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…as workers prepare for mass sack

  • Staff strength reduces from 5,000 to 300 – Official
  • Maintaining Peugeot 206 and 307, frustrating – Patrons

Peugeot Automobile Nigeria may soon reduce its staff strength drastically as the fortunes of the auto firm, which has downsized from about 5,000 to 300, slides, investigations by The Point have revealed.

With this development, the automobile policy may be threatened, thus frustrating the efforts of the Federal Government at enforcing local content in the manufacturing sector of the economy.

A staff at the Kaduna head office of the company, who pleaded anonymity, told The Point that about 30 of the company’s employees were penciled for dismissal soon, after a forthcoming meeting with some top management staff.

According to him, shortly after the meeting, they will be served letters of dismissal that indicate they should leave immediately.

“We all understand the state of the economy and the manufacturing sector, especially since last year when the value of the naira has been on a steady decrease. But we are not expecting it to end this way after some of them have served the company for decades. The company is not isolated from the poor state of the manufacturing sector and the economy as a whole,” he said.

He revealed that the company
had reduced its production line
further.

The official added, “In its green days, PAN coupled about 90,000 cars annually, but it manages to couple about 3,000 now. Out of about 5,000 workers that used to work at the Kaduna plant a few years ago, only about 300 workers are left. We had accomplished 40 per cent local content before when we were importing several unrefined/unpainted parts. Then, we employed several Nigerians to refine, join and paint the parts.Today, most of the imported parts are finished products and that means a few hands are needed for assembling the cars.

“Our initial plan was to accomplish 100 per cent local content by producing Completely Knocked Down parts while we weld all the pieces together, paint and assemble them. After sales crashed, we were left with Semi Knocked Down where all parts are ready to fix with internal and external fittings.”
The source blamed the Federal Government for halting the automobile policy.

According to him, things became more difficult when Government stopped purchasing the brand for ministries, agencies and the Presidency.

FRUSTRATIONS WITH 206 AND 307 CARS
Investigations by The Point have, however, revealed that some patrons, especially users of Peugeot 206 and 307 have held the company in contempt, regarding the brand as an attempt to frustrate and exploit users. While some of them are bitter about the high cost of maintenanceand some unavoidable repairs, which had forced them to sell their vehicles, others insist that PAN must recall the 2005 model of the Peugeot 206 and 307.

One of the users, Mr. Peter Bodemeh, told The Point that his experience with his 307 sedan car since 2009, when he started using the vehicle, had been traumatic.

According to him, the brand new car started developing engine, brain box and sensor problems barely one year after he started using it. Being an electronic car, the sedan could not perform optimally if the sensor was faulty and this forced him to change the device worth N30,000 once or twice every year since March 2011till date.

“Right now, the gear is misbehaving and I have spent over N150,000 on it, yet the problem persists. I started using Peugeot’s auto-mechanics and it got to a time one of them advised me to try elsewhere, that they couldn’t fix it anymore. So far, I have spent over N1 million on the vehicle and still can’t travel a long distance with it because my mind is not at peace over its condition. I am thinking of selling it because some of my friends that had similar issues have either abandoned them or sold them,” he lamented.

Another user of a Peugeot 307 car, Mr. Tolu Okueyungbo, also said he had stopped using his 2005 hunch back model since 2014, three years after he started
using the brand new car. According to him, he changed most of the electronic devices that came with the car. Averagely, the horticulturist spent about N50,000 to fix a device or the other every month before he abandoned it at home.

Like Bodemeh, he made attempts to sell the car but was discouraged when potential buyers were pricing the N2.5 million car at a ridiculous N200,000.

“I think PAN has lost its prestige because I had used Peugeot 504 for over 10 years and it was so strong and fault free till I dropped it. But the 307 is an error because I have changed the side mirror, headlamp, alternator, battery and cooling fan among others. The unfortunate thing is that these parts are quite expensive,” he said.

PEUGEOT DECIEVED NIGERIANS – Experts
One of the two automobile engineers that tested the first set of Peugeot 404 that was assembled in Nigeria in 1975, Prof. Olakunle Macaulay, alleged that PAN had failed to fulfil its promises after over 40 years of operations.
He said Nigerians were made to believe that the vehicles were built for Nigerian roads and that the brand was a leader in the Nigerian automobile industry, driven by superior technology. He revealed that the complaints of Bodemeh, Okueyungbo and others didn’t start today but since 1975 when he realised that some of the vehicles assembled in the country had technical issues. Also, in his recent research, he found that the problem persisted and that most of the parts and electronic devices of the vehicle had been warehoused in France for months and spent another two months on the sea before arriving Nigeria.

“They were supposed to service the devices or reprogramme them before installing them in the vehicles. But negligence on the part of the company is responsible for the electronic and technical problems Nigerians have with the car,” he added.

The Automobile Peugeot France had suspended its relationship and agreement with PAN over a N30 billion debt it owed the former in 2010.

The development hindered the latter from receiving supply of parts and staff training from the France-based parent company. In 2012, the Asset Management Company of Nigeria acquired PAN Nigeria’s debts and converted a portion of it to equity.

OUR CHALLENGES ARE SAME WITH OTHER PLANTSPAN
Meanwhile, the head, corporate communications, PAN, Alhaji Nura Maska agrees that the company is faced with different challenges but argued that such challenges are the same with all local assembly plants experience in the heat of series of FG’s policy summersault.

“The company’s direct employment dropped from over 4,000 to less than 300 presently and that is not due to the lack of government patronage but the policy reversal of the government. Even in the face of the newly introduced National Automotive Development Plan, consistency and certainty will be the elements that will make the industry to redevelop sustainably. Patronage of locally assembled vehicles will be the key ingredient to growing the market and creating scale that will bring about efficiencies and specialisation for deep-rooted auto industry development,” he argued.

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