Motor industry experts fear that the strong rand will affect South Africa's competitiveness in global vehicle export programmes.

Motor industry experts fear that the strong rand will affect South Africa's competitiveness in global vehicle export programmes.

Mazda chief executive Lewis Booth, in the country to speak at the National Automobile Dealers’ Association convention at Sun City this week, told business newspapers that from an export point of view the strength of the rand was a concern.

"I am worried whether R7 to the dollar is sustainable for exporting companies," said Booth, who knows the local vehicle industry well, having previously run Ford in South Africa. "At R7 to the dollar, SA is going to have to be very clear about what it takes to be competitive.

Booth said, though, that the rand’s value against the dollar was not as important as the way it fared against currencies of countries like Thailand, China, India and Korea. “South Africa has to compete with other low-cost producers. But the thing that I love about South Africa is that the country has endless resourcefulness to do business. I am confident there is a future of automotive exports.”

Motor industry analyst Tony Twine told that the strength of the rand was a problem. “I believe the discomfort within the economy is now turning to debilitating pressure and everything from growth to employment is likely to be squeezed and the ability of the economy to add value at these exchange rates is extremely limited,” he said.