By Reon Janse van Rensburg
According to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa), the motor industry contributes 6,8% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) – 4,3% manufacturing and 2,5% retail. In 2019 a record number of 387 125 vehicles were exported from South Africa to other countries (351 139 in 2018). A record number of 631 983 vehicles were manufactured in South Africa in 2019. These vehicles and parts made in South Africa are exported to 155 markets.
The industry’s exports in 2018 were worth more than R114 billion, with a total amount of R51 billion generated by exporting vehicle parts.
At present, 110 000 people are employed in the South African motor industry to manufacture vehicles and parts, and the industry is responsible for about 457 000 jobs in the formal sector of the South African economy. In 2018, 14,3% of South Africa’s total exports were produced by the motor industry.
In 2018, exports of light vehicles (passenger cars and light commercial vehicles) represented 60,1% of the total domestic production.
What brands are made in South Africa?
Towards the end of 2015, BMW announced an investment of R6,1 billion for the manufacture of the new generation BMW X3. This was to replace the 3 Series production, which was relocated to Mexico.
BMW South Africa in Rosslyn, Pretoria, currently manufactures the X3 and is capable of producing up to 71 000 units per annum, but this figure has been increased by almost 10% to 76 000 because of the huge demand. More than 85% of all BMW X3 vehicles manufactured at the Rosslyn plant is destined for BMW markets in the US, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Australia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Canada.
In 2019 the Ford Ranger continued being the leader in exports in the bakkie segment in South Africa, with 65 908 vehicles being delivered to international clients – 24,9% or 16 402 units ahead of its closest competitor.
Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa is on track to manufacture its 700 000th Ranger in 2020, says Ockert Berry, operations director at Ford SA.
Local sales of this bakkie already amounts to more than 225 000 units.
“Since we started building the present generation Ranger in 2011, we have exported 400 000 units across the world,” Berry says.
Locally manufactured Rangers are exported to Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and various other countries. The Rangers and Ford Everest are manufactured in Silverton, Pretoria, and are then transported by railroad to Port Elizabeth where they are shipped for export.
Mercedes-Benz has a rich history in South Africa and has been manufacturing vehicles in this country for about 72 years. It came as no surprise that the 500 000th C-Class (W205) manufactured at the factory in East London left the assembly line in March last year.
The East London factory is one of four factories world-wide where the luxurious C-Class sedan is manufactured. Celebrating the 500 000th model coincided with the 25 year commemoration of manufacturing the C-Class sedan.
Toyota announced in 2016 that the company was going to invest more than R6,1 billion to increase production of the new Hilux and Fortuner at its Prospecton plant in Durban
Toyota’s history in South Africa spans more than 55 years and the company has been manufacturing vehicles at its Prospecton plant since 1972.
In 2012 a project for the Quantum taxi kicked off and in 2015 Toyota made a further investment in the project by constructing a new factory at the Prospecton plant.
A new generation Quantum minibus was unveiled in May 2019, but Toyota said the old Quantum would be retained for use by the South African minibus taxi industry. The new generation Quantum will be imported while the old one will continue to be manufactured by Toyota in Durban.
In January, Toyota also announced that it would invest R4 billion in its parts distribution and manufacturing projects in the country, which is expected to give the local economy a boost by creating up to 1 500 jobs.
Toyota South Africa’s total plant capacity is 242 000 units per annum.
More than R2 billion of the investment will be used for manufacturing a new vehicle to replace the Corolla production line that will be phased out this year.
Toyota South Africa will not manufacture the new 12th generation Corolla that was unveiled late in 2018.
“The next generation Corolla is not going to be manufactured locally but will be imported as a fully assembled product,” according to Toyota SA.
The local Toyota plant has been manufacturing the Corolla for 45 years, since 1975.
During this period, more than one million Corollas have been manufactured and sold in South Africa alone. Approximately 45 million Corollas have been sold world-wide.
The new generation Corolla is due to be introduced in South Africa this year.
