Why Tata Nano and Cherry QQ failed in Jamaica

Owning a motor Vehicle in Jamaica is so complex, they should market as a Vacation experience for foreign tourists!

Although relatives can send you electronics gadgets such as laptops, smartphones and fitness trackers in the almighty Barrel, the real Santa Claus for people who live in ghetto, the reality is we’ve tried (and failed!) to do the same trick with motor Vehicles.

We’re instead stuck with used Japanese motor vehicles being sold by car dealers or in the Newspaper or buying a brand new vehicle, the bane of the well-to-do in Jamaica. Either that or riding a motor cycle, a motorized bicycle or an electric Motorcycle, which is becoming very popular in Jamaica.

A few exist in the community of Swallowfield and which are slowly (and silently!) becoming a huge safety hazard. This based on NRSC (National Road and Safety Council) stats reveals that accidents among motor cyclists are on the rise due to their habit of not wearing safety gear and not being licensed.

So every once in a while, vehicles that promise to be low cost and affordable yet with comparable features to name-brand Japanese Vehicles come into the Jamaica Market. But unlike imported stuff via the great and wonderful barrel, it’s just not the same to get something cheaper that is so poor in quality; it can put your life in danger.

Here’s a brief History of Motor Vehicles that Came to Jamaica, saw the road and ended up in the Scrap heap of Jamaica!

Why Tata Nano, Cherry QQ and Great Wall vehicle failed in Jamaica – Lack of spare parts and Poor Quality Vehicles

The most famous one that I’ve written about is the Tata Nano as per my article Metis Motors intro’s 2nd Generation Tata Nano to Ja signaling Black and Yellow for All-Electric Vehicles.

Why Tata Nano and Cherry QQ failed in Jamaica as Vehicle manufacturing here by June 2016

Launched in 2008 and arriving official in Jamaica in December 2012, this was supposed to be the affordable basic vehicle from India that Metis Motors thought would be a big hit in Jamaica.

Heck, it even got the endorsement of local Reggae artiste Tanya Stephens who affectionately called this latest addition to her fleet of vehicles the Bubble.

Why Tata Nano and Cherry QQ failed in Jamaica as Vehicle manufacturing here by June 2016 (1)

After all, like a smartphone in a barrel, it came with all the basic features such as air conditioner and CD radio but lacked features found in high end vehicles such as  power-steering and anti-lock brakes.

And it was great to run about town, with the added perk of being very fuel efficient and easy to handle, as Tanya Stephens pointed out. This made the street-legal vehicle a deathtrap and even though priced under JA$1 million, it small wheelbase and poor handling on the highway. It’s slow acceleration mean that driving this vehicle was the equivalent of riding a motorcycle, but with a covering over your head.

The Tata Nano didn’t last long. RIP Tata Nano!

The Cherry QQ was probably the most memorable of the vehicles that promised to be a low cost alternative for Jamaica addicted to the Barrel-lifestyle! The Cherry QQ made its debut with used vehicle importer New Line Motors in the early half of the New Millennium and Jamaicans were literally on fire for this cute little vehicle.

Why Tata Nano and Cherry QQ failed in Jamaica as Vehicle manufacturing here by June 2016 (2)

Like the Tata Nano, it was small, diminutive in terms of height, dimensions and wheelbase with the added bonus of being very fuel efficient due to its low weight. Alas, New Line Motors dropped the ball on this hot commodity, failed to stock spare parts and offering poor customer service on top of that.

People, especially myself, got the impression that New Line Motors was trying to run a patty shop, selling a low cost product quickly to make so fast money. The Public seemed to think so too; by May 2011, New Line Motors suffered from its exposure to the Cherry QQ and was closed, with its space on Constant Spring Road in Kingston now the site of a Hardware Store.

RIP Cherry QQ as well as New Line Motors…we hardly knew ya!

The Great Wall Sailor and Deer was the next casualty of Jamaica’s brief love affair with a low priced vehicle that had low quality standards. Based on the Toyota Hilux and Nissan Frontier, the Great Wall Sailor and Deer pickup vans were based on badge engineering agreements by Chinese manufacturers, hoping to palm off a low cost vision of their popular Vehicles.

Unfortunately, they also cut some quality standards during manufacturing that showed up in the final product. Aside from being unreliable and unable to handle Jamaica’s rough roads, the rubber inside of the vehicle often crystallized due to exposure to sunlight.

The Engine gave problems, resulting in many people spending a great deal of time in the garage than in on the Road. Personally, I also suffered too, being as my last name was associated with the vehicle. Still, it was out of its misery in less than a year. RIP Great Wall Sailor And Deer Vans!

Other vehicle that Jamaicans rejected – More examples of what doesn’t work in Jamaica

Other honourable mentions that got the thumbs down from Jamaicans for similar reasons are as follows:

  • Kia Armanti
  • Mercedes-Benz ClK-Class,
  • Mitsubishi Lancer, which Stewart’s Auto Sales has stopped selling since the 2010 model
  • Pontiac G3, G5, G6 and G8 have all been terminated.
  • Skoda, also made in Czech Republic which Stewart’s Auto Sales has stopped selling
  • Volvo V-70
  • Yugo 45, 55 And 65 manufactured in Zastava in Yugoslavia, under license from Fiat

The list is much longer but the story is the same; poor quality vehicles and a lack of good customer care matter to Jamaicans, despite being an island dependent on imports!

Jamaica to manufacture vehicles in Partnership with China – What the Chinese can learn from the Jamaica experience

More can be added to the list, but the following is obvious clear; lack of spare parts and poor customer service will kill motor vehicle sales, no matter how well it can save you on Gasoline.

Also the Chinese and Indians make very poor quality copies of high end model vehicles, as they fail to appreciate the need for safety over cost!

Thus I’m compelled to hope that Jamaica, with the help of partners Gulfray Americas and China National Automotive Industry International Corporation (CNAICO), a subsidiary of China National Machinery Industry Corporation, will become a manufacturer of its own vehicle or at least an assemble of one by June 2016.

Hopefully, our Jamaican love for quality will rub off on these investors and see an improvement in the quality of vehicles being associated with the Jamaican brand while employing some 10,000 Jamaicans to build the vehicles.

Protecting our brand image from being associated with low-end poor quality vehicles is not about national pride, but to the mutual benefit to Jamaica, United States of America and China, who are partners in this venture.

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.