At a time when just about every vehicle manufacturer in South Africa is finalising retrenchments and drastically downsizing its workforce, the BMW Group has announced a R2,2-billion investment in its Rosslyn production plant in Tshwane.
BMW’s South African manufacturing plant was the first to have been built outside Germany, in 1975, and has experienced significant investments over the years, which have resulted in South Africa producing 25% of the global number of BMW 3-Series sedans.
“This secures BMW vehicle production for the foreseeable future in South Africa. It sends a positive message to our staff about the long-term sustainability of BMW South Africa and about the future of South Africa as a whole,” said BMWSA managing director Bodo Donauer.
The investment will result in the plant increasing its production from 60 000 units per year to 87 000 units with the introduction of new production technology.
While BMWSA (which indirectly employs about 42 000 people) and the Department of Trade and Industry were vague about whether the investment would create jobs, the announcement focused instead on securing jobs and investing in training programmes for staff at the plant — none of whom are facing or will be facing the prospect of retrenchment in the near future.
Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies said at the announcement on Monday morning “we hope this investment will result in decent work opportunities”.
Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane said: “The automotive sector remains a key industry in Gauteng and has over the years contributed to economic growth and job creation. This [investment] is an unequivocal statement of confidence in South Africa.”
Left-hand drive and right-hand drive BMWs built at the Rosslyn plant are sold in South Africa and exported to the United States, Japan and Australia among other countries. About 75% of the vehicles produced at Rosslyn are exported.
While the government support scheme for the motor industry — the Automotive Production Development Programme (APDP) — is still being finalised, Donauer added that the investment would be honoured under the APDP and that he hoped “this decision will be the catalyst for a quick finalisation of the APDP decision process”.
“We have experienced that government is certainly willing to support the entire automotive industry, but this willingness seems to be overshadowed by the many hurdles encountered in creating a programme that fits all stakeholders.
“I’m completely positive that the comparatively small issue of APDP finalisation will be easily overcome,” said Donauer.