Which industries still need manual labor?

On the edge: Malagasy cars made by hand

After almost 20 years of slumber, the automotive industry on the tropical island of Madagascar has awakened again: As in the past, cars are being made by hand again. The Karenjy company in Fianarantsoa in the southern highlands now plans to produce around 100 vehicles in the first two years. Assembly lines are a foreign concept for this unusual car manufacturer. Skilled car manufacturers and mechanics produce an angular, robust and all-terrain vehicle. The bodies, powered by a powerful Renault 18 engine, are mostly in screaming colors from acid green to bright red to bright blue. The Malagasy people lovingly nicknamed the car the zebu, based on the humpback cattle that live here. The pride of all Madagascans achieved worldwide fame when the Karenjy vehicle was converted into a popemobile during a visit by Pope John Paul II in 1989 and the spiritual leader of the Catholics rocked safely through Antananarivo and Fianarantsoa. In 1986, the then President Didier Ratsiraka gave the go-ahead for car production. A short time later, the company was the most important employer in the structurally weak region of Fianarantsoa, ​​around 420 kilometers south of the capital Antananarivo. The fall of Ratsiraka in 1992 soon also fell victim to the up-and-coming vehicle production. Many Madagascans are still convinced today that the former colonial power France, behind the scenes, made a decisive contribution to ensuring that the national automobile industry never flourished, out of concern for cheap competition. From 1994 to 2009, the company's doors in the Ankofafalahy district remained closed. Naivoson Augustin Razafimahafanjaka was one of the first men. Until recently he was forced to work in a textile factory in the capital; Beaming with joy, however, he returned to his hometown when the French development aid organization Le Relais Madagasikara dared to start new car production. Now everyone in Fianarantsoa is hoping for a new auto boom. "We're really happy when we see a Karenjy driving through town again," said Marie Suzette Volatina, who sews the car's seat covers. "Many tools from earlier were still on the shelves, we even found working cars in the huge factory hall, with others the engine was still next to it in its original packaging," reports Director Luc Ronssin (32). He assumes that the material that is still available will be sufficient to produce around 100 vehicles. One month of production time per carSoon the number of employees is to be increased from currently 15 to 50. "Every new job that we can create is a huge success for us," emphasizes the auto mechanic Ratsimbazafy Rafanomezantsoa. After all, the Southeast African island is one of the poorest countries in the world. The employees still need about a month to screw together the Mazana (The Robust) or the Faoka (The Transporter) all-wheel drive vehicle. These cars are particularly well suited for the often miserable, bumpy roads in Madagascar. The vehicles should also be available as convertibles. The prices are between 5,000 and 7,000 euros. "All cars are one hundred percent 'Vita Malagasy' (Made in Madagascar), easy to care for and hardly susceptible to repairs," emphasizes Luc Ronssin. The first customers of the curious automobile project are foreigners who wanted to buy a particularly original car. "But Madagascans also appreciate the unique Karenjy style." The main customer at the moment is the Catholic Church in the diocese of Fianarantsoa, ​​which can easily travel to remote regions with the Unikum. (dpa)