JOHANNESBURG - Hyundai Automotive SA has officially opened a commercial vehicle assembly plant on the East Rand as part of a multi-million investment in its Commercial Vehicle division.Director of commercial vehicles Wade Griffin said: "The opening of this assembly plant forms an ideal platform from which to strengthen our business strategy in terms of commercial market growth and sustainability as well as an increasing commitment and investment in the South African economy."We believe there are strong opportunities through investment and local assembly to capitalise on our business. This substantial investment will also help to improve local skills and to create jobs in an economy that is in dire need of such opportunities."BOOMING SECTORThe rationale behind the semi-knocked down (SKD) plant in Apex, an industrial area of Benoni, was driven by a long-term strategy to grow Hyundai's share in the South African commercial vehicle market, to be more competitive, and to increase Hyundai's investment in the country's economy.The initial aim is to produce 50 units a month, focusing specifically on the Hyundai HD65 and HD72 trucks.Most, for now, will be distributed in the South African market but Hyundai Automotive SA is investigating options to export througout sub-Saharan Africa. Of the vehicles assembled in Benoni plant, 20% will be exported to neighbouring countries such as Botswana and Namibia as part of the immediate plans.Hyundai Automotive SA established the factory by buying an existing plant from Imperial Holdings as part of a R11- million investment in the Commercial Vehicles division of Hyundai in South Africa.Griffin said: "This investment in our commercial vehicle division enables us to be more aggressive and competitive due to the zero import duty as an incentive for local assembly of trucks."CREATING JOBS A PRIORITYStanley Anderson, marketing director of Hyundai SA, said it was important to note that the company's investment reached beyond money. "We've already employed more than 30 people with the vision of increasing this to around 60. By creating these initial 30 or so jobs, we are directly improving the lives of more than 230 people.Hyundai has brought in a number of trained engineers from Hyundai Motor Company's commercial vehicle division in Korea to assist with training and development to ensure that best practices are followed in the assembly process.FIRST OFF THE LINEGriffin added: "We've already produced the first trucks. The local production of HD65 and HD72 will give us a lot of momentum to increase our present three precent share in the medium commercial vehicle market."The automaker believes an increase in local content of the vehicles will bring further savings, a more competitive business model, and create more jobs in the local economy.Griffin added: "We are at an early stage in the development of the local operation but are already examining expansion of locally produced parts for our assembly line."