JOHANNESBURG – Soon many more motorists around the world will be driving Nissan vehicles produced in South Africa. The SA arm of Nissan will spend R3 billion ($213 million) equipping its local plant to build the Japanese carmaker’s new Navara model, the unit’s boss said on Wednesday.
Capacity at Nissan’s plant in Rosslyn, near Pretoria, will increase by 30,000 units in the first phase, Mike Whitfield, managing director at Nissan South Africa said, while the plant’s permanent headcount will increase by 400.
“Today, we’re able to announce that the Nissan South Africa Rosslyn facility will build the entire model range Nissan Navara for both local and export (markets),” Whitfield said at an event to announce the investment.
While production operations elsewhere will also build the new Navara, a pick-up, Nissan South Africa will supply the local and continental market.
Whitfield said his unit had to beat other global Nissan production operations to win the right to produce the Navara – a victory for his unit and also South African President Cyril Ramaphosa ahead of elections in May.
Ramaphosa, who officiated at the event on Wednesday, is trying to secure $100 billion in investment into South Africa within five years.
He said: “It’s a matter of great pride for us that many more motorists around the world will be driving vehicles that bear the industry and craftsmanship of South African workers.”
While Ramaphosa has had some success in his investment drive, he is contending with a sluggish economy and a legacy of corruption and mismanagement, knocking confidence in Africa’s most industrialised economy.
Ramaphosa said Nissan’s investment marked a “milestone” in his drive, and was a vote of confidence in South Africa. He said many may have dismissed it as a “pipedream that would never happen”. However, the country is “proving them wrong” in the drive to raise the funds.
In common with many global carmakers, Nissan doesn’t currently have any significant production operations in sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa, which it entered in 1963 and is the only substantial market for new cars in the region.
However Nissan, and many rivals, are hoping that will change. A number have recently opened or committed to open plants elsewhere, including in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya.
(Reporting by Emma Rumney; Writing by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Keith Weir and Mark Potter)