Expensive rides! Matatu owners splashing up to Sh4 million to pimp their 'Nganyas'

There are matatus and then there are matatus.

These city mathrees are flashy and exude an air of ‘coolness.’ The amount of work that goes into their decor could be said to be over the top and they cost a pretty penny to soup up. 

Competition for passengers, mostly the ‘mahewa generation’ has seen owners splashing millions to keep ahead of the cut-throat game.

Take ‘Catalyst’ for instance, which plies the city centre - Rongai route. Pimping this ‘diaspora’ mathree cost a whopping Sh4 million. It has more than 37 screens

— including some on the floor! Catalyst is also the first nganya (pimped matatu) to sport AME rims meant for Mercedes Benz, besides flaunting imitation of Prado rims for rear wheels.

Ricky Choda, a director at Choda Fabricators where Catalyst was pimped, reveals that, “It is one of the most expensive mathrees we have ever made. The amount went to quality music system, tablet screens mounted behind all seats, floor decor, expensive rims, cosy seats, lighting and body design, among others”.

At Choda, a mathree chassis goes for Sh3.6 million, while Sh1.6 million is spent on the construction of a medium-sized minibus body with 29 to 33 seats.

“The chassis for bigger buses cost Sh9 million, while the body will cost Sh4 million. These amounts are exclusive of other features,” says Choda. He adds that, “Once the chassis is bought, the next process is framing, followed by panelling, welding, filling and water testing to establish if there is any leakage.”

The owner  would then choose his preferred gravity, sound system quality, lighting and other features.

‘Grizzly,’ another mathree plying the same route, cost Sh3.5 million for its sexy look, according to Kevin Mbugua, one of the crew.

‘Sweet Heaven,’ plying the city centre and Kenyatta University route got its sexy look after a Sh3 million expenditure.

Other costly mathrees include ‘Eastern Bypass Beast’ that has an aquarium on the floor. To recover the millions used to pimp these vehicles, their owners have to charge extra, says Sammy Nas, who manages ‘Pink Eye’ that plies the city centre - Ngong town route.

Pink Eye charges an extra Sh50 for VIP seats and another Sh50 to play X-Box games enroute. “Most of the customers don’t complain because they understand the quality of services offered, others even book VIP and special seats in advance,” he explains.

Ann Kagiri, a marketer at Heritage Insurance says the cost of pimping mathrees has no effect on insurance.

“Our concern is on the asset and safety of crew and passengers. The cost and how the vehicle is decorated does not matter,” she said.

She added that in case of an accident, the company offers 10,000 kilometres mileage as warranty in addition to repairing the vehicle for free.