Nissan Motor Co, BMW AG and Volkswagen AG are among carmakers in talks to bring the electric-car revolution to South Africa, as the nation’s auto-factory floors risk being left behind in the global switch to greener vehicles.
The industry is preparing a unified stance on electrification to present to the government by the end of the year, Mike Mabasa, chief executive officer of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa, or Naamsa, said in an interview.
Among the goals is persuading lawmakers to reduce or drop a 23% import tariff on electric vehicles to help ramp up nascent domestic sales, he said. Another is to roll out a charging infrastructure in a country where the state-owned power monopoly is in deep financial crisis.
Taking steps to boost the popularity of electric vehicles in South Africa is just one part of the equation. The auto-manufacturing industry makes up about 7% of the country’s economy, according to Naamsa.
The sector is one of the more positive aspects of an economy expected to grow at less than 1% for a second consecutive year.
“The country needs to move forward and bring new technologies,” said Mike Whitfield, Nissan’s chairman for the southern Africa region. “The rest of the world will move very fast and if we don’t get going we will be left behind.”
South Africa has long been a hub for global automaking, attracting plants operated by seven carmakers from Toyota Motor Corp to Isuzu Motors Ltd. Last year, the manufacturers exported almost 210,000 cars to Europe, where Volkswagen is already retooling factories to only make electric cars. That’s just under a third of all local production and makes up 60% of exports.
To date, there are no firm plans for electric-car or hybrid production in South Africa, but the government and industry agreed in 2018 to extend a manufacturing incentive programme, creating jobs and enabling models like the BMW X3 sport utility vehicle and Nissan’s Novara pickup to be produced locally.
“The electric-vehicle play in South Africa will not be determined by the South African consumer, but by the requirements of export markets,” Martyn Davies, an auto-industry specialist at Deloitte LLP, said by phone from Johannesburg, adding that the weaker rand is also making exports more attractive.—Gulf Times