Cruiser or the Range? It all boils down to class vs longevity

Tuesday August 13 2019


‘How India Built a Successful Motor Vehicle Industry’ (May 29, 2019) was the worst review ever. In life you have to start somewhere if you indeed are to start, and Mobius has done just that. The Numerical Machining Complex did that in the late 80s and 90s, and we crushed the dream with the same negative sentiments. Try some positive thinking and un-colonise your mind.


Hi Jane,

It’s true, in life you have to start somewhere. Let me ask you something: when you wrote this email on your smartphone or laptop, did you first have to invent the electricity needed to power those devices? Or did you have to build your device from abacus-level and evolve it to the point where it could communicate with the Gmail servers that channelled your message? I guess the answer is ‘No’ on both counts.

Why, then, should we accept technology from World War II in “our” cars, which actually aren’t “ours”? If your doctor tried to treat you via electro-convulsive therapy, would you agree? After all, he has to start somewhere too, why not with WWII-era phrenology before he evolves slowly — by himself — into 21st Century medicine?


Nowadays there are two selling points to global car sales that everybody is focusing on: first is the crossover craze which the Mobius almost nails, save for its poor aerodynamics (which impacts fuel consumption negatively) and a door count shortage to the tune of two. The second is safety rating, which on the Mobius, is best described as “laughable”.

Get rid of the emotive approach and try logic and rationality. Reinventing the wheel in the 21st Century, almost literally, is a classic case of begging to fail in the most spectacular fashion.

The Numerical Machining Complex was not “crushed” by “negative sentiments”, the story behind it is a lot more convoluted and might land me in trouble if I dare lay bare the details I have, which I’m not sure are 100 per cent accurate anyway. However, former President Daniel Moi envisioned a vehicle that was contemporary for its time, he never asked the engineers to build an ox-cart and work their way upwards from there, with the excuse that “they had to start from somewhere”.

They did have to start from somewhere, and that somewhere was the present (back then). Yes, the cars failed in the most spectacular fashion, with one driving only a few meters before stalling and the other failing completely to move under its own power, but those cars were up to date technologically. They just needed a few niggles to be ironed out... and massive redesign because they were ugly as sin, but they were modern.

The Mobius is not modern, not even by 1960s standards. When I say World War II tech, I do mean World War II, that is not hyperbole. The Mobius is so far behind the times it may as well be another novelty item from a boutique peddler of curiosities — and I have said before that that is how it should be marketed — but what it is not is the African (Kenyan) farmer’s friend. The Kenyan farmers I know drive Ford Rangers and Hilux double-cabs. I know what the industry is capable of and I have seen what start-up car companies can accomplish.

So, Jane, allow me to teach you how to critique effectively and efficiently. First, be clear about what you are critiquing. You declare my treatise “the worst review ever”, which is acceptable, but only if you point out where I missed the mark. If not, it does not cut it. You say “you have to start from somewhere”. Let us instead look at a few facts. Mobius was founded in 2010. The company is nine years old now. Tesla Inc was established in 2003. Nine years later, in 2012, deliveries of their first ground-up car, the Model S, began. Have you seen a Tesla Model S? Then have you seen a Mobius? I’m not saying the Mobius should be at Tesla level, but after nine years in existence the best you can show had better be a big improvement on the same sketches we have been seeing on Facebook for the past seven years. That is called growth and development.

How did Tesla achieve theirs? They started with the Roadster, which wasn’t built from scratch but was, rather, an electrified Lotus Elise. What did I recommend?

We start by building obsolete models under license for us to quickly figure out how to manufacture cars then take that knowledge and run with it. That is how Hyundai and Kia in Korea reached where they are, that is how the Indian automotive industry established itself. Toyota, too, started with knockoffs of European cars. I have written this numerous times before. It is not possible to wake up one day and catch up with 130 years of German automotive engineering by going it alone.

Secondly, steer clear of vague words that could mean whatever anybody wants them to mean. What I write is engineering, we discuss firm and explicit ideas, which is why the word un-colonising just won’t do. What you are calling “negative sentiments” are the positive thinking you allege is missing from my review, in my opinion.

