It’s official! Nissan South Africa will start producing the Nissan Navara at its Rosslyn plant in November 2020 and export it to both left- and right-hand drive markets in Africa. The announcement follows several years of speculation after Nissan first announced that it was competing for the Navara contract after it had made a significant investment in partnership with the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC) to develop a training facility for the skills needed for future production models. Nissan made the official announcement on 10 April, when Group managing director, Mike Whitfield, was joined by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the plant to announce an investment of R3 billion in equipment and training.
Of this, Nissan will invest R2.14 billion and its partners and suppliers will add an additional R860 million in new capital investments. Nissan believes that the investment will generate in excess of R5.8 billion in new economic activity a year, once the plant is fully operational and it moves to two shifts. With two production shifts, Nissan is expected to create 400 new permanent jobs, with another 800 to be added by component manufacturers. “We will add another 30 000 units a year to our current production (of 35 000 units) as a first step,” said Whitfield at the opening. He also pledged to increase the Navara’s local content from 38% at the start of production to 48% in the short term.
For Whitfield, the official announcement sees the end of several years of negotiations, where Nissan South Africa competed for the contract against other production facilities from across the world. During this period, Nissan invested heavily in training and development to raise its plant productivity and quality levels, which also benefited the current production of the Nissan NP300 Hardbody and NP200 pick-ups. It also increased its reach into Africa, with a new structure and senior representation in East, Central and West Africa.
Nissan’s announcement coincides perfectly with the recent announcement by the Department of Trade and Industry to introduce a revised Automotive Production and Development Programme for the period 2020 to 2035. While the underlying goals and incentive structures are different from those of the current APDP, it does provide a stable, long-term planning window or companies such as Nissan and others to invest.
One of the changes in the new APDP is a sharper focus on enterprise development in the component supply base. In recognition of this goal, Nissan said that it would increase the number of black-owned suppliers that it has incubated in partnership with the AIDC from 8 to 15, and that it will work to further increase its business with its 318 current BBBEE suppliers, which represent 34% of its supplier base. “Now we have the new SA Automotive Master Plan (the new APDP) which will shape the industry to 2035. This is the background that allowed Nissan South Africa to assertively campaign for the right to build the next-generation Nissan Navara at our Rosslyn plant,” said Whitfield.
In response, President Ramaphosa said: “Automotive is already the largest part of South Africa’s manufacturing sector, contributing around 7.0% of GDP annually and accounting for a third of manufacturing output. I am delighted that Nissan will produce the Navara here and congratulate the employees for their efforts in securing this important model.”
The locally built Nissan Navara will be a facelift of the model currently sold in South Africa and will see, for the first time, a range of single- and cab-and-a-half models. Nissan also said that it will produce the new pick-up in both left- and right-hand drive variants, which will allow it to export to over 45 countries in Africa. According to Peyman Kargar, the chairman of Nissan’s Africa, Middle East and India division, the decision to build the upgraded Nissan Navara in South Africa is foundational to its plans to expand its market share in the region. “Africa is an essential part of Nissan’s M.O.V.E. to 2022 midterm plan in which we aim to double our presence across the Africa, Middle East and India (AMI) region. We already have a strong industrial footprint in Africa, including plants in Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and a planned facility in Algeria.
Their announcement highlights the continuing evolution of Africa as one of the most important global markets. In South Africa, this is supported by the government’s creation of a stable environment for long-term investment,” said Kargar.
The R3 billion investment in the expansion and modernisation of Nissan’s Rosslyn plant is the biggest and most comprehensive since the company was established in South Africa in 1963.