The first Nissan Navara vehicles produced in Africa have rolled off the production line at the new Nissan plant in Rosslyn, Pretoria this month.
In April 2019, Nissan South Africa had the privilege of answering President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ‘Thuma Mina’ call on behalf of Nissan, by pledging R3-billion towards his appeal to rebuild South Africa. The investment in its facility in Rosslyn, Pretoria will prepare the plant for the production of the next generation of the Nissan Navara pickup.
The strategy is anchored by the plan to roll out several new models over 18 months, including the Navara. Coming to fruition this month, the first Navara vehicles have been initiated into the market and the Rosslyn plant is expecting to increase production to more than 35 000 vehicles within the first year by the end of June 2022.
“[This initial announcement by the President] aligned to the company’s global transformation plan, ‘Nissan Next’, which lays the foundation for sustainable, long-term growth by rationalising structure, costs and efficiencies, and prioritising on core products and technologies,” outlines Nissan South Africa Rosslyn Manufacturing Plant director Shafick Solomons.
Since that 2019 announcement, the Nissan team has been working tirelessly to bring the Nissan Navara to life on South African soil, amid challenges because of the Covid-19 pandemic, he says.
The investment in Navara production resulted in further modernisation of the Rosslyn plant, including a new, flexible production line and additional facilities.
“Over the past two years, in partnership with the Automotive Industry Development Council, we have incubated eight new component manufacturers as part of our broad-based black economic empowerment start-up programmes. At present, more than a third of our suppliers are black-owned companies,” he claims.
Solomons says the first vehicle that has rolled off the production line is the culmination of an intense period of upskilling and training of South African staff to meet and exceed Nissan’s exacting global quality standards, while making Rosslyn the Japanese automaker’s light commercial vehicle manufacturing hub for Africa.
About R190-million of the R3-billion has been invested in reskilling and training employees. One of the examples of this investment is the production trial engineers, who spent three months receiving virtual training from Nissan Japan on implementing the new model in South Africa.
Last month, 12 Ghanaian engineers completed a 12-week training session at Nissan’s Rosslyn plant to learn how to assemble the Nissan Navara. As the country looks to bolster their automotive manufacturing efforts, Nissan and long-term partner Japan Motors are in the process of setting up an assembly facility in Ghana. The trainees had an immersion into Nissan’s Production Way, design thinking in manufacturing, quality assurance and more to ensure the facility will be up to global standards, while being 100% Ghanaian operated.
“We understand that our organisational growth is closely tied to that of the community we operate in. Through the Navara, we expect to continue to redefine the light commercial vehicle segment while contributing positively to the African economy,” adds NissanSouth Africa country director Kabelo Rabotho.
Meanwhile, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is a big step forward for Africa and the automotive sector, Solomons tells Engineering News, with the AfCFTA offering an opportunity to unite African markets and build the African workforce.
“We’ve structured our strategy in part around this, creating manufacturing or assembly hub operations in South Africa, Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria.”
According to the latest local data released by naamsa | The Automotive Business Council, new-vehicle sales statistics in June 2021 indicate that the new-vehicle market is recovering.
Consequently, the industry is gaining momentum in spite of fluctuating lockdown levels and the arrival of the third wave of Covid-19. This momentum is driven by the industry responding to urgent digitisation innovation needs and the recovering economy, he concludes.