- ELIZADE Motors Chairman, Chief ADE OJO Tells City People His Story
A few years back, City People Magazine visited Chief Ade Ojo, the Chairman of Elizade Motors his home town in Ilara-Mokin, in Ondo State. Chief is well respected and loved in Ilara-Mokin because he has helped put his town on the world map. He not only contributed to the development of this sleepy but important community in Ondo state, by tarring roads, erecting vital communal structures in the town, he has also empowered thousands of artisans like vulganizers.
That is where he built Elizade University, his private university and also his International Golf Course. So we were eager to see for ourselves how Chief transformed Ilara-Mokin. We slept overnight in the town and woke up very early to meet with this very brilliant super salesman grand old man and sales marketer of TOYOTA cars in Nigeria. He told us he could only give us 15 minutes, but by the time the interview was over, we had spent close to 2 hours.
This is the story of how Chief Ade Ojo, built the Toyota market in Nigeria from ground zero. It is the story of how Elizade Motors started business as an automobile marketing company in 1971, although the company had been registered 3 years earlier as Elizade Trading Stores, to handle general textile sales, including under wears. By 1973 it was incorporated as Elizade Nigeria Limited. It evolved to a dealer of only Toyota vehicles and spare parts in Nigeria in 1976. Over the years, it has consistently been marketing, selling and servicing Toyota vehicles in Nigeria. And today, it is clearly the No 1 Toyota dealer in Nigeria. Its superior performance in sales and service delivery as a result of our years of experience has given us a strong corporate image, which has served as a guarantee of value to our present customers.
It started operations from its Ikeja office in Lagos, Nigeria and later moved to a bigger place in Ogba, also in Lagos in 1979. By 1976 it had set up a branch in Akure, Nigeria, to cater for its increasing customers. Today, it has two more branches in Port Harcourt and Abuja, to meet up with the present day challenges. In May 1995, the company commissioned its corporate head quarters; The ELIZADE TOYOTA PLAZA, on Ikorodu road, Lagos. The Plaza is centrally positioned on a main route for easy access. It has a double showroom for vehicles’ display, reflecting their loyalty to the Toyota business and commitment to excellence.
In 1996, it went into partnership with R.T Briscoe (also a recognized Toyota dealer in Nigeria) and East Asiatic Company [EAC] Japan, to establish Toyota Nigeria Limited in Nigeria. Today, Toyota Nigeria Limited is the sole importer and distributor of Toyota vehicles in Nigeria, with a huge Turnover.
Elizade evolved from a vision, apparently made manifest through divine favours; but which Chief Ade Ojo readily accepted as a mission.
The dream that gave birth to Elizade started with the relationship between Chief Ade-Ojo and his late wife Mrs. Elizabeth Wuraola Ojo, when both met as students at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in the early 60s. Chief Ade Ojo, who was studying Business Administration as one of the pioneer students of that course then, had vowed to establish and run a business of his own within 10 years of his working life. (He fulfilled the vow within 6 years). The name, ELIZADE was coined from ‘Elizabeth’ his wife’s first name and ‘Ade” his own middle name instantly struck him as a viable company name.
Thus, in 1968, only a couple of years after he left the University, Chief Ade Ojo registered a business name, Elizade Trading Stores. It was one of the first business names in Nigeria to have evolved from an inspiration triggered by nuptial union. That inspiration has remained the main propelling force behind Elizade’s successes over the years.
Foresight, Determination and Self-discipline, which have ruled the relationship of the founding couple, have also been the major pillars supporting the company’s continual growth. Thus in quick succession, Elizade Trading Stores, which handled general textile sales (including underwear) was followed with Elizade Independent Agencies (formed in 1971) with a focus on automobile marketing.
This business expanded quickly, with Toyota as the main product. In June 1973, the company was formally incorporated as Elizade Nigeria Limited and in 1976 the company secured a Federal Government license, along with four other firms, to become a direct distributor of Toyota vehicles and spare parts in Nigeria. Notably, of the four firms so licensed in 1976, only Elizade Nigeria Limited still remains afloat till today.
Toyota Nigeria Limited the sole importer and distributor of Toyota vehicles in Nigeria, and Elizade Motors are just dealers of Toyota Motors.
Toyota Nigeria Limited, being the sole distributors of Toyota cars, have some other motors dealers like RT. Briscoe, Mandilas, Globe Metropolitan who help them with the sale of their cars because Toyota Nigeria does not sell directly from their company.
Toyota Nigeria is the best selling automobile in Nigeria and they have different brand of cars like Toyota 4runner, Toyota Avensis, Toyota Avalon, Toyota Camry, Toyota Hilander, Toyota Hilux, Toyota Hiace and many others.
Toyota is not just a popular car brand in Nigeria, it is considered by many to be a car that has been known for generations because it is a very good brand of car, the engines are sound, it does not consume fuel and it lasts. Many Nigerians say Toyota is more durable.
It is very strong and the designs are more beautiful like the others. Toyota has been in close competitions with other brands but it cannot be compared to them. Toyota has second hand value and can be fixed in any workshop.
Chief Ade Ojo spoke to City People Magazine Publisher SEYE KEHINDE inside his beautiful Ilara Mokin country house about his success story with TOYOTA. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Many of his friends call him Mr. Toyota. This is because he eats, sleeps and dreams about Toyota car. Truth be told, Chief Ade Ojo is the biggest player in the Toyota car market in Nigeria. He is also the biggest Toyota dealer in Nigeria.
