New auto plant for Bay

2012-12-10 00:00

RICHARDS Bay has been chosen as the site for a new vehicle assembly plant that will supply minibuses for the taxi industry.

This follows a deal involving Silver Vanity Group Holdings, China-based Jiangsu Joylong Automobile, and African Vehicle Manufacturers. Silver Vanity Group Holdings is the trading arm of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc).

Gilbert Mosena, secretary- general of Nafcoc and executive member of the Black Business Council, said they hoped to start assembling the minibuses in Richards Bay in February next year.

Nafcoc representatives — including president Lawrence Mavundla (a son of Richards Bay) — visited the city last week to look for a site and held meetings with several parties. These included local chiefs, the Shembe Church (which owns land in the area), and the Industrial Development Zone.

“We are pursuing several options, we are still talking,” said Mosena.

He said the operation would be established in two phases. “The first stage will be the assembly of the vehicles,” he said. Car components would arrive by container from China, and the vehicles would be assembled in Richards Bay.

But the company hopes to move, within five years, to a fully fledged manufacturing plant, where vehicles are not only assembled, but the car parts are produced in South Africa. “It will be the first plant of its type in Africa,” said Mosena.

He said the components of 260 of the vehicles were already on order and due to arrive in the country soon.

“Our target will be to assemble 200 vehicles per month.

“That would be the process that we run while working on the logistics of starting a production line,” he said. The business is plugging into the government’s Taxi Recapitalisation Programme, which requires 51 000 ageing and unsafe vehicles to be replaced.

The company hopes, eventually, to export made-in-Richards Bay vehicles throughout Africa.

“We are looking at exporting to neighbouring countries and those further up in Africa. Only Nigeria is out for now, because they already have a distributor there. But when that agreement ends, we may even be able to get in there,” said Mosena.

Nor is the company limiting its scope to the transport industry, they see the opportunity to provide vehicles to other sectors, too.

Mosena could not say what the model would be called. He said important safety features had been built into the vehicles.

The company hopes to offer a 100 000 km warranty — better than that on offer by rival minibus manufacturers.

Nafcoc chief Boetie Letsela said four vehicles were already in the country, one of which will be sent to the South African Bureau of Standards for testing.

“We are starting by sourcing vehicles from them (Jiangsu Joylong), with the aim of qualifying, and we believe we’ll meet the qualifying criteria.”

Yu Hongquan, President of Jiangsu Joylong Automobile Company, formed in 2007 and specialising in the manufacture of minibuses, said the partnership had come into being because “South Africa is one of the BRICS countries” and the company realised that the country has great potential.

Mavundla said they hoped to raise funding from institutions such as the IDC.

Mosena said they aimed to create about 350 jobs at the plant during the first phase.

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