Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

A new budget car brand is to make its South African debut at the Automechanika trade show at the Nasrec’s Expo Centre on Wednesday.

Known as Mureza Auto Company, the Isando-based company will use the expo to unveil its first model, a hatchback called the Prim8. Powered by a 1.5l petrol engine, the car will have a target price of between R180,000 and R200,000 and will be offered with a three-year warranty.

Mureza Auto Company also plans a half-ton pick-up, a sedan and high-riding mini-SUV off the Prim8's X100 platform. The next step will be the local development of a range of one-ton pick-ups and a panel van under the Tusker model name.

The car will initially be assembled from semi knock-down kits in Rosslyn, outside Pretoria, and later at the Willowvale assembly plant in Zimbabwe and in the former Hyundai plant in Botswana.

Despite its keen pricing, the range-topping version of the Prim8 crossover is to have a comprehensive specification list that includes cruise control, parking sensors, navigation, a reversing camera, four airbags, electronic stability control, ABS brakes and tyre pressure monitoring, among other features.

The car will initially be assembled from semi knock-down kits in Rosslyn, outside Pretoria, and later at the Willowvale assembly plant in Zimbabwe and in the former Hyundai plant in Botswana.

Mureza Auto Company is funded by backers in the UAE and has a joint venture with the Iran-based SAIPA Group for platform-sharing and the supply of components.

The company plans  to eventually design and manufacture vehicles locally. The initial local content target is 40% with significant increases in the short to medium term, according to Mureza CEO Tatenda Mungofa from Zimbabwe, part of a group of Africans from various countries who are driving the project.

Mungofa explains that there is a void between the new vehicles and used vehicles currently sold in African countries and says this is the gap his team proposes to fill with new models priced not much above the cost of a used import, which are heavily taxed in certain markets.

He says Mureza models will be sold through used-vehicle outlets supported by online selling, instead of setting up new-car franchised dealerships.

"We will also engage with the people selling used imports to retail our new models and will assist them in setting up service facilities where this is viable, or else we will appoint independent servicing outlets in the various SADC countries that we are targeting as a first step for our new company," said Mungofa.

SAIPA is an automaker headquartered in Tehran and its products in recent years were mostly Korean cars built under licence. It assembles cars for European, Chinese, and Japanese companies as well as developing a growing domestic design and manufacturing ability.

"South Africa is seen as the hub of the automotive business in Africa and it is for this reason that we are using this country as our headquarters and first assembly plant," said Mungofa.

 "We are looking at cooperating with smaller component suppliers who are not yet able to handle big production runs and our business will help them grow their businesses. We are also looking for local entrepreneurs to get involved with the various facets of our business to give it a true African flavour."

He is looking to create up to 1,000 jobs at the Rosslyn plant with production to grow from 10 to 35 cars a day. 

"Mureza means ‘flag’ and we want to be the flag wavers for an indigenous African motor industry. We want to be like Henry Ford who replaced horses with affordable cars. In our case it will be replacing imported used cars with affordable cars made in Africa," said Mungofa.

Thulisa Sosibo, co-founder of the company, says the Prime8 will go on sale here in the first week of December. She would not disclose the investment value of the new venture.