The automotive industry is one of the most consolidated in the world, where the top four manufacturers (Toyota, GM, VW and Hyundai, in that order) account for about a third of total global production. But it wasn’t always so.
In the automobile’s early days there were adventurous entrepreneurs aplenty, that would employ basic engineering to fiddle with primitive designs and come up with the most exotic of self-propelled … things. Each hoped to achieve big successes, but only a few survived through the years. Just to give you an idea of the slaughter, Wikipedia lists 378 British car brands – there may be more though – to have existed through the course of history, of which only 40 are still stated to be active today. That’s 10%. Doesn’t sound too bad? Well, do consider that the bulk of those are obscure manufacturers that make only a few hundred or fewer vehicles a year and that the handful of more serious makes are all in German, Indian or Malaysian hands.
And the UK can be considered to have been a strong automotive market throughout the last century. In most other, smaller countries virtually every brand went belly-up. Often these are stories of development setbacks and consequent shortages of finance, but sometimes the stories have a bit more absurdness to them. Like that of Izuogu, from Nigeria.
Izuogu never actually sold a single car. Fate has not been kind to the “brand”, which was nevertheless showing promise. A Nigerian engineer, named Ezekiel Izuogu, came up with a prototype in 1997, which got the rather uninspired name Z-600. Not a problem, because it had its uninspired looks to match that. It had other merits, though.
It was a true African product, sourcing 90% of its components locally. It was also very basic and thus not unlike the toy cars made from empty soda cans you find in Fair Trade Shops. For example, propulsion was effectuated by a self-made 1.8L engine that made the car able to achieve 18mpg and a top speed of 86mph. Pushing would’ve been more effective and efficient. Also, it didn’t have a horn, but a door bell. Brilliant!
As a result, the Z-600 was to be extremely cheap; around $2,000 a piece, which would have made it the cheapest car on the planet. A positive buzz surrounded the car and other African countries were digging it too. South Africa even invited Izuogu to build the car there. So far so good, until, in early 2006, a bunch of armed robbers raided the company’s assets and took with them molds for engine, drive train and other components.
It’s been silent every since and the only picture of the Z-600 the internet has to offer is grainy. The brand Izuogu died a glory-less death.