Innoson: Nigeria’s Golden Auto Brand

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Chief (Dr) Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma (OFR), Chairman of INNOSON Vehicle Manufacturing Company Limited (IVM).

Chief (Dr) Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma (OFR) is a man with an uncommon mindset, winning mentality and eagle eye, all of which he has used to birth the first Nigerian auto-making plant, unprecedented in the 59-year-old history of the most populous black nation in the world.

He was born into the family of Mr & Mrs Chukwuma Mojekwu of Uru-Umudim, Nnewi, in Anambra State. His place of birth, Nnewi is a city Nicknamed ‘the Japan of Africa’ as it is famously known as a hub for automotive spares production and distribution but today, it wears the proud tag as the home of Nigeria’s first indigenous car assembly plant.

Chief Innocent Chukwuma began his business career as an assistant in his brother’s medicine store. After working for his brother, he moved on to serve Chief Romanus Eze Onuwka to have practical understanding of trading.

Having served Chief Romanus Eze Onuwka, Innocent Chukwuma returned to his brother Gabriel Chukwuma and together they set up a company called Gabros International with the sum of 3,000 Naira In 1979. By dint of hard-work laced with intelligence and discipline, Innocent Chukwuma made a bold move while he was with his brother and that smart step became the starting point of his business breakthrough and success. During that period, he found out that prices of motorcycles then were expensive because the imported motorcycles were brought in crates, and each crate could only contain one motorcycle, which would take up a lot of space meaning that only 40 crates could be put into a 40 feet container. Consequently, upon arrival, the motorcycles would become naturally expensive to buyers.

In search of solutions, Chief Innocent Chukwuma took a trip abroad to see how the motorcycles were made. After making key observations, he decided to ship 200 motorcycles in parts, in one 40 feet container. Upon arrival, he reassembled them, and his motorcycles cost less than half the price of his competitors’. This strategy brought down the average cost of a motorcycle from 150,000 Naira to 60,000 Naira, and subsequently exploded his sales and revenues.

Men at work at the factory of INNOSON Vehicle Manufacturing Company Limited (IVM) in Nnewi, Anambra State.

Moreover, in February 2007, Chukwuma embarked on what some analysts perceived then as a mission impossible, when he incorporated INNOSON Vehicle Manufacturing Company Limited (IVM), to produce sundry commercial automobiles, utility vehicles and passenger cars, in collaboration with a consortium of Chinese auto manufacturers. And the new car manufacturing company became successful.

The company did a public display of some of its vehicles at the 2nd Nnewi International Auto Trade Fair held at the Beverly Hills Hotels (Gabros Sports Complex) in 2009. The exhibitions not only silenced Innoson critics, it also made a bold statement about its readiness to become the first auto maker to produce truly Nigerian vehicles that are affordable and reliable. IVM is today a success story which has attracted effusive commendations and awards from various quarters, including the nation’s seat of power.

While opening the plant on October 15, 2010, former President Goodluck Jonathan not only hailed Chukwuma for the courage of venturing into an industry many ran away from, but also assured him of government’s patronage from the government. But even before the President’s visit, IVM had attracted an official delegation from the Ghanaian government, which through a minister, dangled incentives before Chukwuma with an appeal to come over to Accra for talks on how he could set up a similar plant in the former Gold Coast.

Some of the luxurious buses produced by INNOSON Vehicle Manufacturing Company Limited (IVM).

The current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has not been left out as, the President has directed MDAs to also patronise the Innoson motor company a great deal.  Chief Innocent Chukwuma attested to this at a press briefing held recently in Nnewi, Anambra State.

He also listed Enugu, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Kogi, Anambra, Gombe, and Bauchi states as well as Nigerian Military and a growing list of corporate organisations as those patronizing vehicles from the Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) of company. Anambra state Government, on its own, bought 40 Innoson vehicles in 2018 and another 60 Innoson SUVs this year. In July, Kogi state government bought 10 utility vehicles from Innoson and the patronage has since then grown in leaps and bounds.

As at today, Innoson vehicles are being used in some West African countries like Mali, Sierra Leone and Ghana and some Nigerians residing abroad return home to purchase the vehicles. Chukwuma has no doubt been a huge employer of labour as his Group of Companies which produces motorcycle tyres, plastic containers, ceramics and vehicles presently employ between 7,300 and 7,500 workers.

Chief Innocent Chukwuma has proven to be not just a resilient achiever but a trail-blazer of great pedigree. His eagle eye saw opportunity where several others saw difficulty; his winning mentality made him dare and surmount seemingly impossible feat and his uncommon mindset has made him succeed without any special government protection as the more recent player sought and got yet with little to show for it.

A Sports Utility Vehicle produced by INNOSON Vehicle Manufacturing Company Limited (IVM).

BRANDPOWER celebrates this rare visionary and business thought-leader who can do even more for his country by the time his fellow citizens realize that ‘Wetin dey for overseas dey for Nnewi’ and they begin to patronize INNOSON automobiles in their millions.  Chief Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma gets a BRANDPOWER golden salute as our Golden Icon for the week.


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