Nissan South Africa (Nissan SA) expects to announce the decision on the production of a new model at its Rosslyn plant in the next three months, says Nissan Group of Africa MD Mike Whitfield.
Speaking at a media function at Gerotek, in Pretoria, on Wednesday, he said the announcement was “not a question of if, but when”.
Japanese carmaker Nissan in 2013 postponed its plan, announced in 2012, to start production of a new one-ton pick-up at the Rosslyn facility in 2014.
Whitfield said the Japanese car manufacturer had invested close to R1-billion in the Rosslyn facility over the past three years, with R150-million of this targeted at skills and people development and more than R500-million at improving and modernising production facilities.
The latter investment had seen the plant, over Christmas 2017, morph from utilising two assembly lines to one, which has meant more flexibility in answering market demand.
Whitfield said the plant was now capable of producing 180 vehicles per shift, with another upgrade over the coming long weekend to move this to 200 cars per shift.
This will take yearly capacity, on a single shift, to 44 000 units a year.
“In the mid-term, we’ll use our capacity to focus on the African market,” noted Whitfield.
Nissan SA production will, in the foreseeable future, also continue to focus on the NP200 half-ton bakkie and NP300 one-ton bakkie.
Whitfield said production of the NP200 and NP300 was expected to end in 2019, but would now continue beyond 2022.
Nissan SA will become the sole production site of the NP300 in the world.
Nissan SA exports the NP300 to selected markets in sub-Saharan Africa.
Whitfield said South Africa and the rest of Africa were in need of a reliable, more affordable pickup, without too many electronic bells and whistles.
“We see a strong future for the Rosslyn plant,” he added.
Whitfield expected production at the Rosslyn plant to increase to around 46 000 units this year, which is a significant increase from last year’s 40 000 units.
Nissan SA marketing and sales MD Xavier Gobille noted that Nissan sales in South Africa reached around 53 400 units last year, capturing a 10% market share, with the latter number the best since 2000.
The ten-year historical average of Nissan sales was 42 700 units a year, at an average 8.5% market share.
Gobille said it was possible for Nissan SA (which included the Datsun brand) to grow sales to “triple digits” in South Africa.
He said Datsun would soon expand its product range through the introduction of new models, while “hundreds of millions of rand” were also to be invested in revitalising around 120 Nissan dealerships over the next two years.