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Ghana 2016 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Subhi Accad, CEO of Accad Group, on the company's operations in Ghana, the gray market, and introducing new products and brands to the market.

Subhi Accad
BIOGRAPHY
Subhi Accad is the Group CEO for Auto Parts Ltd, authorized importer for Nissan cars in Ghana and also Mercury, Mariner, and Quicksilver boats. He doubles as CEO for Universal Motors Ltd, authorized importers for Volkswagen and Porsche in Ghana. He is a Board Director of Operation Smile, a nonprofit volunteer medical organization which provides free reconstructive facial surgery. He has been the Honorary Consul of Mexico since 2009.

Can you give us a brief history of the Accad Group?

We have been in the car business since 1941. We started in the spare parts industry and, 10 years down the line, we established a major workshop to work on engines and gearboxes. It was the only one of its kind in West Africa at that time. In the late 1950s we started with Prince Cars from Japan, as well as Morris and Nissan. In the late 1960s we started an assembly plant and were carrying out parallel imports of cars that weren't assembled domestically. That went on until there was a change in the regime and we stopped assembling. We decided to continue with a full import of cars without assembling them. In 2004, Volkswagen was free and we succeeded in securing the authorized dealership in Ghana. In 2008, I approached Porsche, it being a brand that I had loved since a young boy, and told the managers there that I would like to import those cars. It took about two years for them to decide, and in 2010 we were awarded the importation rights. Since then, we have been doing all three. Around the same time, we also began representing Mercury Marine engines and Quicksilver boats. My father, AR Accad, who was the founder of the company, had a vision of growing the business and reinvesting in Ghana. We have not stopped doing that, we have stayed here, because we believe in Ghana.

Do you have to modify the cars as they come in?

We offer the full range that the suppliers allow, as we still have to work in Ghana on the quality of the fuels, particularly on the diesel in the country. New technology requires low sulfur content input, and unfortunately we have not reached that level yet for all the engines. We may have the models but not the engines. Everything is modified at the source in the factory, so the advantage of buying a new car from us is that it is tailored to local conditions.

Are gray imports an issue for your business model?

Yes gray imports are an issue. We are investing in everything, including branding and training, and in every way our overheads are much higher than the gray importers'. Vehicles that come from the US or Europe, which are not made for our roads or the quality of the fuel, may break down and require repair costs after approximately a few months of use. There is also no follow up, especially if there is a recall campaign, and this is an important point. We still allow lots of cars from Europe to be dumped on us, and many of the buses on the roads are not road worthy. A solution should be found, because unfortunately it is a contributor to road accidents in the country and also creates other health hazards.

You launched the Porsche Macan last year. How has the uptake been on that compared to your other brands?

We did not sell a lot because we did not import it, but our two other brands, Nissan and Volkswagen, are benefiting from the growth of the middle class. Broadly speaking, Africa has been affected in the past two years by the downturn of the European and the American economies. We were sourcing investors in these markets, but with their own economic problems some still have issues that have delayed plans for West Africa and Africa in general, and specifically for Ghana. Many people consider Ghana to be the hub for all of the continent or at least the region. We have gold and fuel and gas, and the country is safe. Our biggest asset is the people. The Ghanaian people are the real treasure of this country because of their personality and hospitality. This makes Ghana what it is, not gold, cocoa, or other commodities. We had bad luck with the Ebola outbreak, and unfortunately I blame the media for that because many people were frightened away from Ebola-free Ghana. We also experienced a drop in the price of petroleum and gold, and we have been very unlucky this year with floods, which have also affected the economy. However, there remains a huge amount of potential here, and we have to think properly about how to work with this and improve on what we have. Looking to the immediate future, we are negotiating for our entry into the truck industry in a more serious way at present.