The Lagos International Motor Show is a platform for automobile companies and buyers to mingle. This year however, was low key following a poor turnout from the high-end luxury car makers that would ordinarily draw wealthy car-lovers from across the country.
LAGOS, NIGERIA (APRIL 20, 2012) (REUTERS) -Visitors to Nigeria's Lagos International Car Show this year said the attendance of car-makers was marginal compared to previous years.
Nigeria's super rich are no strangers to conspicuous consumption, and there's no better way to flaunt your wealth than by buying a brand new European sports car.
Car enthusiasts said they were disappointed that brand's like mercedes and BMW did not exhibit at the show, which is now in its seventh year and large show spaces were left empty.
"For me it is interesting but I expected to se more participants, more cars, to my amazement the place is not a filled as I expected," said Sunday Yusuf, a car businessman seeking to set up a transport company.
"Actually it is quite scanty because I expected to see BMW, Mercedes and the rest of the big guns but actually we just have Toyota, KIA and a few very very not too attractive cars," said Ignatius Akpabio a car enthusiast.
There was a minor increase in new vehicle imports into Nigeria in January and February compared to the same period last year, as dealers stuck with old inventory held back from placing new orders, CAR dealers said last month.
Vehicle sales in Africa's most populous nation are a proxy measure for private purchasing power, a leading economic indicator which is not formally available and can give insights into GDP growth that are not always captured in official figures.
In 2008, credit sales had accounted for about 22 percent of all vehicle sales in Nigeria, but that percentage dropped nearly to zero after a 2009 bank bailout and has since been struggling to recover.
However, a growing middle class in Nigeria with an expensive taste for big luxury 4x4 cars that can withstand poor road infrastructure and flooding still holds a significant market.
Jeep Wrangler deputy sales manager, Kingsley Uwaste said the advantages of products like his were varied.
"The cars are fantastic on their own but what we are saying to people is not just because Nigeria has got bad roads, but it is because you can actually do a lot of things with the natural resources that we have got here, there is beautiful places to visit," he said.
The removal of the fuel subsidy which resulted in the spiking of petrol prices has also seen spending on cars reduce.
Car dealers like Chevrolet said they were adapting to the new climate by marketing vehicles that would suit buyers who are concerned by high fuel prices.
"Nigerians we want to consider how highly fuel efficient A car they are going for is or something so because of that we are bringing in captiva 2.4 litre engine capacity. It consumes lesser fuel compared to what the Equinox will consume so this is what we have here in Nigeria, it goes for 6.7 million naira (42,337 US dollars)," said Gbenga Falade, sales executive Chevrolet, Nigeria.
The oil wealth of Africa's biggest producer has made multi-millionaires of its elite in the past few decades, even while absolute poverty has increased to 60 percent of the population.