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SA's car goal 'impossible'

2009-12-15 08:14
Johannesburg - Nissan South Africa managing director Mike Whitfield doesn't foresee that South Africa will soon, if ever, manufacture more than a million vehicles.

To reach that number the seven large manufacturers would each have to produce 150 000 to 200 000 vehicles or more.

He reckons this is a practical impossibility.

At this stage most manufacturers are still striving to produce 50 000 units a year, in keeping with the requirements of the Automotive Production and Development Plan, so as to qualify for certain government incentives. The new plan becomes operational in 2013.

With the domestic market currently at only half its 2006 peak, and with exports having suffered a serious blow this year compared with their record year in 2008, many of the motor industry's former aims are beginning to look like pipe dreams.

Whitfield says South Africa competes with countries like India, Asia and Brazil - but not Europe.

Production here is considerably more expensive than in other countries.

Furthermore, the looming electricity price hikes are hanging over manufacturers' heads.

Whitfield says future growth will be slow and it is unlikely that 2006's domestic sales numbers will again be achieved before 2014 or 2015.

Whitfield says Nissan is determined to produce more than 50 000 units by 2013. Between 40% and 50% of these units will be exported, he adds.

There are positive indications for exporting the one-ton bakkie - to Europe, in particular.

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