Nis­san op­ti­mistic about ve­hi­cle pro­duc­tion in SA

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS NEWS - Roy Cokayne

NIS­SAN South Africa was op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture of au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing in South Africa and has a strategy to be­come a lead­ing light com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle and pas­sen­ger brand on the African con­ti­nent.

Nis­san SA man­u­fac­tur­ing di­rec­tor, Joan Bus­quets, ex­pressed this view yes­ter­day dur­ing a panel dis­cus­sion at the Man­u­fac­tur­ing Ind­aba in Ekurhu­leni, de­spite the long de­lay in ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Nis­san SA and par­ent com­pany Nis­san Mo­tor Com­pany of Ja­pan about the pro­duc­tion of a new one-ton pick-up at its man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in Ross­lyn, Pre­to­ria.

Bus­quets said de­spite low eco­nomic growth and its im­pact on the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor, it was im­por­tant to re­main cut­ting-edge and glob­ally com­pet­i­tive.

“We are in­vest­ing in new plant in­fra­struc­ture and in­no­va­tive Nis­san tech­nolo­gies at our Ross­lyn plant to make sure our ve­hi­cles al­ways meet global stan­dards in terms of qual­ity and cost,” he said.

Bus­quets said the key to suc­cess was ad­her­ence to global op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures, which at Nis­san SA in­volved a blue­print for man­u­fac­tur­ing meth­ods across the global fam­ily of Nis­san and Re­nault plants.

Nis­san SA was in­vest­ing sig­nif­i­cantly in skills train­ing and de­vel­op­ment to as­sist in­dus­try ini­tia­tives aimed at ad­dress­ing the short­age of skilled en­gi­neers and op­er­a­tors. Bus­quets said grow­ing the lo­cal sup­ply chain, which would im­prove the level of lo­cal­i­sa­tion on ve­hi­cles, was an­other en­abler for global com­pet­i­tive­ness.

“Nis­san SA is in­tro­duc­ing on-site sup­pli­ers, which will also have the added ben­e­fits of re­duc­ing lo­gis­tics time and cost. Also in the pipe­line, with the aim of achiev­ing the same re­sults, is a Nis­san In­cu­ba­tion Cen­tre to as­sist small black­owned busi­nesses to get a foot in the door of the car sup­ply chain,” he said.

Nis­san Mo­tor Com­pany in 2012 an­nounced a R1 bil­lion in­vest­ment in South Africa.

Bus­quets said all th­ese mea­sures were in sup­port of gov­ern­ment’s Au­to­mo­tive Pro­duc­tion and De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme (APDP), which aims to pro­duce 900 000 ve­hi­cles a year by 2020.

“While this goal may not seem achiev­able for car man­u­fac­tur­ers in the cur­rent eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment, we mustn’t lose sight of the long term,” he said.

Nis­san Mo­tor Com­pany in 2012 an­nounced a R1 bil­lion in­vest­ment in South Africa to dou­ble the an­nual pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity of the Ross­lyn plant to 100 000 units and for the pro­duc­tion of a new one-ton pick-up for the do­mes­tic and ex­port mar­kets.

Mike Whit­field, the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Nis­san SA, said in Au­gust last year that the ne­go­ti­a­tions with its par­ent com­pany were “on track” and he hoped to make an an­nounce­ment about the out­come in Oc­to­ber.

How­ever, an an­nounce­ment about new mod­els to be produced at the plant have not yet been made.

En­gi­neer­ing News re­ported that Whit­field said Nis­san SA’s par­ent re­mained com­mit­ted to South Africa, the Ross­lyn plant “has never been in bet­ter shape” in terms of qual­ity and ef­fi­ciency and “we aren’t go­ing any­where”.

His com­ments fol­lowed Gen­eral Mo­tors’ (GM) an­nounce­ment last month that it had de­cided to dis­in­vest from South Africa and stop the man­u­fac­tur­ing and sale of Chevro­let in the do­mes­tic mar­ket.

In terms of GM’s dis­in­vest­ment plan, Ja­pan-based Isuzu Mo­tors, through the newly es­tab­lished com­pany Isuzu Mo­tors South Africa, plans to ac­quire GM’s light com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions in Struan­dale in Port Elizabeth and con­tinue man­u­fac­tur­ing the Isuzu KB and medium com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles and heavy duty trucks in Port Elizabeth.

GMSA and Nis­san SA were in 2015 both granted tem­po­rary ex­emp­tions from the min­i­mum an­nual pro­duc­tion thresh­old of 50 000 units in the APDP, which qual­i­fies lo­cally based mo­tor man­u­fac­tur­ers for in­cen­tives and ben­e­fits in terms of the pro­gramme.

PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Nis­san ex­pressed op­ti­mism about the fu­ture of the au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try in South Africa dur­ing a panel dis­cus­sion at the man­u­fac­tur­ing ind­aba in Ekurhu­leni.

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