Pretoria – Toyota’s continued investment in South Africa demonstrates confidence in the country’s economy, says President Jacob Zuma.
He was speaking at the official launch of the new generation locally produced Toyota Hilux and Fortuner models at the car maker’s Prospecton plant in Durban.
“This is a very positive event for our country, as it demonstrates confidence in the economy during a difficult period,” said the President, noting that South Africa is still experiencing the effects of the 2008 global economic crisis.
The crisis resulted in a global slump in demand and lower production volumes, which was so severe that it threatened the existence of some of the major international automotive producers.
The Japanese car maker’s R6.1 billion investment in the country resulted in the launch of the Toyota Hilux and Fortuner production lines. The investment in the production of the two new models supports over 4 000, jobs while total employment at the plant exceeds 8 000 jobs.
“This is a significant contribution towards dealing with the serious challenge of unemployment in our country,” President Zuma said.
Toyota South Africa President and CEO Andrew Kirby said the R6.1 billion investment, which represents the biggest single investment the car manufacturer has made to date, is evidence of a company that is committed to South Africa.
“This latest announcement gives evidence of a company that is defiantly committed to South Africa by strategically investing in the people, tools and equipment to produce cars and commercial vehicles of world-class standard that are not only destined for the domestic market but will also fly our flag high on the international stage – thanks to a robust export plan,” said Kirby.
At Tuesday’s launch, President Zuma thanked and congratulated Toyota for its decision to continue investing in the local production of vehicles. Toyota South Africa is the second biggest global manufacturer of the Hilux and Fortuner.
In the past five years, support provided by government through the Department of Trade and Industry has attracted investments of over R25 billion in the automotive industry.
Increasing SA’s exports
With the current global economic slowdown, government launched the Nine-Point Plan to reignite growth. One of the pillars of the plan is a higher-impact Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP).
The eighth iteration of IPAP — launched in Benoni, Gauteng, earlier this month by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies — places focus on increasing manufacturing, employment creation and export-intensity.
Work towards the development of a new Automotive Plan to cover the period 2020 to 2035 has also commenced, with a target completion date of March 2017.
“We thus see a brighter future for our automotive industry in our country and look forward to growth and continued success for this sector.
“We support the automotive sector also because it is part of the important efforts of growing our manufacturing sector,” said President Zuma.
He said the manufacturing sector is far more important than the 15% it contributes to the economy, as it forms the basis of a modern economy.
Transforming the economy
The automotive sector, the President said, must be part of the country’s economic transformation efforts.
“I know that Toyota is very aware of this imperative. The current situation where black participation in the automotive value chain is mainly at employee [level], rather than in business ownership and control, can and should drastically improve.”
Going forward, the next phase of government policy will aim to integrate local companies, especially small black-owned companies, into the supply chain.
“Toyota South Africa is a leading supporter of local suppliers and we commend you for this role,” said President Zuma, who emphasised that South Africa remains open for business.
South Africa is working to remove obstacles to investment and unlock economic growth. “This has never happened before on this scale. Labour has joined the efforts of working together for the common good of our country.
“South Africa is therefore in a good space right now. We all agree that we want to see growth and jobs and that we shall work together towards that destination,” said the President.