CFAO Motors Limited (formally Toyota Malawi Limited) story begins with a taxi ride in Japan. In 1963 a couple from Nyasaland, Derek and Jean Fried travelled on a business trip to Japan. Searching for the right type of merchandise meant many cab rides for the entrepreneurial couple and it did not escape their notice that each taxi they took was a Toyota. The couple was impressed by the Toyota and immediately an idea came up of becoming an agent for Toyota vehicles in what was then Nyasaland, now the Republic of Malawi.
The Friends acted quickly approaching Toyota Motor Corporation about their idea of establishing an agency. Toyota Motor Corporation reluctantly though, listened to them and offered to supply them with 5 Toyota Stout pickups, the almost impossible mission of selling them. The Stout it seems was hardly the Hilux of today. It did not take long when the budding agent had sold the first consignment and then went on to sell fifty more in the small space of time.
Mobile Motors Limited
The huge demand for Toyota vehicles in Nyasaland and capital limitations proved to be a mountain to climb for Derek and Jean Friend. The couple sought the financial backing of R.H Rowland, the charismatic business man, then anniversary known as “Tiny” Rowland who also had strong interests in the Lonrho Group. Quickly a partnership was formed and on 15th August 1964, Mobile Motors, Toyota’s first franchise in Malawi was incorporated. The understanding between the two men was that Rowland would supply the needed capital and Friend would run the operations. At that time “Tiny” Rowland had invested in Farming & Electrical Services (FES) now known as Farming & Engineering Services (FES). In the early years Mobile Motors acted as a wholesaler of vehicles to Farming Electrical Services whose garage was located on Hannover Street in Blantyre directly opposite now Ryalls Protea Hotel, the oldest hotel in Blantyre.
As a new dealer on the block, Mobile Motors faced strong competition from such colonial era dealers such as Mandala, CATCO and Conforzi. Undaunted by the competition in 1964, Mobile Motors introduced the first passenger car, the Toyota Crown Station Wagon which was described as having “low elegance plus economy and usefulness”. Mobile Motors quickly followed on the Crown’s success by importing the Crown Deluxe saloon of which was sold within 36 hours of its arrival.
Following its success and tremendous growth, In February 1972 Mobile Motors announced the “Great News” that “in view of expansion of our business our premises in Blantyre had become too small to cope with volume of work and sales on hand” they would be moving to the old General Construction location in Limbe along Kamuzu Highway (now Masauko Chipembere Highway). The company announced that new sales and used car would operate from what is today the location of CFAO Motors Limited’s (formally Toyota Malawi Limited) Head Office in Maselema. At the time of the move to Limbe, Mobile announced the opening of a branch in Lilongwe which was intended to serve valued customers from the central and north.
The 1970’s saw Mobile Motors range of vehicles increase. The Toyota Corolla 1200 had made its debut and was advertised under the slogan “everybody is talking about it”. Corona Mark II made their first debut in Malawi. Following the success of the first Toyota Stouts, Mobile Motors imported the increasingly popular Hilux pickup and went further to diversify into the truck market and launched Toyota tankers, tippers and flat beds to the market. The catchy slogan of Mobile Motors in those days was simple “The tough ones come from Toyota”.
From the late 1970’s through 1980’s the automotive distributors in Malawi operated in a controlled market and Mobile Motors was not spared. The market experienced a faltering economy, the Mozambican civil war had effectively closed important external trade routes, rising interest rates, high inflation rate. Strict import quotas were imposed on all car dealers and import duties were exceedingly high. Obviously forex limits also hit the Parts side of the business. On average a dealer like Mobile Motors could only import 200 vehicles per year. With such a limited number of vehicles coming into the country, the need for vehicle advertising was drastically reduced.
The political developments in the early 1990’s and subsequent liberalization of the economy from the mid 1990’s led to the rapid growth of Mobile Motors as opportunities increased and forex availability improved.
CFAO Motors Limited (formally Toyota Malawi Limited)
In the mid 90’s Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) and Toyota Tsusho Corporation (TTC) developed interest in the Toyota brand in Malawi which called for a corporate transformation with major capital investment. In 1995 the company changed its name from Mobile Motors to Toyota Malawi Limited, and from the year 2001 Toyota Tsusho Corporation (TTC) acquired 100% ownership and control of the company.
Today, CFAO Motors Limited (formally Toyota Malawi Limited) is the market leader in the motor industry in Malawi with a market share of over 40% in new vehicle sales. CFAO Motors Limited (formally Toyota Malawi Limited) is the only official distributor of Toyota vehicles and Hino Trucks in Malawi with 3S facilities (Sales, Parts and Service) in Blantyre and Lilongwe, 2S (Parts and Service) in Mzuzu, parts outlet in Dwangwa and Nchalo, in addition operates a mobile service van in selected districts.
Over the years CFAO Motors Limited (formally Toyota Malawi Limited) has built partnerships with communities that we work with through our corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the areas of safety, education, health and environment. CFAO Motors Limited (formally Toyota Malawi Limited) from time to time has supported critical needs of communities we operate in.
CFAO Motors Limited (formally Toyota Malawi Limited) vision has evolved over the years and our current vision is “to be the partner of choice in Malawi and lead the way in mobility and empowering the communities and people who work for us as well as those we work for. Through our commitment to innovation, safety and respect for the environment we will always delight our customers and exceed their expectations.”
We are strongly committed to the aspirations of our vision, mission and values to ensure that we create value and wealth for all our stakeholders.