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Dti Minister regrets General Motors SA exit

Pretoria - Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has responded to General Motors South Africa's (GMSA) decision to exit South Africa with regret and concern for the jobs and livelihoods that will be affected.

The Minister has learnt of the announcement by General Motors South Africa (Pty) Ltd to cease some of their operations in South Africa with regret and concern for the numerous employees whose jobs and livelihood will be directly and indirectly affected as a result, said the Department of Trade and Industry.

In addition, the Minister noted that the decision by General Motors as part of a broader, international strategic position by the company to exit certain markets and focus the organisation on target markets and products.

This, said the Minister, is evidence through recent activities like pulling out of Europe in 2017 (Opel, Vauxhall brand sold to Peugeot SA) and the closure of a plant in Halol, India, in April 2017.

Other activities include exiting Australia, in 2013, where there was a joint venture with Holden, the closure of a plant in Indonesia in 2015, as well as recent pronouncements by General Motors CEO Mary Barra that the focus of the organisation will in future be orientated towards the development and production of autonomous vehicles, electrification and connectivity.

It should also be noted that the emerging global geo-political dynamics might have a bearing on some business decisions being made such as the recent confirmation of additional investment in the US coupled with further move of some parts production from Mexico.

General Motors has had a presence in South Africa since 1926, under various brands such as Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, ISUZU, Oakland, Oldsmobile and Vauxhall.

Given the intense competition in the South African market, especially after 1994, GM has had some difficulties including:

The GMSA plant not meeting the initial annual minimum production volume of 50 000 units set under the Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP) since 2013;

Sales have been on a downward trend for the past 5 years; and

Exports remained low at about 2 000 vehicles per annum with a maximum of 3 500 units.

Therefore whilst it is regrettable to see General Motors exit South Africa, market performance leading to cuts in profitability, coupled with recent global initiatives have created the conditions to make such a move likely.

Although we do not welcome this decision, we believe that the future of the industry positive, as automotive industry stakeholders are finalising a Master Plan for South Africa with a view to growing domestic vehicle production volume and local value addition and an announcement on the final program can be expected early 2018 latest and will cover the period post 2020, said Minister Davies.

Measures to mitigate effects of exit

The Minister added that the dti will continue to work with all stakeholders to mitigate the impact of this exit.

These initiatives include encouraging the strengthening of the presence, including vehicle assembly, of ISUZU who has been partnering GMSA in South Africa.

Minister Davies also expressed confidence that recent announced investments in Coega should save jobs in automotive production in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan area, and that anticipated investments and localisation by the remaining vehicle producers will have a positive effect going forward.

Last month, the National Energy Regulator (NERSA) announced that it has approved that Port Elizabeth Solar PV1 (Pty) Ltd be issued with a licence to operate a 5MW generation solar photovoltaic (PV) farm in the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ).

Source: South African Government News Agency

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