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New management for Nissan SA, company seeks replacement for soon-to-be-halted NP200 production

Nissan South Africa country director Maciej Klenkiewicz

Nissan South Africa country director Maciej Klenkiewicz

20th October 2023

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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As Independent Markets Africa and new Nissan South Africa country director Maciej Klenkiewicz takes the reins, he is navigating a right-sizing, expansions into Africa, disrupted strategic plans amid the Ukraine-Russia war and production enhancements.

Nissan South Africa country director since 2020, Kabelo Rabotho, who was taking a sabbatical at the end of October following a three-month transitional handover, introduced Klenkiewicz during a media briefing earlier this week, where the company’s ambitions were outlined.

According to Klenkiewicz, who had been working with Rabotho over the past two months, as Nissan South Africa prepared to wrap up production in March on the NP200 at the plant in Rosslyn, Pretoria, the company was reviewing further opportunities after the Ukraine-Russia war disrupted plans to bring in the half-ton bakkie’s successor.

The immediate replacement for the NP200, the lifecycle of which had already been extended by 18 months, was scrapped after the geopolitical situation in Russia meant this model was no longer viable.

“We had a very strong plan to bring a new successor in 2025. The geopolitical situation in Russia completely changed [our] plans,” Klenkiewicz, former regional business unit Central Eastern Europe and Independent Markets Africa MD, told media.

Engineering News previously reported that the new successor was planned to be built on a shared platform in Russia.

This has led to a downsizing of the company, which is currently under way, with up to 400 employees companywide – of Nissan South Africa’s 1 600-strong workforce – expected to be impacted through the Section 189.

Nissan South Africa entered into a formal consultation phase to restructure the business by the end of March.

However, the company is seeking out replacement opportunities and is reviewing Nissan’s entire global portfolio to find a model that would be the best fit for South Africa and its plant in Rosslyn, as well as support demand and needs across Africa, with exports soon to surpass domestic absorption.

The company has not yet decided on a fixed model, but the requirement is that it will provide the company greater opportunity for export and allow it to produce more.

“Normally, the development of new products for the plant takes several years, but we are taking this very seriously and we are trying to advance that as much as we can,” Klenkiewicz said, noting that securing a second model for production in South Africa was a priority.

“I believe we will find the solution. We are open to all opportunities. We have the opportunity to investigate a wider opportunity.”

In the interim, the company is embarking on further investments into its local Navara production, betting big on the popular vehicle with enhancements, as it aims to unlock the potential of the African market to drive the company's mid-term plan.

The Navara one-ton pickup, deemed a “superstar” for the South African market, as well as the wider African region, is also assembled at the Rosslyn plant.

“We are looking at the Navara range and how we can expand within that range to be able to cater to those markets and gain the share,” said Klenkiewicz.

This followed a renewed distributor agreement in October with Nissan's long-standing Algerian partner Groupe Hasnaoui.

“We have ambitious plans for the Algerian market and specifically with the locally built Nissan Navara,” Klenkiewicz had said earlier in October when the announcement was made.

“We are growing right now. In Africa, our expansion is focused on the North African countries, including Morocco. We are re-establishing the business in Algeria. We just appointed a distributor for Libya,” he concluded.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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