How Morocco's answer to Volkswagen aims to drive economic prosperity

Fully recyclable Neo jeep will enter mass production this month in Rabat

The car's the star at Gitex Africa

The car's the star at Gitex Africa
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The $20,000 Neo Motors jeep on show at Gitex Africa may not look much at first glance, but it is about to launch a new era of vehicle manufacturing in Morocco.

It is the only Moroccan car to be solely produced in the country and is set to become the pride of the nation – according to its developers.

Made from fibreglass, the vehicle is 100 per cent recyclable and is about to go into production this month ahead of a wider public sales launch later this year, after final approval from the National Agency for Road Safety in February.

This car has the potential to be the Volkswagen for Morocco
Nassim Belkhayat, NEO Motors

Inspired by the all-terrain American jeeps of the 1940s, it takes just 40 hours to build a vehicle from scratch inside the company’s concept lab in Ain Aouda, a production site near Rabat.

“This car has been seven years in the making, with thinking, designing and creating a prototype,” said Nassim Belkhayat, chief executive of NEO Motors, who had no prior experience in the automotive industry before funding Morocco’s third car brand.

“It is the first Moroccan car that will be mass produced, so it is a dream for us, and all Moroccan people.”

The compact, muscular crossover car costs about half the price of a Jeep Wrangler, and is also considerably more affordable than its competitors, such as the Suzuki Jimny.

A four-wheel drive version is in the pipeline, as well as a hybrid model that can be run on electricity.

Developers hope Neo Motors can break into the African market and offer a boost to the Moroccan economy.

Vehicle manufacturing is nothing new for Morocco, but it is the first time a home-grown developer has entered the market to mass-produce cars.

A Renault production facility in Casablanca has been operating since 1959, building about 80,000 cars a year.

Fiat and Stellantis also produce cars in the country, with national vehicle exports worth around $10 billion a year, making it Africa’s largest.

Neo’s $15 million production plant in Ain Aouda is expected to produce 27,000 a year once fully operational, and will create almost 600 jobs.

Components for the Neo are manufactured immediately to minimise costs and production times, and the car has a removable hardtop roof to take advantage of the Moroccan sunshine.

As Volkswagen became a symbol of German engineering and efficiency, it is hoped the Neo will carve out a similar path for Morocco.

“This car is reliable and secure, and has passed all the tests it has been put through,” said Mr Belkhayat.

“This car has the potential to be the Volkswagen for Morocco.”

Updated: June 02, 2023, 10:42 AM