November 15, (THEWILL) – The newly appointed Director General of the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), Mr. Oluwemimo Joseph Osanipin, has commended the Chairman of Innoson Group, Chief Innocent Chukwuma, for the huge investments he has made and has continued to make in the automotive sector.
Osanipin spoke on Tuesday, during a visit to Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company Limited (IVM) in Nnewi, the first auto factory he toured since his assumption of office last month.
The new DG pointed out that he had heard of the Nnewi factory and seen many of its vehicles on the road but never knew how massive the plant was till he visited it on Tuesday.
Confirming that Innoson manufactures sedans, SUVs, buses and other vehicles in Nnewi, Osanipin informed that there is yet another massive factory that is under construction.
According to the DG, the new plant under construction occupies a land space of about 20,000 square meters while another one is also being constructed next to it.
On why he visited, he said, “I have come to inspect and see the huge investments, the huge capital being invested, and know how we can come in and partner with Innoson to know how to move the sector forward. And this is because there is a lot of potential in the industry.
“From what I have seen today, I am impressed. And let me say that I am positively surprised because I never thought we had this kind of investment, I never knew we had this kind of expertise existing here at Innoson, and I never knew that a lot has been going on here in the industry.
“I have been hearing of Innoson and I have been seeing a lot of Innoson vehicles on the road but now I think I have a better understanding of what IVM is all about.”
The new DG assured that having toured both the factory already producing vehicles and the factory under construction, he would be looking forward to a more productive partnership with the indigenous auto manufacturer.
“The impact of this visit will be more partnership. Now that we know the capability of Innoson and know their capacity and growth plan, we are in a better position to look forward to more partnerships. From what we have seen, by February or March, this new factory under construction would have been completed and commissioned.
“That means that long buses and trucks can be produced here. So, we are going to have at Innoson two separate factories that can produce different ranges of products.
“And again today, I saw a CNG-powered long bus that can go more than 1000 kilometres on a fully-filled cylinder. These are eye-openers for us. These are things that we did not know before now that have been happening here at Innoson.
“So, we want to expose all these to Nigerians. We need to make these things known to everybody in Nigeria, bring them to the knowledge of the government and make them known to the fleet operators,” he added.
Commenting on the enormous advantages CNG vehicles have over those that run on petrol and diesel, Osanipin disclosed that a recent study showed that while it costs a vehicle running on petrol about N135 to N137 to cover a kilometre, it will cost a vehicle powered by CNG about N37 to N39 to cover the same distance. He assured the NADDC would help fleet owners and operators.
“This is a message we want to pass to the average fleet operators and tell them ‘Come and try this. Come and use these CNG buses manufactured by Innoson.’ So, we are going to talk to the fleet operators and see how we can bring the fleet operators together. We are going to talk to every other stakeholder and see how all of us can work together to grow the industry,” he added.
The new DG described the future of the auto industry in Nigeria as very bright, even as being very bright because there are many opportunities and potential.
He, however, noted that it takes the kind of courage and love of one’s country, which Chief Chukwuma has exhausted, to invest in the sector today.
He stated, “The future of the industry is bright. We have not done anything yet. There are a lot of opportunities in the industry. We only need people with courage and people who love the country. If Innoson doesn’t love his country and doesn’t have the courage, he won’t be making all these investments.
“If you don’t love your country, you won’t be doing all that. If we have people like Innoson, then we need to support as a country, support our own, and support made-in-Nigeria vehicles and made-in-Nigeria goods.
“For me, it is part of what I stand for. I stand for made-in-Nigeria vehicles, made-in-Nigeria goods. I asked what is the percentage of local content in the production of the bus we use in our airports, and I was told it is between 60 and 70 percent. Gradually, we hope to get up to 80 percent, and from there, we know we can achieve more.
“From what we have seen today at Innoson, the future of the automotive industry is very bright with the support of everyone, all of us. You don’t say you cannot support. In every little way that you can, try as much as possible to support. Talk more about made-in-Nigeria vehicles. By the time all of us support it, the industry will grow.”
Earlier, while welcoming the DG to the factory, Chief Chukwuma expressed his appreciation to the guest for making the Nnewi plant his first port of call since the assumption of duty. Chief Chukwuma pointed out that Innoson is a manufacturer of vehicles, which distinguished the factory from those who merely assemble.
To prove his point, Chief Chukwuma took the guest to various sections of the plant, including where chassis are built, where the body parts are fabricated from flat sheet roll up to the finish line
Also, showing Osanipin the process of manufacturing the CNG buses, Chukwuma decried a situation where his plant has been manufacturing the vehicles since 2021 but was not involved in the various government schemes through which CNG buses are being produced as part of the efforts to ameliorate the effects of fuel subsidy removal.
He disclosed that the new factory due to open in the first quarter of 3023 will be dedicated to the manufacture of sundry CNG vehicles. The new DG was accompanied to the Innoson factory by Sani Musa, Director, Policy, Planning and Statistics, and Ike Okoha, Assistant Director, Public Relations.