South African Auto Industry Takes Off

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

When I think of the South African car industry, I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I first think of the Citi Golf, the ageless Mk.1 VW Golf that was built there from ’84 to 2009 (or possibly armored cars). Of course that’s a grossly inaccurate representation, and the Financial Times recently clued me into South Africa’s booming auto sector growth . Led by screaming exports of Ford’s Global Ranger pickup and the Mercedes C-Class, South Africa will very nearly have doubled its production numbers between 2009 and 2012. And with the government introducing yet another Motor Industry Development Programme in 2013, the plan is to build South African production capacity to 1.2m vehicles per year by 2020. And though South Africa is not immune to the currency, labor and supply chain problems that plague nearly every production location, Mercedes has already promised to double C-Class production to 95,000 units by 2014. Sounds like a vote of confidence, and another reason to keep a closer eye on South Africa.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Kita Ikki Kita Ikki on Jul 16, 2011

    If you count non-volume automakers, South Africa is also home to Superformance, maker of very nice "roller" cars (GT40, "Cobra" replica, and the new Daytona coupe)

  • Bryce Bryce on Jul 17, 2011

    South Africa is also a good source of Aussie muscle cars rebadged as local models

  • Beemernator Beemernator on Jul 17, 2011

    There are lots of other reasons to keep a close eye on South Africa. It is slowly sliding into anarchy. Graft and corruption are becoming endemic. The ANC government refuses to investigate a vast arms purchase scandal, even after revelations from British Aerospace and Saab (the aircraft company, not the defunct car maker) that bribes were indeed paid. Infrastructure is crumbling. About half of the population is unemployed. The 'crime problem' causes more deaths than the war on freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan. Labour problems have a very different dimension in Africa. The current strike in the metal and engineering sector has seen widespread vandalism and destruction of property. A self-employed delivery driver was killed by an angry mob. This from a work force that is not exactly famous for its productivity. I find the optimism from Mercedes to be quite beyond belief. South Africa is becoming less investor-friendly every year. A piece of pending legislation will limit the amount of property that foreigners are allowed to own. The call for nationalisation of banks, mines and farms is growing more and more vocal. Industry is probably next on that particular hit list. Employers have to negotiate a forest of red tape, including racially based employment and shareholder quotas. I can go on and on about the perils of South Africa, but then I would just get branded as a politically incorrect demagogue. From watching CNN, I know that very little of the real news about South Africa ever reaches America. Yes, it held a marvellous soccer tournament last year. But did you know that most of the impressive stadia built are now falling into disrepair because there are no funds to maintain them?

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    • Eldard Eldard on Jul 17, 2011

      Why they added S to BRIC is beyond me.

  • Ihatetrees Ihatetrees on Jul 17, 2011

    South Africa does have horrible problems. But it's one of the two or three best managed countries on the continent (yes, that's very faint praise). The point is, Africa needs cars from somewhere. I suspect SA has favorable trade and tariff arrangements with its African trading partners that are helping their car boom.