Mureza Auto Company, an African car brand registered in Zimbabwe and South Africa, will make its debut at Automechanika Johannesburg later in September and plans to initially assemble and distribute Iranian developed vehicles in Southern Africa through a joint venture with the SAIPA Group (Société Anonyme Iranienne de Production Automobile as registered in French) based in Tehran.
According to a media release from Mureza the company initially will have a joint venture with the SAIPA Group for platform-sharing and the supply of major components but the ultimate objective is to design and manufacture vehicles in Africa for African drivers. The business is being backed by funders in the United Arab Emirates.
Says Tatenda Mungofa, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Mureza Auto: "There is a void between the new vehicles and used vehicles currently sold in African countries and we propose to fill this gap with new models priced not much above the cost of a used import, which are heavily taxed in certain markets.
The SAIPA Quick from Iran will be rebadged as the Prim8 (pronounced Primate) by Mureza Auto Company and will initially be assembled in Rosslyn, South Africa. Image: Mureza
“We will also engage with the people selling used imports to retail our new models and will assist them in setting up service facilities where this is viable, or else we will appoint independent servicing outlets in the various SADEC countries that we are targeting as a first step for our new company.
"Here in South Africa we are also looking to sell our various Mureza models through used vehicle outlets instead of setting up new car franchised dealerships. Online selling will be important for us too," says Mungofa.
The company has an ambitious product plan starting with a rebadged SAIPA Quick crossover/hatchback that will make its debut during Automechanika Johannesburg at the Expo Centre, Nasrec. A half-ton pick-up, a sedan and high-riding mini-SUV off the same X100 platform as used by the Quick is set to follow.
According to Mungofa there is even a battery-electric platform for the X200 platform under development in South Africa by Energy Doctors and the next step will be the local development of a range of one-ton pick-ups and a panel van under the Tusker model name.
The SAIPA Quick, released in Iran in March 2017 and now also exported to India, will be badged Prim8 (pronounced Primate) by Mureza and will initially be assembled from SKD kits in the Automotive Supplier Park in Rosslyn, South Africa, and later at the Willowvale assembly plant in Zimbabwe and in the ex-Hyundai plant in Botswana.
The compact crossover, first known as “project 212” was completely designed by the SAIPA Group and is based on the X200 platform the company developed for its Tiba and Saina models, with architecture based on the foundations of the previous generation Kia Rio.The Prim8 to be displayed at the Nasrec Expo Centre has been converted to right-hand drive locally, and future SKD and CKD kits will be right-hand drive.
While Mureza states the Prim8 is powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine developing 87kW, it seems the correct figure for the 1503 cc M15-powerplant (as indicated for the Quick) is 65 kW and maximum torque of 128 Nm at 4,000 rpm, driving the front wheels through either a five-speed manual or CVT transmission.
According to Mureza the comprehensive specification of the top model includes keyless entry, 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, satnav, reversing camera, cruise control, parking sensors, audio system, air conditioning, power-adjustable driver's seat, four airbags, electronic stability control, ABS brakes and tyre pressure monitoring.
The target is to offer the fully equipped top model at between R180 000 and R200 000 and the initial local content target is 40 percent with significant increases in the short to medium term, The car will be covered by a three-year warranty.
Mureza Auto CompanyMungofa says South Africa is seen as the hub of the automotive business in Africa and for this reason the company will use it as headquarters and for its first assembly plant.
“We are looking at cooperating with smaller component suppliers who not yet able to handle big production runs and our business will help them grow their businesses,”he says. “We are also looking for local entrepreneurs to get involved with the various facets of our business to give it a true African flavour.
"We see our venture as revitalising the motor industry in several African countries and providing much-needed job opportunities. For instance, we are looking to building up employment at Rosslyn to 1 000 people, with a lot of focus on manual work, as we grow production from 10 to 35 units a day. We intend starting assembly early next year.
"The word Mureza means Flag and we want to be the flag wavers for an indigenous African motor industry. We want to be like Henry Ford who replaced horses with affordable cars. In our case it will be replacing imported used cars with affordable cars made in Africa,” Mungofa says.
"We have been preparing for three years to make our dream a reality and we already have many important pegs in the ground leading up to our display of the Prim8 at Automechanika in Johannesburg.
“I have been involved in selling used imports in Africa for the past 10 years and I know that Africans want to own their vehicles, not share them. Owning a vehicle is very much a demonstration of success and we want to build on this culture," according to Mungofa.
*Iran is the largest vehicle market in the Middle East with annual sales of 1,5 million vehicles. It is also the largest manufacturer, while SAPIA is the second largest local vehicle maker, assembling vehicles from European, Chinese, and Japanese companies as well as developing a domestic design and manufacturing ability.
A design sketch of the Tusker one-ton pickup as envisaged by the Mureza Auto Company. Image: Mureza
SAIPA was initially estabished as SAIPAC (an acronym for the French Société anonyme iranienne de production des automobiles Citroën) in 1965 with 75 percent Iranian ownership to assemble Citroëns under license for the Iranian market. The main subsidiaries of SAIPA Group are Saipa Diesel, Pars Khodro and Zamyad Co.