Lifan has recently moved into a new plant at the Eastern Industry Zone in Dukem, 37kms outside the capital, Addis Abeba. The company says, however, that it is in business in Ethiopia more as a long-term investment as opposed to an immediate profit, which at present, it is making only from the after-sale service it offers to customers.
Ethiopia, or Abyssinia – as a translation from the Chinese of one of the presentations at its convention last week put it – is, actually a very small market for Lifan. The third Global Distributor Convention of Lifan Motors, organised every three years, took place at the Jiuzhai Paradise Intercontinental Hotel in Juizhai, China, on June 4, 2014. Attending were distributors, dealers and journalists from over 30 countries, as well as ambassadors, including Girma Temesgen, Ethiopia’s Consul General in Chongqing, China, where Lifan Motors is also based.
“When talking about the positive roles played by Chinese partners, it would be unfair not to mention the contribution of Yangfan Motors,” said Girma. “It was the first Chinese private automotive assembling, marketing and after-sale service company in Ethiopia.”
The late prime minister, Meles Zenawi, himself had a great role in convincing the Chinese company to invest in Ethiopia, he later told Fortune. The Company undertakes production in Ethiopia and five other countries, including Russia, Azerbaijan, Myanmar, Iran, Iraq and Uruguay, with Russia serving it with the sale of tens of thousands of cars a year and Ethiopia, according to company founder and chair, Yin Mingshan, with a low market that has stiff competition from old cars. Lifan says it sold 70,000 cars in Russia between 2011 and 2013.