The Ambassador of South Korea, Lim Hoon-Min, tests the Hyundai SUV model assembled by Marathon Motor Engineering Plc.

Marathon Motor Engineering, a vehicle assembler operating at less than 10pc of its capacity due to the forex crunch, unveiled three new Hyundai models last week. It is also set to launch a new electric car model.

The company,  co-founded by world record holding athlete and businessman Haile Gebresilassie, sells the new models for between 850,000 Br to 6.5 million Br. The Hyundai Palisade SUV, Hyundai Mighty EX-8 light truck and Hyundai ATOS are the three new models launched by the company at a ceremony that was held at its premises located on the outskirts of the city on January 9, 2019, in the presence of Lim Hoon-Min, ambassador of South Korea.

The new models are expected to join the market in six months time.

The SUV model is equipped with features such as an eight-speed button shift automatic transmission, remote engine starting, 360-degree view camera, advanced all-wheel drive and airbags. It is sold for 6.5 million Br.

The Hyundai EX-8 is fitted with power windows, a load sensing valve, central locks, and power steering and costs 1.5 million Br. The 850,000 Br Hyundai ATOS features air conditioning, an anti-lock brake system, keyless entry and Bluetooth among other selling points.

In three months, the company plans to start assembling 130kW electric cars that can travel up to 300Km on a single charge once they are charged for six hours with 220v of electricity. Duties to import the semi-knocked down parts for the electric cars is five percent, and it does not have any excise tax. However, the price of the electric vehicles is a bit higher than petrol cars.

"The cars don't need oil and gas and can travel without any cost for ten years," said Melkamu Assefa, CEO and managing director at Marathon Motor, which has been the chief importer and distributor of Hyundai for over a decade and started local assembly recently. "It only needs periodic inspection."

The production plant of the company was inaugurated on February 21, 2019, with the presence of Won-Hee Lee, CEO of Hyundai Motor Company, the South Korean automotive manufacturer. The construction of the plant took one year and cost nearly a billion Br. It currently assembles 12 different vehicle models.

Resting on 30,000Sqm of land leased in Nefas Silk District on the road to Tulu Dimtu, the plant uses two-thirds of the premises for test driving. The remainder is designated for vehicle sales, spare part stores, showrooms, a technical training centre and a service garage.

It has constructed different facilities at various locations. In 2016 the company constructed showrooms and service and spare part centres in Addis Abeba and Hawassa at a cost of 120 million Br.

The factory can assemble 10,000 cars a year, but because of the foreign currency crisis, it is operating below capacity. The company needs 40 million dollars a year to import parts.

During the inauguration ceremony, Haile, the major shareholder, expressed his frustration over the lower attention given to productivity. He stressed the need for a policy focus on solving unemployment. He explained the need for expanding cottage industries that will supply parts for assembly plants, mentioning their role in creating jobs.

In Ethiopia, a country with the lowest numbers of cars in the world at 1.1 million, of which half are located in the capital, demand for cars is high. Out of the total number of cars, 219,699 vehicles are small automobiles.

Mesfin Industrial Engineering, Lifan Motors, Belayab Motors and the Metals & Engineering Corporation (MetEC) are among the licensed car assemblers operating in Ethiopia.

Tezazu Bireda, an expert in electrical engineering and a lecturer at Addis Abeba University, believes that producing premium class and electrical cars demonstrates technological advancement. But he questions the battery cost and its durability.

He recommends, however, that the government work on building charging stations at convenient places.

PUBLISHED ON Jan 11,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1028]

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