Nissan South Africa (SA) would start production of a new one-ton pick-up range, set to replace the Hardbody, in the latter part of 2014, said Nissan SA MD Mike Whitfield on Wednesday.
He said the Japanese parent company had officially signed off on the Rosslyn plant as a production hub for the new pick-up, in a project valued at more than R1-billion.
“We need to grow the plant to the 100 000-unit-a-year level now,” said Whitfield. “We have already started doing this.”
The plant last year produced 54 000 vehicles - including the current NP200 half-ton bakkie, the Hardbody one-ton pick-up and Sandero models - up from 25 000 units in 2008.
Production volumes of the new one-ton pick-up would include exports, especially into Africa, but also other markets. Whitfield, however, did not want to provide details on either volume or markets.
Nissan SA last year exported 14 000 left-hand-drive and right-hand-drive vehicles, largely into Africa.
Local content on the new pick-up, excluding the power train, would be increased from 50% on the current Hardbody, to 70%, added Whitfield.
This move would mean the introduction of new component suppliers to South Africa, he added, something with which the company was “actively busy”.
The drive to double production at Nissan SA’s production plant would also see the manufacturer partner with the Gauteng government in investing R200-million in a training centre to secure the appropriate skills for the plant.
Whitfield said the plant’s expansion would add 800 jobs to the company’s payroll, with another 4 000 new jobs expected down the supply chain.
Apart from the production of the new pick-up platform, Nissan SA would continue assembling the NP 200 half-ton bakkie, as well as the vehicle sharing this pick-up’s platform, namely the Renault Sandero.
Whitfield said Nissan SA would also be looking at producing two new, additional models at the plant, but using the half-ton and one-ton pick-up platforms to be employed in 2014.
Visiting Nissan SA’s operations from Japan, Nissan COO Toshiyuki Shiga said on Wednesday that the capacity expansion at the local plant was vital to the Japanese manufacturer’s “ambitious growth plan”.
Nissan sold 4.8-million vehicles in the 2011 financial year, and wanted to expand this to 5.35-million vehicles this year, and then continuously upwards. The company was aiming for 8% market share by 2016, up from 6.4% in the 2011 financial year. A large chunk of this growth was expected to flow from developing markets, such as Africa.
Shiga praised the South African government’s commitment to growing the local automotive industry through strategies such as the Motor Industry Development Programme and the Automotive Production and Development Programme.
He described South Africa as a “really good base” for “quality” pick-up production and exports, especially into Africa.
He said Nissan was currently building pick-ups at four locations, namely Spain, Mexico, Thailand and South Africa, with Mexico and Thailand “at capacity”.
“This is a good place to make more pick-ups.”
Whitfield added that he expected South Africa to build more than 400 000 one-ton bakkies a year “in three, four years”.
In a move somewhat mirroring Thailand’s success as a one-ton production hub, he noted that Ford, Isuzu, Nissan and Toyota would all be bakkie assemblers and exporters in a few years’ time.