We are one

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in South Africa has merged its individual national sales companies to complete the integration locally of the world’s seventh largest car maker.

While FCA South Africa has been under a single management team since 2012 in line with the global merger, Fiat Group Automobiles South Africa and Chrysler South Africa have been operating as separate financial entities. The administrative merger of the entities from will formalise Fiat Chrysler Automobiles South Africa (Pty) Ltd as a single trading entity.

“We are excited to enter the next phase of FCA in South Africa,” says Robin van Rensburg, CEO of FCA South Africa. “For our customers, it will be business as usual with even more improvement in service levels thanks to the simpler and more effective systems.

“Our dealers and partners have invested with us over the past six years to get to this point and this will allow them to become even more effective.”

FCA South Africa is responsible for the sales and after-sales business of the Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Fiat Professional, MOPAR, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands. MOPAR won the Gold Achiever Award for Excellence in Logistics in 2017 and FCA’s first-time pick rate remains the industry benchmark in South Africa, benefiting customer experience directly with aftersales service efficiency.

The product future for FCA South Africa is bright and 2018 will see the introduction of the all-new Jeep Compass and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio QV in the third quarter.

The latter will be another in the performance SUV segment, as will the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, the most powerful and quickest Jeep SUV ever powered by the supercharged 6,2-litre V8 engine delivering 522 kW and 868 Nm of torque. The venerable Jeep Wrangler replacement will make its debut appearance in late 2018.

“We have created a vision to take us forward into 2020 in a sustainable and profitable manner, having learnt some valuable lessons from the past,” says Van Rensburg. “Customers will only benefit from this merger and the dealer network will remain unchanged. FCA’s brands will continue to succeed in the market and we look forward to the journey with our customers, dealers and partners.”

 

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Ford expands engine plant

Capacity at the Ford Motor Company of South Africa (FMCSA) engine plant at Struandale, Port Elizabeth is being boosted to provide a new assembly line for the diesel engine that will power the Ford Ranger Raptor when it is launched next year.

This forms part of a wide-ranging investment in its two South African plants, announced late last year.

“We are delighted to confirm that, as part of the R3-billion investment announced in November 2017, we are expanding both the capability and capacity of the Struandale Engine Plant for our current and future engine programmes,” says Jacques Brent, President of Ford Middle East and Africa.

“The investment includes the installation of a sophisticated new assembly line for an all-new diesel engine program and, at the same time, we are boosting capacity for the current Duratorq TDCi engine that is used in the Ford Ranger and Everest, with new derivatives and additional European markets being introduced for the local operations.”

The new diesel engine assembly hall is located in a totally revamped 3 868 m2 section of the Struandale Engine Plant, and boasts Ford’s latest, state-of-the-art manufacturing processes.

Eight derivatives of the new engine will be assembled at the Struandale Engine Plant when production officially commences in the fourth quarter of 2018. The new assembly line has an installed capacity of 120 000 engines a year.

 The current component machining and assembly lines for the Duratorq TDCi diesel engine, which has been produced locally since 2011 for the Ford Ranger and Everest, are also being expanded.

“Our upgrades for the Duratorq TDCi program adds incremental volumes, with 22 new four-cylinder engine derivatives to be exported to European markets, including for use in front-wheel drive Ford models,” Brent states. “This introduces three significant new customers for the Struandale Engine Plant, comprising Italy, Turkey and Russia.”

Ultimately, the Struandale Engine Plant will become the home of all Duratorq TDCi engine component machining for the Ranger, Everest and Transit, along with expanded engine assembly in conjunction with current operations at Ford plants in Thailand and Argentina.

“This places our South African business in a central role within the global Ford network, and reaffirms our commitment to developing the automotive industry within the local market, and in the broader Middle East and Africa region,” Brent adds.

With the additional 2.2-litre engine derivatives officially coming on line in the fourth quarter of 2018, the Struandale Engine Plant will be assembling a total of 56 variants of the Duratorq TDCi engine.

