PAKISTAN'S MAIDEN CAR ROLLS OUT TO RACE WITH AUTO GIANTS

"Every nation in the world has taken a lot of pride (making cars) and I wanted to contribute it to my country," says Adam Motor's owner

By Ashraf Khan
Aug 15 - 21, 2005

Born at a car porch of one of his affluent relatives with no place to live, Feroze Khan would not himself know as to kismet would make himself a car manufacturer.

Khan, 56, began life amid scanty fiscal resources in Aamil Colony, a poor Karachi neighbourhood, but sheer poverty did not prevent him from dreaming high as he geared his way through to become a graduate engineer by the time his youth peaked.

But that was not all.

His dream went further wild when he started idealising Ratan Tata, the legendary Indian automobile manufacturer and business tycoon. The committed engineer kept struggling through his career and finally ushered Pakistan into a 16-member elite club of car manufacturing countries in the world.

"Every nation in the world has taken a lot of pride (making cars) and I wanted to contribute it to my country," said a proud Khan, who owns Adam Motor Company Limited, the manufacturer of the first Pakistani car -Revo.

Rife political uncertainties, corruption, religious and sectarian militancy and coups have made majority of 150 million people fairly skeptical of whether they could make any achievement as a nation. "It is our national psyche that if you are a Pakistani you can only do a mediocre or a bad thing," he said. "We want to change it," he vowed.

An official acclamation came when Khan's invitation to launch his designed car was formally accepted by country's premier in April. "This is a red-letter day in the history of our manufacturing sector," Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told a gathering at the roll-out ceremony of the 800 cc and 1000 cc Revo, designed and assembled by the Karachi-based company, owned by Khan.

"With this, Pakistan has joined the club of 16 countries having the capability of designing an original car," he said.

While Khan is steering to take the car to the levels of the other global auto brands, he is also faced with the challenge of inherent distrust of Pakistanis in their own products coupled with technological advanced Japanese and Korean competitors at home. "The clients' response is good since it is the first Pakistani car... and how much confidence Pakistanis do have in their own product...very minimal.

"I am sure that the car is very reliable. I have made sure that we have not cut any corner on the quality. It may not be 100 percent Japanese's gaps and level lengths but functionally it will be a wonderful car."

The manufacturer has given special consideration to the car making in view of the poor road infrastructure and hot climatic conditions of the country.

"We have sounder suspension, we have designed the radiator bigger with a cooling system and we are very confident of its road performance but still our team is working day and night to make it further better," he said.

With gleaming range of colors, the small-sized car has started plying on the roads of Karachi this month initially and the company has orders of 400 cars and considers the response fair.

"There are 400 people, who have booked the cars and we ensure them long term relationships and this rate of booking is OK for a new comer," Khan contentedly said.

"Every one have liked the way the car looks, every one has like the engine sound, the ride is more comfortable than the competitors," Khan said.

It took seven years to Khan to realise his dream into reality.

"I started on this project seven years ago. Four years for preparations of technology and three years to work actively on the car," he said.

But it was not a new business for Khan as he had already built Omar Jibran (OJ) Engineering Industries Limited, a vendor company and a primary source of auto parts to local assemblers of Daihatsu, Toyota Corolla, Honda and Suzuki brands.

"We could have not done it without OJ. The designing was done at OJ, the technology is based at OJ," said Khan who also is the chief executive of the car vending company, which supplies bumpers, dash boards, instrument panels to their Japanese and Korean competitors here.

A caveat, however, is yet to remove by the Adam Motor to make the new car fully indiginsed as it has been using Chinese engine and transmission system, a stigma that gives cynics a pretext to not call it a Pakistani car.

"In September we will start setting up engine assembling plant next to our present plant and by 2007 we will have this engine been manufactured in Pakistan," he said.

Wuling of China, a 75-year old company, which makes 400,000, engines a year and a supplier to General Motors (GM), signed the agreement with Adam Motors in November 2003 during the visit of President Pervez Musharraf to Beijing, he said.

Millat Tractor, a Pakistani automotive company, would build transmission system of the car.

PAKISTANI AUTOMOBILE SECTOR:

The first phase of automotive assembling in Pakistan started in 1950 but practically ceased to go on by the end of 70s.

The second phase of automobile started in 1983 with the introduction of Suzuki followed by Toyota, Honda, and Nissan of Japan. Korean Hyundai and Fiat of Italy also have technical collaboration with the local assemblers.

Cumulative annualised capacity of car production comes to over 115,000, according to data of Ministry of Production and Industries. At present 18 automobile units are involved in the assembling or manufacturing business with the support of downstream industry comprising 850 units of auto parts manufacturers.

Car demand has outstripped supplies in past three years on the back of robust economic growth that remained the second fastest in the fiscal 2004-05 at the rate of 8.2 percent. The demand was also spurred by low interest rates, cheaper and easy availability of car financing. The government liberalized about 15-year old tariff protection regime of car imports in the new budget announced in June, though assemblers claim they expended their production to 160,000 units from 49,000 units in past four years.

"We have 46 percent growth for the past three years but still there is gap of 20,000 to 25,000 cars," Khan said.

The car demand may not be so robust because of rising interest rates and lower projection in economic growth but still may increase at the rate of 20 percent annually, industry expert believe.

"It's a marathon, I am not running a 100-meter race," Khan said.