The opening of a new BMW automotive plant in China has brought new opportunities for BMW SA, with the potential components exports worth hundreds of millions of rand a year.

The opening of a new BMW automotive plant in China has brought new opportunities for BMW SA, with the potential components exports worth hundreds of millions of rand a year.

The new plant is in Shenyang, and shipments of axles and rear ends worth about R20 million have been exported from BMW SA's Rosslyn factory.

"Over 20 South Africans were sent to China to help them in logistics, training and in systems, refining their product standards and improving quality control measures, all of which are vital when you are producing BMWs," said BMW SA spokesman Richard Carter.

"Over the last five years, our plant has undergone a similar ramp up to the one the Chinese plant is going through," said Carter. "We are acting as a sister plant, assisting with the ramp-up phase, and helping them to solve the same sort of problems which we faced.”

"We have exported components worth R20 million to date, and a team of purchasing and logistics people are going to China the week after next for the next round of sourcing discussions."

Carter would not comment on the value of component exports from SA, but it is believed that this could rise to hundreds of millions of rand a year. "We hope and expect that SA will win further contracts, and that business will grow rapidly," Carter said.

The automotive component sector is a multi-billion rand business for SA and BMW has been one of the most successful automobile exporters from the country. Other than accounting for a substantial amount of SA’s sales to the US under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, it has also been instrumental in the development of an automotive supplier park established under the Gauteng provincial government’s Blue IQ programme.