Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) last year again produced a record number of vehicles.
MBSA’s East London plant built 106 500 vehicles (passenger cars and commercial vehicles) in 2015, growing this to a new record of 118 700 vehicles in 2016.
In 2017, MBSA repeated this performance, producing a record number of vehicles, at 121 000 vehicles – 117 071 C-Class passenger cars and 4 200 commercial vehicles, says MBSA human resources and corporate affairs executive director Abey Kgotle.
More than 90% of C-Class production were exported to around 60 countries worldwide.
This number also means that MBSA was responsible for almost one-third of all new-vehicle exports from South Africa in 2017.
MBSA took the crown from Toyota South Africa Motors as South Africa’s top vehicle exporter in 2015, remaining on top over the last three years.
Kgotle says MBSA regards government’s Automotive Production and Development Programme as “one of the most innovative and successful programmes to retain a domestic vehicle and component manufacturing industry.
“The policy has also deepened an increase in the component supply chain in South Africa and helped increase the total number of vehicles produced.”
Kgotle says MBSA believes that localisation remains one of the critical factors in ensuring the sustainability of the South African automotive industry, which is relatively small in the global context.
“However, localisation remains a challenge. The availability of raw materials to deepen the overall value-add in the supply chain is an imperative and various initiatives have been launched at an industry level to address this shortcoming.”
Kgotle adds that MBSA is not currently looking at introducing electric vehicles in South Africa.
“The Mercedes-Benz East London plant already successfully manufactured a hybrid – the C 350 e – the first of its kind from South Africa. Thousands of these units have been exported for sale across the international markets.
“Locally, we currently see hybrid technology as the preferred option until a stronger charging infrastructure is in place for pure electric vehicles.”