Kheng Keng Auto Namibia has been in the heart of Windhoek city for the past six years, doing brisk trade in used-cars, imported from Singapore and Japan. According to Jason Zhang who has been running the local branch of the Singapore-based multinational automobile company for the last two years, Kheng Keng Singapore plans to establish more African branches, apart from the two branches already established in Johannesburg and the Kenya. “We are looking into Rwanda and Botswana. In September 2011 we opened two branches in the UK, in central London and in Liverpool,” he added.
“We are trying to bring more and more cars and I intend to employ more people,” Zhang said. Currently eight people work for the company in Windhoek, five of whom are Namibians. “The overseas staff is all trained in Japan and Singapore. They are specialised workers. We intend to form a group of local mechanics and train them. I want to train more of these specialised mechanics and I use my own people to train them,” he said.
Remarking about the current legal situation impacting the import of motor vehicles, Zhang said, “it is still the same thing. We still have a ban on [old] cars; only year 2007 and later is allowed. Look at Botswana, there is no issue and every-body is flocking to Botswana to buy cars. I don’t know why the ban in Namibia and I am really hoping the government will lift the ban and open the market,” he said. According to Zhang the matter was brought up by a recent trade delegation visit from Singapore which was hosted by Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Finance and the Southern African Customs Union in Windhoek on March 20. However to date there has only been hear-say that the Namibian government would lift its ban. The ban was implemented in 2005 after pressure from established local dealerships importing mostly from South Africa and led by the late Harold Pupkewitz.
Other difficulties the company faces include custom regulations which Zhang says are not always applied by the same standards. Also competitors are ever-increasing with more companies and individuals making use of import opportunities from Botswana or the UK via internet.
But Zhang explained that “we importers came in, because the local cars are very expensive. We sell cars all below the price of N$100 000,” he said. He elaborated that the vehicles are brought into the country by ship, landed at Walvis Bay and sent by car-carrier to Windhoek. “There are very good facilities at Walvis Bay. I would say the port is first class. We prefer Walvis Bay and we have seen a growth in imports in Namibia. The competition is very strong, so now we focus more on service. More and more people are buying imports. I have sent out hundreds of quotations, hundreds and hundreds,” he said. Apart from selling cars, Kheng Keng provides a wide range of body parts, engines and general repair parts. “There is a misconception about imports, that if you bump, there are no spare parts. Now I bring in all the parts from Singapore and Japan. If you need it urgently we DHL it, otherwise we put it in our next container. The minimum is two containers a month, but the standard is more like four containers per month,” he said.
“Another market that is on the rise is the souped-up or modified car. I am trying to bring some of these specially modified cars like the Subaru or the Evo and the Nissan S15 Silvia. From the UK side I am also bringing high-end top of the range cars like the BMW M Series, the Bentleys and the Mercedes AMG Series. There is market for the high-end also,” Zhang said.