President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the launch of the local production of the Corolla Cross as an important step to South Africa’s path to transform the car-making business into a green industry success story.
“It will take hard work but we must do it,” Ramaphosa told the delegates on Tuesday.
The President was speaking at the unveiling of the brand new Toyota South Africa production plant in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
The President has since labelled the first-ever Toyota hybrid car made on home soil as a “fine achievement” and “historic” moment.
The Corolla Cross is the first generation of commercial-scale hybrid electric vehicles to come off a South African assembly line.
According to the President, this was more than simply a new model coming off a production line.
However, he said it was about the country embracing the opportunities of a greener economy, country and continent while ensuring that South Africa benefits.
South Africa is currently one of only seven global locations for the production of this hybrid car, which he believes is a testament to the skilled, productive workforce and competitive plant.
“During the plant tour, I met workers who are passionate and committed and I saw the value of the skills programme the management has put in place.”
The President announced that the Corolla Cross will be exported to 40 countries across Africa, which will boost the African Continental Free Trade Area.
“I am advised that the company will seek to ramp up its projected 4 000 hybrid vehicles planned for next year if the availability of batteries improves.”
Meanwhile, the President views the R2.6 billion investment by Japanese multinational automotive manufacturer as a vote of confidence.
In addition, he said Japan is a long-term and significant investor in the country, with about 130 companies operating locally, including Nissan, Isuzu and Sumitomo Rubber Industries.
He also thanked the company for the relentless support following the unrest in the province in July.
“Companies who stand with the nation during difficult times are companies that we will support in the years to come.”
He also acknowledged the unsung heroes of daily production, the workers, for making excellent, safe vehicles that the rest of the world can drive with confidence.
Toyota has created 575 new jobs in the plant and a further 1 200 new jobs have been created in the supplier companies.
He said the auto industry is one of the drivers of our localisation programme and a significant contributor to gross domestic product, accounting for more than 100 000 jobs.
“It is a big magnet for foreign direct investment.”
He also revealed that the seven local light vehicle producers invested a record R9.2 billion in 2020, while the component sector invested R2.4 billion during the same period.
The President believes that these investments are made possible by an enabling policy regime in the form of the new version of the masterplan, the Automotive Production Development Programme, which came into effect in July 2021.
Through the masterplan, government aims to grow the industry over a 15-year period to reach 1% of global production.
In addition, the State is looking at increasing the local content of South African assembled vehicles to 60% from 40% and double employment to at least 224 000 jobs.
“The plan seeks to transform the industry across the value chain to bring in Black South Africans and young people and to deepen value addition,” said the President.
He added that Toyota was also looking at increasing the number of new local suppliers from the global supply chain, which is key in the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.
“I am advised that there are 56 local suppliers for this new model, of which 16 are Black-owned companies.”
President Ramaphosa believes that these efforts will contribute to the common goal agreed to at the National Economic Development and Labour Council to reduce the country’s overall import bill by R200 billion over the next five years.
The President said South Africa has identified three key priorities for climate action. These include Eskom reducing its carbon emissions, electric vehicles to be locally produced, and the green hydrogen economy to be fast-tracked.
Toyota South Africa CEO Andrew Kirby said the company has invested over R6.1 billion in the plant over the past five years.
“So, we’re therefore committed to further developing and strengthening our business in South Africa.”
According to Kirby, Toyota South Africa also plans to change the New-Energy Vehicle (NEV) landscape in South Africa, from selling a few hundred to well over 10 000 units per year.