Nissan South Africa: Taking South African productivity to the world’s markets

It is indisputable that 2013 has proven a tough year for South Africa’s automotive industry, with the weakening Rand and a series of strikes affecting sales and production.

NissanHowever, as the year comes to an end, there are plenty of reasons for optimism at Nissan South Africa, which saw particular success with sales of the Almera and Sentra sedans during a challenging September.Nissan South Africa remains one of the top 3 automotive companies in South Africa and in fiscal 2012, the company sold 50,542 vehicles.

In September of this year, Nissan South Africa’s Sales, Marketing and Aftersales Director Johan Kleynhans stated: “Under the circumstances, the month turned out better than expected and we had half a year of steady growth in our passenger car sales – this was our best performance since February. Almera and Sentra helped us to a 9 per cent market share, and in fact we only dropped 119 units compared to August.”

In the grander context, Nissan South Africa is the operational hub for Regional Business Unit South, serving Nissan’s key South Africa market and 42 other countries in Sub Saharan Africa, including Angola, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria.

The company offers a range of locally-produced and imported vehicles in these markets and is responsible for a workforce of almost 2,000 people, with many based at Nissan’s Rosslyn plant, north of Pretoria.

The plant is responsible for both assembly and manufacturing and has become a leader in South Africa with regards to sound environmental practice in its manufacturing process and has won numerous awards and recognition both locally and internationally for its environmental efforts.

Among the initiatives deployed at Rosslyn has been the exclusion of chlorofluorocarbons and other harmful chemicals from all phases of its manufacture, chemical and other waste management; water and power savings efforts; a man made wetland which is a catchment area for storm water; recycling; and working closely with its numerous suppliers and dealers to ensure sound environmental practice.

All Nissan vehicles benefit from Nissan’s international lifecycle approach of environmentally sound vehicle design, use and recycling. These include the locally produced light commercial vehicles which include the NP200 half-ton pickup and NP300 one-ton Hardbody. Rosslyn also manufactures the Livina and Sandero passenger vehicles, the latter for its Alliance partner Renault.

The company’s commitment to South Africa, stretches back a long way and over the last 40 years, Nissan South Africa has supplied quality vehicles to South African customers which have been designed specifically to cater for South African drivers’ needs.

Back in the 1970s, Nissan imported vehicles and made use of local assembly plants for completely-knocked down vehicles. The establishment of the Rosslyn plant created training and employment opportunities and according to the company’s website, Nissan currently enjoys around 8 per cent market share for the entire South African market.

The arrival of the 1990s saw expansion and further development of technologies and Nissan realised that global production overcapacity was becoming a reality. To ensure their survival into the new millennium many motor companies – including some old established names – were taken over and others formed international alliances.

In the case of Nissan Motor Company, 1999 saw the business form a strategic alliance with French company Renault Group. Commenting on the alliance, Nissan’s site states:

The alliance between Nissan and Renault was a natural fit as the two companies were of similar size, the products fitted extremely well and their respective strengths were generally in different markets. The alliance created the fourth largest automobile company in the world.”

The following year the company increased its interests in South Africa by purchasing a 37 per cent stakes in Automakers and a year later, the South African company’s name was changed to Nissan South Africa.

Among the accolades achieved in South Africa, Nissan was the first South African automotive business to attain ISO 9001 and later ISO 14001 certification in all of its plants.

The company also won 2 National Productivity Gold Awards for productivity advancements.

Of course such levels of success – in a highly automated facility, require investment from Japan which is an ongoing process, as the company strives to keep ahead with the latest technological advances.

In 2012, news broke that Nissan South Africa was looking to double the capacity of the Rosslyn plant to 100,000 units per year. The plans were the result of global demand and underlined the strategic importance of the South African production centre in Nissan’s global empire.

The increase which is set to begin at the later part of 2014 will feature a rise in the company production of new pick-up generation from Nissan. The production capacity has already increased at the Rosslyn plant to 50,000 from its production capacity of 25,000 in 2008.

At the time of the announcement, Managing Director, Mike Whitfield said that the introduction of the new investment will result in a new production platform at the plant with a total investment cost of more than R1billion and would create an additional 800 jobs directly and up to 4,000 more throughout the company’s supply chain.

Nissan South Africa has demonstrated its competence in key deliverables — improvements in quality, cost and productivity — and we are confident in its capability to meet anticipated demand, and increased production is expected to during financial year 2014,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Nissan South Africa regarded the 2013 Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS) as an important event to showcase it current array of vehicles, in celebration of the company’s ethos ‘Innovation the Excites’.

Commenting on Nissan’s participation, Whitfield said: “Our presence at this year’s JIMS is substantial, with no less than 9 vehicles on display in Hall 6 and 7 at the 4×4 track, along with another 4 which are actually off-roading on the 4×4 track. We also have a small fleet of Nissan LEAF shuttle vehicles doing duty in the show grounds. From the RESONANCE Concept vehicle to the new Nissan NV350 Panel Van, the forthcoming Nissan JUKE NISMO to the superb Nissan GT-R – everything we stand for is on display at Nasrec.

Nissan South Africa recently began a new product onslaught, with the new Nissan ALMERA and SENTRA models joining the South African market in September ahead of a host of other new products. These will include the new Nissan X-TRAIL and forthcoming Nissan QASHQAI, which will make their local debut in 2014, and the new Nissan LEAF which went on sale at the beginning of October as the first-ever 100 per cent Electric Vehicle (EV) available to the South African public.

On the back of steadily-growing sales volumes in 2013, despite certain industry-wide set-backs, Nissan in South Africa is on the up in every respect. Our increasing model portfolio is of course opening a host of new doors for the brand in many ways,” he added.