Engineer Ezekiel Izuogu is of Nigerian nationality and inventor of the Z-600 prototype which is the first Nigerian home-made car with a Nigerian technology. The invention was released to the general public in 1997.
The Z-600 prototype was equipped with a 1.8 Liter 4-cylinder engine that consumed 18 mpg (7.6 liters/km) and reached a speed of 140 km/h (86 mph). Front Wheel Drive (FWD) was chosen over Rear Wheel Drive (RWD) because a transmission tunnel would be more expensive to fabricate. The design of the car was very functional. The prototype resembled a Renault 4 with its upright stance and a front end that resembled the Peugeot 504.
What really made this car unique is that 90% of the components were made locally. The car was going to sell for $2,000, which would have made it the cheapest car in the world. Mass production was planned under Izuogu Motors located in Naze, Imo state. However, there have been several hurdles, mainly financial and political, that have prevented the car from going past the prototype stage.
In 2005 Ezekiel Izuogu was invited to South Africa to give a speech on science and technology. The South African government showed keen interest in the prototype and wanted its inventor to build it in South Africa.
In March 11, 2006 robbers raided the factory of Izuogu Motors, taking with them the molds of the engine blocks and crankshaft, mudguards and other components. These components were absolutely unique and home-made. This was a big setback for the project.
What are the internal or external interests that wanted to prevent the mass production of this car in Nigeria or elsewhere in Africa? It appears that some market forces could have found this invention a danger to their own interests! Indeed, let us imagine a car worth $2,000 and sold across Africa!
This proves that without any commitment from governments, it will always be difficult for African Inventors to ease the pain of the African people. This robbery is the proof that such strategic inventions should be regarded by sensible African governments as assets of National Interest to be put under the protection of the army or the police. With this loss, an invaluable property right has been lost to the detriment of Nigeria and Africa as a whole. But Africa is full of talents and other inventors will certainly surface and accomplish this dream of an African-made car.