OPINION | Why South Africa’s auto manufacturing industry has to adapt fast… or die

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Toyota Corolla Cross
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 • The broader automotive industry is in the midst of fundamental change that will have far-reaching implications. 
 • The auto industry is the largest manufacturing sector in South Africa.
 • Demand for combustion engines in Europe will soon plummet as automakers drive the transition to electric mobility.
 • For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24


Here's some food for thought: the automotive industry is the largest manufacturing sector in South Africa's economy. Yes, the country's economic livelihood relies to a great extent on the local production of vehicles and automotive components, as well as the export of such products. It's big business, after all.  

The thing is, the broader automotive industry is in the midst of fundamental change that will have far-reaching implications. In short, ever-tightening emissions regulations in leading markets across Europe have effectively sounded the death knell for the humble combustion engine on that continent. It's electric or bust over there, it seems. 

Why should this concern those of us positioned down here at the southern tip of Africa? Well, in 2020, as many as 197 355 of the 271 288 light vehicles exported from South Africa ended up in Europe, according to Naamsa. That's a whopping 72.8% of our total vehicle exports. In effect, three out of every four vehicles shipped from our shores are destined for Europe.   

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