Case Study: Ela Motors, driving Papua New Guinea’s growth


Toyota Tsusho subsidiary Ela Motors has a long and distinguished history in PNG. Its current programme of new investment illustrates how standards are rising fast in PNG’s services sector.

Credit: Ela Motors

Ela Motors’ state-of-the-art service centre in Port Moresby’s Waigani district. Credit: Ela Motors

While many automotive businesses around the world suffered during the global downturn, automotive sales and service company Ela Motors grew significantly in PNG and dominated the new vehicle sales market, achieving a 58% market share in 2009.

Ela Motors has been established in PNG for nearly 50 years and has been a subsidiary of ToyotaTsusho’s South Pacific operations since 2000. Prior to that the company formed part of the Burns Phillips Trading Group. The organisation supplies Toyota, Massey Ferguson, Daihatsu, Yamaha and Hino brands to the local market and owns the largest slice of the Avis car hire franchise in PNG. In PNG’s tough environment, a strong, durable and reliable vehicle is not just desirable but essential—a major reason for the large number of 4WDs/SUVs sold there.

‘Our challenge this year has been keeping up with supply.’

The company’s rapid growth looks set to continue as the major resources projects planned for PNG result in a dizzying pace of change in the local economy. ‘The LNG project will force a positive change in the infrastructure of this country. It is an indicator of the benefits to come,’ says David Purcell, Chief Executive Officer of Ela Motors. ‘Our challenge this year has been keeping up with supply. In our business we’re looking at growth in the volume of new vehicles sold and predict a potential 30% to 60% business increase over the next year.’

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At the end of 2009, the company opened a new state-of-the-art vehicle servicing facility in Port Moresby’s Waigani district and Purcell is in no doubt that the bar has been raised for service-based companies in PNG as a result of the increased internationalisation of the economy: ‘We have to strive and deliver on international standards—a lot of our customers are international companies,’ he told Business Advantage.

The company will also take on new staff in 2010, taking its head count beyond 1,000 and making it one of PNG’s largest private sector employers.

While acknowledging certain operational challenges, such as the logistics of moving vehicles and parts around such a dispersed country, Purcell is bullish about the company’s future prospects. ‘We’re expanding our businesses, we’re acquiring more land, we’re opening more branches, we’re employing more people and we are continuing to promote the brands that we import, distribute and retail … We are on the cusp of great things and so is the country,’ he enthuses.

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