South African Motor Assemblers and Distributors (SAMAD) was established in 1946, with a production of 12 Studebakers per day. Today, Volkswagen manufactures hundreds of vehicles per day. No-one could predict that Volkswagen would be having such a huge impact on the South African vehicle market.
On 31 August 1951 the first Volkswagen Beetle was produced at the Volkswagen plant in Uitenhage. Up to the present, millions of vehicles have been manufactured here, and Volkswagen has received numerous international awards. Volkswagen without a doubt is one of South Africa’s top sellers.
When production of the Beetle was terminated in 1979, a total of about 290 000 of these famous cars had been sold. It was a best seller in South Africa in 11 of those 28 years!
It is easy to say that a Volkswagen, all the various models, in some way or another is still living in the thoughts of South Africans, and most people have fond memories of a time in a Volkswagen – including David Kramer!
By 2009, when the life cycle of the A1 Golf came to an end, more than 517 000 had rolled off the production line!
In 2019 Volkswagen achieved an important milestone when the 200 000th VW Polo left the production line. Volkswagen has been manufacturing several Polo models for almost 24 years. The current Polo has been in production since 2018.
Of the 200 000 Polos manufactured, 153 582 were exported and 46 418 were destined for the local market. Since 1994, Volkswagen has produced more than 1 053 600 vehicles for the export market.
The Polo, Polo Vivo and Polo GTI are manufactured in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape. The new Polo is exported to all right-hand markets but also supplements Polos for the left-hand market in Europe.
The first Isuzu bakkie was produced at the Kempston Road plant in Port Elizabeth in 1978.
The first bakkie’s selling price was R3 485 for the 1,6 litre petrol model and R4 295 for the 2,0 litre diesel variant.
The Isuzu was the first bakkie in South Africa fitted with rack and pinion steering and independent front suspension. In the 1990s, Isuzu also was the first to introduce double cabs to the South African market.
Isuzu formed part of the General Motors (GM) group for many years. Following GM’s withdrawal from the South African market, Isuzu South Africa was forced to negotiate to ensure the future of this popular brand in South Africa.
The current Isuzu bakkies are manufactured in Thailand, and this is why the new D-Max series for the South African market is being delayed and will possibly be introduced in South Africa only in 2021. Isuzu is carefully preparing for complete manufacturing at its Struandale factory in Port Elizabeth.
This includes an investment of R1,2 billion in the planning and tooling process, as well as rigorous testing of the product because the bakkie has to be adapted for South African conditions.
In 2009 Nissan announced that the Nissan 1400 bakkie, which had been in production for 37 years, would be replaced by the Nissan NP200.
The bakkie is manufactured at the Nissan factory in Rosslyn, Pretoria, by an alliance between Nissan, Renault and their sister business Dacia. This also was the first time Nissan introduced a bakkie with front-wheel drive to the local market. The NP300 Hardbody is also manufactured in Rosslyn.
Mike Whitfield, managing director of the Nissan Group of Africa, told journalists in 2019 that R3 billion would be invested in Nissan South Africa. This decision had been made to ensure that the Nissan Navara would also be manufactured at the Rosslyn plant in 2020, including a single cab model.
Mahindra South Africa joined the list of South African vehicle manufacturers in 2018 with the opening of a modern vehicle plant facility in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
The new plant for Mahindra vehicles is situated in the Dube Tradeport Economic Zone (TEZ) next to the King Shaka airport. The complete range of Mahindra Pik Up single and double cab bakkies will be manufactured here.
The South African motor industry is fortunate in that it is not totally dependent on local sales but can also rely on export sales, which have been growing over the last couple of years.
There has been a 115% increase in the number of vehicles exported during 2019 as compared to 2006. In 2006 a total of 179 854 vehicles were exported, as against a considerably larger number of 386 863 vehicles in 2019.
According to Naamsa, this trend will continue this year and into the foreseeable future, but one can only wonder if interference by the government and also ongoing strikes by trade unions are hamstringing the industry and preventing even stronger growth.