Many also don’t know he is the one behind the phenomenal growth of Toyota cars on Nigerian roads.
Have you noticed that there are more Toyota cars on Nigerian roads today than any other brand of cars? It is generally believed that one out of every 5 cars you see on Nigerian roads is a Toyota. That is how visible Toyota cars are on the major roads in many cities you got to. They are either Tokunbo Toyotas or brand new ones.
The reason is the result of the efforts of Chief Ade Ojo, who built the Toyota culture in Nigeria from the scratch, with the result that today he has emerged the biggest player in the Toyota car market.
So big is this Ilara Mokin businessman that he controls the Toyota car market for years, he has controlled the franchise for brand new Toyota cars in Nigeria, via ELIZADE Motors and Toyota Nigeria Limited.
How did he achieve that feat? He told us
“I left the University in 1965. I worked briefly with CFAO. It was at CFAO that I learnt about motor sales. I was with them for one and a half years. Actually CFAO sponsored my last 2 years in the University. But for their help, I don’t know if I would have been able to finish my University education, he explained.
“I learnt about motors sales in CFAO. When I was in BP, it was Petroleum and we were doing retail sales. So, I faced my job and I was doing very well in it. And I became their best sales man in 1970, I was posted to Benin to relieve somebody. After 3 months I increased the sales volume by 25% and I came back to Lagos. When I got to Lagos, 2 months, the man I went to relieve was transferred to Lagos to be my direct boss. This actually irritated me”.
“I am my greatest critic. I always establish what I do. I had to decide to agreed to work under him or go to do something else. Of course, I chose the later. I went to meet RT Briscoe. I asked them to appoint me a freelance sales man. They agreed to appoint me. They won’t pay me salary. It is only what I sell that I get commission on.
Before that, myself and their sales man in RT Briscoe then, we used to meet on the field. I used to be at him. But I like the car that he was selling. When you start the engine it does not make any noise. It is unlike the Morris which I was selling, which makes noise.
So I went to Rt. Briscoe and offered to sell their vehicles. I came back to the office, asked for my leave. They granted it 4 weeks leave. During the 4 weeks, I went out with the greatest determination and I was able to see 40 cars. Having sold 40 cars I calculated the commission, I discovered that it was more than my 1 year salary in BP, an Oil company. I told my wife that I think I will leave paid employment of course naturally she opposed it. She was against it. She said a bird in hand is worth more than 20 in the bus. We were arguing that amongst ourselves. She was against. I didn’t tell her about the expected commission. He had to go to my cousin, Bakare. His company was called Ebun Merchandise. He is dead now. We presented our cases. He himself had done what I wanted to do and he was doing well. He said well let him go and try his luck. With him on my side I started. He helped me and my brother helped me to get a building on Awolowo way. It was then Isheri road. That was 71. That was how we started. I had only £4,000 pounds, and the amount was what I used to rent the house for 2 years. So I had nothing left. They now asked me to pay 600 pounds in other to take the agency of their motorcycle. Motorcycles was almost 100% private use. It was always for use and your family.
I didn’t have the 600 pounds. I went to the bank to borrow. They said sorry they cannot give me any loan without collateral. I said I had no collateral except my head. They said sorry we don’t accept heads as collateral. I went back to my brother and he gladly accepted to give me the 600 pounds. As God will have it, I paid the 600 pounds back to him within 3 months. When I started it was purely on commission. Then I was able to buy 1,2,3,4, like that.
We didn’t spend what I was making on something else. We only took the money for food and the education of our little children. Everything went back into the business. We were able to buy more vehicles within 2 years, I became the biggest sale agents for RT Briscoe. Not only that. I was selling more vehicles than their dearler. Their dealers were getting 10%, but I was only getting 2 an half percent as a freelance.
I told them look these people are selling less vehicles than myself, how can I remain a freelance, so they considered me for dealership. One year after I was established as their biggest dealer. That is what happened.
And in 1976, the government came and said no more sole distributorship of vehicles. So they appointed me directly as a distributor and 5 others. Me, Bao Motors, Nelsinko, Balony (for the North), and Rt Brisco. We were 5. We were doing that and then the economy crashed in the 80s. From that point, I practically took up the leadership of Toyota in Nigeria even though Rt. Briscoe divested. They made tons of money in the year 1981.
They took their money away and closed down most of their offices. They had about 14 or 16 branches. They now reduced them to only about 3. But I never gave up on Toyota. I was keeping contacts with them. So whenever I could master any money I would send it on one car, until they relaxed and began to grant licences.
And we managed and SAP came. That opened the leeway. If you can buy the currency. We also went through that phase, we bought and bought and we began to increase the number, later Toyota decided that when things were improving some other companies joined us like Westex Motors, SCOA, and so on. Later, later Globe Motors and others joined. They were not dealer. They were indent dealers.
They will just pay us and then we will order the vehicle for them and we would deliver to them. Then in 2001, EAC, which was the parent company of Rt. Briscoe decided to exit Nigeria and in South Africa. So I bought over the shares. That was how I became the biggest shareholder in Rt. Briscoe. That is it. I love the product and I have helped them to build the product. I put down policies that will allow for expansion. I was not holding it to my chest alone. There are other dealers that were appointed, like Globe Motors, KOJO Motors, formerly Ineh Mic. There are 8 other dealers apart from me. We had to sack one dealer because we warned him not to do Grey import. He did, we had to terminate his dealership.
Today, we are 8 dealers in Toyota. We are Elizade, RT. Briscoe, Germaine, Globe, Sunny Motors, Kojo and Mandilas”.