This is free consultation I’m providing to budding entrepreneurs ambitious enough to start a car company (and probably the government itself), the way to follow for rapid success and how to avoid the path that leads to failure.

This is how to avoid disappointment and wasted capital by making mistakes under the influence of emotion rather than logic: via consultation of those who understand the industry. A man running alone thinks he runs fastest.

Since the Mobius is not a national project, I can only say so much about it before wandering dangerously close to the edge of slander. The man can build his car any way he wants to, my biggest problem is with the brand positioning and its marketing strategy. A different approach will be appreciated.

As for you and the other nationalists who think Mobius is Kenyan, what can I say? I will not sugar-coat it, you are in for bitter disappointment.

Cruiser or the Range? It all boils down to class vs longevity

Mr Baraza,

Hi I’m Don. I know you’ve been asked this question multiple times; a Range Rover Sport or a Land Cruiser VX. With all factors constant, which would you prefer? Kindly help. Regards

Well, I’d take the Sport for its drivability and sheer appeal, and the Land Cruiser for its longevity and sheer ruggedness.

The Sport is very nice to drive. It’s quick and handles like a small car, which is a good thing. The brakes are good and confidence-inspiring, body-roll is minimal through the turns (don’t overreach yourself though, this is still a tall-SUV and will go belly up if you try to bend physics to your will) and the engine makes a lovely noise in most of its iterations.

The vehicle is also easy on the eye and oozes class if you spec it up nicely (British Racing Green, clear windows — no tint — and with a tan interior, I tells ya). Everybody likes how the Sport looks, but I have misgivings about the tiny rear lamps. They could do with a 20 per cent increase in size.

The Land Cruiser is not a driver’s car. It is massive, lurches and lumbers its way around, and is rarely at home on tarmac. It is not particularly fast, and exuberant cornering in it is a glute-clenching exercise that could lead to an ulcer problem.

The 200 Series has been known to eat its own brakes under hard use, so the first thing you do when you buy one is get an upgrade if you intend to flex the car a little more than the average user, who is a politician, does. The Land Cruiser could be called conventionally handsome, but there are some who are not enamoured of its looks. I am not one of these people. I like how it looks.

Both these cars will drive a fair bit off road until they both face defeat. The Sport will be defeated by its road-biased tyres. The Land Cruiser will be defeated by its size. The Sport is for off-roading where space is a constraint. The Land Cruiser is for literally everything else.

In what has got to be a massive coincidence, as soon as I was done typing this response, someone posted online a picture of two cars: a Land Cruiser VX — the so-called V8 — and a Range Rover Sport, parked side by side with similarly patterned registration plates. Was that you and, having gotten tired of waiting for a response, decided to just get both cars? If that was you, then perhaps now would be a good time to tell you the Sport I am referring to in this email is the current second-generation model, not the first one.

Where can I get a newly imported Tiguan?

I am a regular reader of your column on different aspects of various models of cars. We have a six-year-old Tiguan that we would like to replace with a new one but unfortunately the local dealers do not have a new imported one for sale yet we urgently wish to change the car. Could you please help me with names of other models and types of cars that are comparable to the Tiguan in terms of quality, comfort, durability, performance, and availability of good local maintenance and service? I would like to say we have generally been satisfied with this model, hence the reason we want to replace with a similar model

Kind regards,

Morris Wahome


The local dealers (DT Dobie, I presume?) do have a new Tiguan, launched last year to great reception from yours truly. If they have run out of stock, well, good for them (sales! Many sales!) but bad for you (no Tiguan!), but I don't think they have run out. Did you visit the official franchise holder or did you go to a private importer?

The direct rivals of the Tiguan are the Audi Q5 and the Porsche Macan. They are essentially the same car except for the Porsche, which is very fast and very powerful and may be slightly out of your league. Another option is the BMW X3, which, in its current iteration, is a damn good car given the review I wrote about it.

Why aren't you interested in a local Tiguan? Common sense dictates that's the car to go for, what with tropicalisation and dealer support and traceable origins via full service history. The new one is quite a looker.

Recent social media posts indicate that service and maintenance at official dealers may be a shortcut to bankruptcy, but that is a story for another day.