Nissan South Africa has confirmed it will begin building the Navara bakkie (for local and export markets) at its Rosslyn plant in Pretoria in 2020, making the announcement at a ceremony attended by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The local arm of the Japanese firm already produces the NP300 Hardbody and the half-tonne NP200 in SA, but a fresh R3-billion investment will see the Navara added to the production line (and result in 1 200 new employment opportunities at the facility as well as across the local supply chain).

Mike Whitfield, managing director of the Nissan Group of Africa, said production of the Navara could see some 30 000 units added to the plant’s current annual volume of 35 000 units. This, in turn, could create the need for a new, second shift at the plant, he said.

"The new Navara is the perfect model for South Africa and our workforce is ready to build it, supported crucially by the government's Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP). Vehicles already account for around 14 percent of total exports from South Africa," said Whitfield.

"Navara production will allow us to expand Rosslyn's role as an export hub for light commercial vehicles and contribute further to the local automotive sector, fully in line with the goals in the next phase of the APDP," he added.

Nissan says the investment in Navara production will result in "further modernisation of the Rosslyn plant", including a new, flexible production line and additional facilities, as well as training and upskilling of staff.

President Ramaphosa added the decision to produce the Navara in SA was further proof of the increasing contribution of the automotive industry to the country.

"Automotive is already the largest part of South Africa's manufacturing sector, contributing around 7,0 percent GDP annually and accounting for a third of manufacturing output. I am delighted Nissan will produce Navara here and congratulate the employees for their efforts in securing this important model," President Ramaphosa said.

The start of local production will see South Africa becoming the sixth country to build the current-generation Navara, after Argentina, Spain, China, Mexico and Thailand.

Launched locally in March 2017, the current D23-generation Navara range in South Africa comprises seven derivatives, all in the double-cab body style and all powered by a 2,3-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel worth 140 kW and 450 N.m. In 2018, global sales of the bakkie reached 231 435 units, representing a six percent increase year-on-year.