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Business was slow on Tuesday May 5 at Tefera Car Dealer, which is located off Cameroon Street, Bole sub-City. A 2010 Toyota Hilux D4D, a 2004 Toyota Yaris Compact, a 2015 Toyota Rav4, and a few other cars, which were mostly of Japanese-make, were on display.
A salesperson is idly playing a game—Candy Crush Saga—on his Samsung smartphone. His phone rings every few minutes and he would be forced to stop playing the game. Potential customers are the ones who usually call him during the day and that particular call was from a customer who wanted to know if there was a Toyota Vitz for sale. After answering the call, he goes back to playing the game on his phone.
Inside the office of the car dealership is a young secretary seated at her computer. She was—without a doubt—having a boring day. At least she looks like she is having one. The fact that the salesperson and the secretary are having a dreary day can be noticed from the overall ambience. In addition to that, not a single customer came that morning, according to the salesperson.
“It has never been like this,” Bereket Hailu, the salesperson, says adding that the competition these days is stiff, referring to the number of car dealerships that are now popping up all over the capital city. “Over the last couple of months, demand has been falling and the number of customers is declining.”
They sell used cars that are, by and large, imported from Dubai. And they are one of the many car dealerships in Addis Ababa who are trying to lure customers in an already saturated market.
The young salesperson says that he is confused over what the reason could be. “Sometimes buyers leave, saying that our prices are higher than what they had heard from others and the media,” he said.
Another dealership, Tsega Car Dealer, which is located off Ethio-China Street adjacent Future Talent Academy, has a different feel. There are relatively a larger number of cars and also antique cars including a six-cylinder 1970 Ford Galaxie 500 and a 1976 Mercedes-Benz W123.
Kibruyisfa Sintayehu, a salesperson at the dealership, says that though there is a decline in demand it has not been felt by all car importers and distributors.
“We have not experienced a problem, and we are doing business as usual,” he says.
According to Kibruyisfa, nowadays there are a new class of car buyers who are emerging in Addis in particular. He calls them “the young millionaires”.
“A brand-new 2015 Mercedes-Benz and a brand new 2015 Toyota Rav4 are currently selling like hot cakes among these people,” he says.
There are some who pay the full amount for the cars, which range from 1.8 million birr to 2.2 million birr depending on the mileage, and others who swap cars with extra cash as part of the deal.