Sitting in a right-hand drive Rivian R1T pickup got me thinking we really need these pickup trucks in Africa ASAP
A right-hand drive Rivian R1T pickup? Yes, you read correctly. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit in one and check it out in Nairobi, Kenya. From the information I’ve gathered, this is one of the only cars built so far that was for a special purpose, joining some of the earlier left-hand drive versions delivered to Kenya last year.
I have to say the Rivian R1T is amazing. It is an all-electric pickup truck designed to be enjoyed in urban areas as well as off-road. Although brand new vehicle sales in most African countries are very low, with used vehicle imports dominating, the brand new pickup market is actually a major contributor to sales and represents a very viable market for pickup truck makers for transporting large volumes.
Many countries on the continent, especially in West and Central Africa, drive on the other side of the road, similar to the USA and China, however most countries in South and East Africa drive just like in England and therefore need right-of-way models. Manual driving. Therefore, to cater to most of these markets that love small trucks, the truck which is available in both left-hand drive and right-hand drive will be very welcome on the African continent. Sitting on the right side of the Rivian R1T got me thinking that we really need more of these pickup trucks in Africa.
The thing is, pickup trucks were big in some parts of Africa last year. More than 170,000 new pickups were sold on the continent, more than were sold in the whole of Europe. Not as many as in Latin America, some parts of Asia and the USA, but 170,000 per year is a good number to attract attention. Just over 100,000 brand new pickups have been sold in South Africa, with Toyota’s Hilux and Ford’s Ranger pickup being very popular. The Rivian R1T is a similarly sized pickup truck.
So, Rivian, can we get a full production R1T Pickup in right-hand drive? I am sure the South African market, as well as others like Kenya, can absorb a large number of units to justify this. The R1T could land a little higher in price than some of the top-spec Toyota Hilux and Volkswagen Amarok, but I’m pretty sure that if it were introduced in crazy South Africa, the R1T could move some big units. South Africans love buckeyes, as they are popular in this part of the world. Of course, the left-hand drive model is already available in the US, so can we also deliver it to some left-hand drive markets on the continent?
Why Africa? Well, the R1T is probably one of, if not the only, true off-road capable dual-cab pickup truck available commercially anywhere on the planet. It’s also proven itself in tougher environments, including wildlife conservation areas and game parks in Kenya, meaning it would be well-suited for the odd run to the mall in most places in Africa. It’s a common joke here in Africa, as a lot of pick-up buyers here only use them for urban driving on perfectly paved roads to make rounds at their schools and malls. However, many pickup trucks are used on farms and on mining campuses as well, and by people in the trade (solar installers, plumbers, etc.). These people tend to buy Toyota Hiluxes, Ford Rangers, etc. Given the R1T’s good range and excellent off-road capabilities, and the growing charging networks in South Africa and Kenya, for example, this all-electric truck could be a game-changer if introduced on the continent. Of course, a lot of high volume buyers like mining and construction companies tend to operate in campus environments where fleet shipping is very straightforward, so this will be a simpler transition for them.
Another reason to consider entering some African markets as soon as increased production allows, and making these the first markets after the USA in significant volumes, is that new pickup truck sales volumes in South Africa, for example, represent a good proportion to handle. A market in which they can target a suitable market share for the transition to electric, and they also present an opportunity to carefully manage increased export volumes of the R1T pickup truck. Volumes here will be easier to manage during the densification period than in other places selling 900,000 units a year, where even targeting a 10% share would mean 90,000 units. Targeting a 10% share in South Africa would mean around 10,000 units per year, which would be an increase in the management of export plans.
I really hope that Rivian will prioritize these African markets for the next markets after the USA. The good thing is that Rivian will already have a good indication of how its trucks will perform in some of the harsher environments than the units already on the ground in Kenya. So other applications, such as farmers and mining companies, will be a lighter exercise for the R1T.
Photos of Remidzai in Nairobi, Kenya.
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