Covid job cuts rev up station wagon sales

Ex-Tuskys employees protest outside a Nairobi city centre branch on September 18, 2020.

Photo credit: Hillary Kimuyu | Nation Media Group

Registration of station wagons rebounded 30 per cent in the six months to June this year, the highest jump among all vehicle classes, as more Kenyans took up business to cover for lost jobs or supplement depressed earnings when Covid-19 came calling.

Station wagons, previously considered family cars, have become popular for commercial passenger and light cargo transport services.

Data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) showed that 28,920 station wagon units were registered between January and June this year—marking a rebound from a similar period last year when listings declined to 22,285 units from 36,077 in 2019.

Station wagon registrations in the first half of this year are the second-highest since 2017.

Dealers attributed the strong performance in station wagon sales to more Kenyans going into business to mitigate the economic shocks of the pandemic.

“Many Kenyans whose livelihoods were affected by the pandemic went into businesses to try and make ends meet. This has kept the demand for station wagons very high,” said Mr Charles Munyori, secretary-general Kenya Auto Bazaar Association.

“Some people even sold family cars and bought the station wagons for commercial use,” he said.

Thousands of Kenyans were either affected by layoffs or pay cuts pushing many into businesses to make ends meet.

This reflected in increased registration of single-owned businesses and small partnerships with data by the Attorney-General’s office showing that business names registered in the year to June 2021 rose 38.7 per cent to 101,674 compared to 73,302 in a similar period last year, while private companies increased by 15.4 per cent to 50,932 from 44,128 over the periods.

The rise was triggered by layoffs and fears of job losses after economic fallout from a pandemic that forced companies to undertake cost-cutting measures amid declined revenues. Young people were the hardest hit by the job cuts compared to those aged above 35.

The high vehicle listings were also driven by Kenyans targeting supplying the national and county governments as well as State corporations with goods and services.

At the peak of the pandemic, car boot sales of agricultural produce became a common sight as many middle-class Kenyans went all out to put food on the table.

“To date, many are yet to get jobs and continue with various types of businesses such as passenger or light cargo transport using their station wagons that have a better cargo-carrying capacity,” Mr Peter Mwathi, a car dealer told Daily Nation.