President Cyril Ramaphosa poses with Nissan SA management at the company’s Rosslyn plant where they announced local Nissan Navara production. Picture: SUPPLIED
President Cyril Ramaphosa poses with Nissan SA management at the company’s Rosslyn plant where they announced local Nissan Navara production. Picture: SUPPLIED

Nissan’s R3bn investment in its Rosslyn plant is a boost to the SA Automotive Masterplan (SAAM) 2035,  which aims to have the local automotive industry producing 1.4-million vehicles a year by 2035.

Trade & industry minister Rob Davies has identified an increase in local vehicle manufacturing as key to the realisation of the bold new vision espoused in the finalised SAAM and the targets it sets out.

“The automotive sector constitutes a vital part of the South African economy, generating around 7% of the country’s annual GDP and accounting for a third of its total exports, but we need to grow domestic production to account for 1% of the global output by 2020,” he said.

In an event attended last week by Davies, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Gauteng premier David Makhura, the carmaker announced that it would manufacture the next-generation Navara pick-up at its Rosslyn plant in Tshwane from 2020.

The Navara joins the popular NP200 and NP300 models, which are already being built at the Rosslyn facility and sold in the domestic market as well as some 45 African markets.

Last week’s event was attented by Nissan’s top brass including  MD Mike Whitfield, Peyman Kargar, chairman of Nissan’s AMI region, and the Japan ambassador to SA, Shigeyuki Hiroki.

The investment in manufacturing facilities prepares for future possibilities for the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance to add more light commercial nameplates to be produced locally, perhaps the Renault Alaskan or even the Mitsubishi Triton, according to Kargar.

“There are a variety of factors that involve the reasoning to build it here, chief amongst them being Nissan’s Africa expansion plans and the slashing of delivery times,” Whitfield told Motor News at the announcement.

“We looked at the business and it makes sense to build the bakkie here rather than source it from our Thailand-based operations where we build the Navara, Renault Alaskan and also supply Mercedes-Benz with the X-Class.

“The entire range of single and double cabs built in South Africa will be exported to about 45 countries on the continent,” he said.

Asking Whitfield to expand further on what constitutes local content, he said: “The majority of components will be sourced locally. It’s only driveline equipment like the engine, gearbox and differentials which will be shipped in.”

About 1,200 new jobs are expected to be created when production commences some time in 2020. Picture: SUPPLIED
About 1,200 new jobs are expected to be created when production commences some time in 2020. Picture: SUPPLIED

The intent of the plant for the longer term also plays into Nissan’s plans to double its capacity and market share on the continent.

Commenting on the announcement Michael Mabasa, director at the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA, congratulated Nissan SA on an “excellent opportunity that is consistent with what the automotive industry committed to last year at the investment conference.”

Nissan also used the opportunity to comment on its ongoing transformation achievements.

“In order to align with government’s requirements on BBBEE, we have been working closely with the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency in skills development programmes through the building of the second Automotive Incubation Centre at Nissan’s Rosslyn premises,” said Nabiel Conybeare, human resources director at Nissan SA.

“The AIDC [Automotive Industry Development Centre] manages our Automotive Supplier Park, which now includes 15 black-owned suppliers who we have been developing. The programme will run for seven years as we train and shape these suppliers to become self-sufficient stand-alone units. When the time comes for them to go out there and position themselves to service not only Nissan but other OEMs [original equipment manufacturers], we will then roll over with training a new batch of wholly-owned black suppliers,” said Conybeare. 

Whitfield also said of this particular aspect that: “Our aim is 38% local content when we begin production. We will then ramp up to 48% with the ideal target being 60% locally sourced parts; however it’s currently difficult to achieve that percentage. We don’t have the numbers stipulated for a black supplier base as yet.”

Ramaphosa said he was happy with the prospective new jobs that will be created and that his government wants to make SA an investment friendly country. His parting short was to ensure Nissan that electricity supply will be available so that work continues.