As Shakespeare would have it, King Richard III spoke these famous words in his final hours – and #TeamTomatoJos can relate! When you’re working on a farm, a truck is a glorious thing. It can be used to haul fertilizer to the fields, make trips to town for supplies, traverse over bumpy roads, and of course, for ghost riding:
So this week, Mira traveled from the farm to Abuja, vowing not to return without a truck. Buying a car is never as straightforward as one would like it to be, no matter where you are. NPR’s This American Life recently aired an episode about a Jeep Dealership in Long Island, and according to Ira Glass everyone involved in a car sale is trying to con everyone else: the buyer is trying to con the dealership, the salesman is trying to con his manager, the manager is trying to con the financing officer, and everyone is trying to con the buyer. In Nigeria, this process is even more complicated. There are many more players, and everyone wants a piece of the sale: the person who sources the deal for the buyer, the buyer’s mechanic who inspects the car (he gets paid by both parties in the transaction!), the dealer or any one else who facilitates the sale, and of course the seller him- or herself. With so many people involved, buying a car can take a substantial amount of time. As we say in Nigeria, e no easy!
Nigeria is the largest country in Africa (in terms of both population and GDP), and for the right price, it’s possible to buy pretty much any car out there. We’ve seen Bentleys, Hummers, Beamers, and even a Lamborghini cruising the city streets! But when it comes to work vehicles, we want substance over style. In order to minimize downtime, it’s important to have a truck that is widely used in the country, to make sure there will always be parts easily available and mechanics that know how to service the engine and body. In Nigeria, the most popular truck by far is the Toyota Hilux. The government uses Hilux trucks almost exclusively, which means they are found in all corners of the country, and most mechanics are familiar with their engines and able to source parts. Toyota is also considered to be a good, dependable brand in Nigeria. After much deliberation, #TeamTomatoJos decided that we would opt for a Hilux too.
A Sellers’ Market
Because they are so popular, Hiluxes can be hard to come by, so #TeamTomatoJos (and their friends in Abuja!) used multiple channels to source leads. Besides the official Toyota dealership, we visited contracting companies to view their selection of used trucks, met with dealers selling cars along the side of the highway, scoped private sales through word-of-mouth connections, and even chased down a truck in town that had a “for sale” sign taped to the window! Eventually, we narrowed the hunt down to two vehicles for final negotiations: a used but sound 1998 double cab, and a much less-used 2001 single cab. Upon closer inspection, we discovered that newer model was being marketed as a Hilux, but troublingly, its Toyota engine was sitting in a Volkswagen chassis… Though the car seemed otherwise sound, we were wary about how mechanics out in the bush would manage this frankentruck. After a pricing standoff between the buyer and the seller, a lot of double and triple checking of all ownership documents to make sure that the purchase would be legitimate, and multiple test-drives, we ended up purchasing the 1998 model, which Mira has decided to call Amanda.
Amanda comes to the team with over 15 years of operating experience in Nigeria – she’s pretty much seen it all, having initially been brought into the country by an NGO called Society for Family Health. We are extremely excited to have her on board, and hope that she will be with us for many seasons to come!