General Motors has left . Again. Following the American giant’s departure, there remains a big hole in the South African automotive landscape, plus many people who work at its Struandale plant and dealerships across the country have been left wondering whether they will still be employed. What of the autobrands they produced
and sold here? Well, we’ve heard Isuzu will buy the plant to produce its KB range
and commercial trucks. As I write, we’re waiting for an announcement on the future
of Opel (internationally, it’s been bought by PSA) and we know that the Chevrolet
brand will be withdrawn from our market.
This is not great news, particularly in these unsettling times. In fact, to have a
big multinational up and leave, saying South Africa “would not provide the expected returns of other global investment opportunities”, is a blow. Yet, it also shines a light on those that are staying. BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen are automotive stalwarts; all of which are vocal about remaining in South Africa and have backed that up in recent years, showing their faith in this country by investing many billions of rands into their production facilities. In doing so, they’ve not only employed tens of thousands of South Africans in their plants and dealerships – and supported employment in their chain of suppliers but also contributed significantly to our GDP.
I think that says a lot about these brands. It speaks not just to an ongoing belief
and commitment to this country, but acknowledges how passionate we are as a
nation about all things automotive, too. They are, of course, also in the business of making money and these OEMs have robust business models that do provide expected returns. As such, they deserve our respect and applause.