A car assembly plant in Port Elizabeth. Picture: SUPPLIED
A car assembly plant in Port Elizabeth. Picture: SUPPLIED

A new R3bn investment in Tshwane’s Rosslyn motor industry hub is a major step in a 30-year plan to create a 7,157ha "auto city" to serve as the heart of the African motor industry, planners said on Wednesday.

Rosslyn, on Tshwane’s western outskirts, is already home to the SA vehicle assembly plants of BMW, Nissan, Tata and Iveco, as well as scores of components suppliers. The intention was to add new housing, schools, shopping centres, a hospital, university campus, conference centre and rail-based distribution centre for newly built vehicles to be transported to local customers and to Durban, the main vehicle export harbour.

The existing Rosslyn rail centre was so inefficient that most vehicles were moved by road. The idea is that Ford, which has an assembly plant on the other side of Pretoria, would also benefit from the new rail facilities.

Plans to create the Tshwane Auto City (TAC) were outlined at the African Smart Cities Summit in Midrand on Wednesday by the Rosslyn Hub company and the Automotive Industry Development Centre. Work on the broader TAC project will step up once the latest Rosslyn investment phase is complete, probably in 2026. TAC facilities could eventually include a vehicle test track and even a race track.

Rosslyn Hub director Brendan Falkson said Rosslyn Hub developers had obtained initial funding from Nedbank for the project, and other backers would be added later.

Investors have already spent R25bn in Rosslyn since 2010. An estimated R13bn of that was for industrial development and R12bn for housing.

In 2018 BMW SA completed a R6bn investment in its assembly plant.

Falkson said the latest investment stage could create nearly 15,000 new jobs in the next five years. Later TAC developments would add to this number.

"The potential for job creation is very exciting," he said. "About 2,500 components are required for one car and only 30% of these are sourced locally. Imagine the downstream job creation if we can increase our production numbers by 50%."

The Department of Trade and Industry wants more than that. It wants a virtual doubling of local content in South African-made vehicles in coming years.

It is in advanced discussions with the industry on the next stage of automotive policy, to run to 2035, after the current Automotive Production and Development Programme expires in 2020.

Falkson wants to attract at least one more vehicle manufacturer to Rosslyn and said high-level talks had been held.