Morocco’s first fully locally made car, bearing the brand name NEO, is about to make its debut on the country’s domestic market.
The medium-sized vehicle will go up against some big-name competitors, including French-made cars from Renault, Peugeot, and Citroen, as well as Italy’s Fiat and established manufacturers from Asia.
It will be offered at a price ranging from $15,000 to $17,000, or around 170,000 dirhams in local currency.
There are not many more details about the car, with its makers keen to keep its exterior design under wraps, while also protecting their intellectual property and industrial secrets over the vehicle to prevent imitations.
Nonetheless, Ministry of Industry and Trade sources have revealed that the German company Opel will make the engine. The car has reportedly passed all required technical tests and is awaiting regulatory clearance to go on sale.
This landmark launch is a big moment and comes at an important time. Morocco's vehicle industry is transitioning to producing hybrid and fully electric cars to meet new requirements laid down by European markets, where the sale of new petrol and diesel engines will be banned from 2035.
NEO’s drive into its home market at a competitive price could be a major revenue engine for Morocco’s car industry, which is currently the second biggest supplier of low-cost vehicles to EU markets.
Neo Motors' CEO Nassim Belkhayat and #NamX's President Faouzi Annajah present a model of the first Moroccan car brand and a hydrogen-powered #vehicle prototype to King #MohammedVI during a ceremony on Monday at the Royal Palace in Rabat.#NeoMotors #hydrogenPowered #Morocco pic.twitter.com/lxH0N1MO36— Morocco World News (@MoroccoWNews) May 15, 2023
In a move that highlighted the importance both of innovation in general and the European market in particular, the Moroccan company NAMX chose the Paris Motor Show to launch a protype of a smart multi-use car called the HUV in 2022.
Big plans and big targets – one million cars by 2023
The industry is poised for three significant developments in the near future as it adapts, and aims to produce one million cars by 2023.
It is seeking to increase the proportion of Moroccan-made components to 80% from 65%. It is moving towards becoming carbon neutral via the increased use of renewable energy and green hydrogen power. And it aims to attract international investment into the sector, while attracting foreign car makers into the country.
There is work to be done to reach the target. According to the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA), Morocco is ranked among the top 20 countries that manufacture and export the most cars, up from the 27th in the world in 2017.
Top of the rankings in the Arab world with $11bn in sales in 2022
In 2022, Morocco's exports of cars amounted to over $11bn, with sales to 71 countries, primarily in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
Morocco ranks at the top of the list of Arab and African countries in car production, with about 700,000 vehicles produced last year. Sales of commercial aircraft parts neared $2bn, or 21bn dirhams, with $1.9bn generated from sales of semiconductors and electronic chips.