Most of us have thought about owning a car at some point in our lives. Acquiring a car might involve importing one from overseas. Japanese made cars are quite a common sight in Kenyan roads. So I set out to find out how this process works. I had a chat with Wycliffe Murimi, the marketing manager at Car Masters Kenya.

Car Masters Kenya is an automotive company that offers car dealerships in Kenya and car importation services from Japan to Kenya at affordable rates. They facilitate the shipment and delivery of used cars, in mint condition, where the rates are inclusive of cost plus freight (c+f), inspection, and import duty.

Here’s a sneak peak at the conversation I had with the Car Masters Kenya.

LG. What is your backstory, how did it all start and when?

CM. I was interested in buying a Subaru Forester XT earlier this year and I decided to do a little market research to see what I ought to find out. After digging in for some time, I came to a realization that most car dealership businesses are sketchy, and fail miserably when it comes to customer relationships, customer journey and customer satisfaction. Immediately, I saw a gap that I could easily fill since in retrospect I understood how it feels when you don’t exactly get what you ordered. I realized that those business owners were only interested in money, that is just transactions and nothing more, then I got that compelling drive to just enter the “game” and make some necessary changes by being the pace setter. It’s imperative that businesses, both small scale and large scale, should focus on building valuable relationships with their prospects and provide quality services, from a delivery standpoint if they want their respective businesses to be lucrative. That’s how I started my business, on August 13th   2021, making today my first month anniversary since I decided to go down this path. 

LG. How does your business model work? 

CM. The Car Masters Kenya is a car dealership company that basically connects potential buyers to vehicles of their choice, both in Kenya and overseas. The brand is more of a brokerage service company that alleviates local car seekers and interested car importers from the stress of constantly looking for cars, having to deal with so many car dealers in one sitting, and the importers dealing with customs officials and learning shipping regulations. We do all that work for our prospects so that they can spend more time on other important things. 

LG. Tell me about the process of importing a car from Japan to kenya. 

CM. The Car Masters Kenya ventured into this particular business model to help buyers save their money considering the present Covid-19 situation which has drastically affected the economy of our country. The enforcement of used car imports in Kenya is very strict, and so our company ensures that we consider the used imported cars law first. The Kenya Bureau of Standards created a criteria to follow in coordination with the Kenya Revenue Authority and we consider these laws as top priority when doing this business. The law for imported cars is enforced by the Kenya Customs at the Mombasa Port. Almost all imported cars are entered into the Kenyan borders at the Mombasa port. These laws are:

  • For the cars below 1,500cc displacement, they MUST NOT be more than 8 years from the year of manufacture. 
  • For the cars above 1,500cc displacement, they MUST NOT be more than 5 years from the year of manufacture. 
  • The year of registration and manufacture MUST be in between one year, for example if the manufacture year is 2017 then the registration year must be done in 2018.
  • Only right hand drive cars are allowed to be imported in Kenya except for the special purpose vehicles such as ambulances, fire trucks etc. 
  • Your imported car MUST be cleared for being usable, environmentally conservative and must be road-worthy. 
  • To import a car from Japan, it is required to be inspected by JAPAN EXPORT VEHICLE INSPECTION CENTER (JEVIC) before leaving Japan shores. 
  • To handle the paperwork, KRA requires the importer to hire a car dealer, like us, The Car Masters Kenya who can handle all the paperwork (customs clearance) on your behalf. 

LG. From your experience, which are the top 5 most imported car brands in Kenya from Japan? 

CM. There are car brands that you will never miss to see on Kenyan roads. These particular brands are loved because of various factors such as their affordability, resale value, and their spare parts availability. Based on our experience and keen observations, below are the top 5 most imported car brands from Japan to Kenya:

Toyota 

Subaru 

Nissan 

Mazda

Honda

LG. What successes have you had & would want to highlight?

CM. My greatest success first of all was to identify the gap that was in the automotive industry in Kenya and the necessary steps needed to make a difference. Secondly is coming to a decision to kick start this business and taking a step at a time establishing my customer base. It is with unwavering faith, self-confidence and hope that my business will grow and be very valuable to all those potential clients who will trust us in looking for units on their behalf. I know that they’ll be satisfied and happy with our services. 

LG. Are you working with any high profile clients?

LG. So far I’m working with individuals who are selling their automobiles and come to us when they need potential buyers. In addition, the company is also working, independently though, with car dealership business models with showrooms and yards such as Windsor Motors, Garden Motors, Impact Motors among others. 

LG. Where can potential clients reach you?

              CM. 

  • Website – Under Construction 
  • Social Media Platforms: Instagram: @thecarmasterske, LinkedIn: The Car Masters Kenya, and Facebook: The Car Masters Kenya. 

LG.  What do you think you need the most help with?

CM. For now what I need most is Brand Recognition so that my company will manage to fish out as many potential clients as possible. In addition, I’d be very happy if I happen to get an angel investor who can actually see the potential my business holds in terms of empowering the youths of Kenya through creating employment opportunities, and generously offer to pump funds into the business. 

LG. What does the end goal look like for you?

CM. Well, the end goal looks kind of promising for me since lately I’ve been getting so many inquiries from all over Nairobi and its environs, which shows that there is actually some light at the end of the tunnel. The only task my company has now is closing these deals for the serious potential buyers through converting them to actual paying customers. 

LG. What should someone lookout for before purchasing and importing a car from Japan? 

CM. As The Car Masters Kenya, these are the criteria that an importer needs to follow before purchasing and importing a vehicle from Japan:

  • Select the right exporter
  • Carefully check the stock and prices 
  • Check the payment and delivery terms 
  • Clear all the doubts you may have through rechecking all documents, going through testimonials and reviews, plus taking note that the right exporter is the important step
  • Communicate your requirements 
  • Bidding for the car (if buying from an auction)
  • Exporters work – They do the rest of the formalities and paperwork for the inspection certificate (if required), export procedure, shipment and update you on the status of your shipment from time to time. 
  • Shipment – The Car is shipped within a week in normal circumstances, but this depends on the shipment schedule and availability of space on the ship. 
  • Clearance Documents – Shipping and all the documents relating to the purchase and payment required for customs clearance in Kenya are sent to our company by the courier. 
  • Delivery – Delivery happens within 4-7 weeks upon purchase and the vehicle arrives at the Mombasa port. After you’ve seen the unit, it’s important that you check the condition of the vehicle as per the details given earlier.