail price was going to be R100 000 at the time. 30,000 units pa local sales.

But:

What about our current models - in SA the re-intro of an overengineered car like the W123 would hammer current sales especially at the the then punted price.
Airbags - would need to re-engineer slightly.
Emmissions - marginal adjustments required.
Capacity at DC SA - Not available.
Alternative branding of the vehicle as AAC -Not an option for DC and licences would not be forthcoming  - nor re-use of obselete manufacturing equipment.

Funding - this was not seen to be an obstacle.

Chrysler PR Cruiser was to be DC's Retro entry.

With the launch of the Fiat 500 pending and its huge success on Euro Continent - perhaps the Afrokiazen Project was ahead of its time - and unfortunately the models on which the project was based it seems were just too good given the offerings of DC at the time.
The modern Mercs are no answer to the African continent's needs  - nor the modern Peugeots. These are sophisticated vehicles built for Europe - not for the harsh and simple conditions of Africa. And over computerised.
Like the Australians are doing there is a requirement to build cars for the territory. That when they do break down they can be fixed in the outback etc.

The retro cars were simply just too good vs the throwaway technology being offered in the name of progress today.

Sadly the emerging markets are not being presented with the automotive products they want or require to offer mobility - which after all is a component of Freedom.

Also and very important the new automakers are not ready to give the world highly durable over engineered product which will last a life time. Because what happens to future new auto sales? There also appears to be little craftsmanship and appreciation of the nuances of retro engineering by the automakers.
I still maintain that the re-introduction of the MB W123 as it was -in 300 diesel and 230 petrol formats is the ideal vehicle to motorise nations.

But who knows - perhaps the Chinese will do it - without the permission of Daimler possibly?

The original blog


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