Installed capacity for the Duratorq TDCi program is set to increase from the current 254 000 machined component sets (cylinder head, block and crankshaft) to 280 000, while assembly capacity will grow from 115 000 to 130 000 engines per annum.

To accommodate the significant production expansion for the two engine programs, a brand new warehouse was built at the Struandale Engine Plant. The new 5 418 m2 facility was designed to house all the required parts, components and tools on-site to maximise production efficiency for the two engine programs.

 

Big money up for grabs

The 2018 surfing calendar in South Africa has been firmed up with the confirmation Volkswagen South Africa is continuing the headline sponsorship of the City Surf Series with more than R1-Million in prize money up for grabs in the race to Nelson Mandela Bay.

“For us, getting involved with the City Surf Series was a no-brainer as the Volkswagen brand has been associated with surfing for many years with surfers using their camper vans and Kombi’s to go on surfing tournaments,” says Matt Gennrich, General Manager for Group Communications.

The second edition of the City Surf Series (CSS) will see six events, culminating in the Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing presented by Hurley, taking place in different cities along South Africa’s coastline from March to June.

Each of the CSS events will feature Qualifying Series (QS) rated men’s, women’s junior men’s and junior women’s competitions, Surfing South Africa (SSA) longboard men and women and Stand-up Paddling (SUP) men and women’s categories.

A major change from last year’s series is the upgrading of the Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing women’s event to a QS3000, making it the biggest women’s QS in Africa. The Nelson Mandela Bay Pro men’s event has also been upgraded to a QS1500.

“Another exciting addition is the launch of a new event, the Port Alfred Classic, which will feature men’s and women’s QS Longboard events with the two disciplines also added to the Volkswagen SA of Surfing presented by Hurley,” says Johnny Bakker, Surfing South Africa president.

“As Nelson Mandela Bay is the home of Volkswagen, we are also proud that the Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing has relocated from Durban to Nelson Mandela Bay,” added Gennrich.

The Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing events being hosted in Nelson Mandela Bay are expected to bring in an estimated 4 000 to 6 000 visitors and an R18-million cash injection for the city.

Not only will the CSS events support the local economy, all events will give back to the community and environment by incorporating Learn to Surf Initiatives as well as Community Clean-the-Beach programmes.

In the 2017 edition of the CSS, more than 300 previously disadvantaged children across the five events were taught to surf.

2018 City Surf Series Event Schedule:

  • Volkswagen Nelson Mandela Bay Surf pres. by Billabong: 30 March to 2 April
  • Royal St Andrews Port Alfred Classic pres. by Quiksilver (Inaugural event): 6 to 8 April
  • Mitchum Buffalo City Surf Pro pres. by Reef Wetsuits: 13 to 15 April
  • ZigZag Durban Surf Pro pres. by G-Force: 18 to 20 May
  • Jordy Smith Cape Town Surf Pro pres. by O’Neil: 14 to17 June
  • Volkswagen SA Open of Surfing pres. by Hurley: 19 to 24 June

 

Road Impressions BMW X3 xDrive 2.0d

The boys were shooting the breeze, comfortably ensconced in Orca’s Pub & Grill, rehashing the good and bad of the week gone by and celebrating the fact it was Friday, when one mentioned he had heard the fishing was pretty darn good at Port St Johns.

We all nodded as was expected on hearing such news and he went on to say he had a friend who had a friend who owned a cottage and maybe he could call and see if we could use it and it was only 240 km away so we could leave early the next morning and be there in time for some good fishing in the afternoon and maybe even a bit of fishing on Sunday morning before we left to come back home.

The nodding accelerated like an M3 on launch control and then they looked at me. Me, because I was the one with a BMW X3 and that, everyone knew was a whole bunch more comfortable than a clapped out double cab.

Now, when it comes to fishing, I don’t. My wife lets me drink at home.

However, not being one to shy away from a road trip, I nodded like a Toyota ad and early the following morning, loaded with cooler boxes, enough beer to float the Nimitz, the requisite boerewors and chops and a whole bunch of fishing gear, we switched into Steppenwolf mode, got our motor running and headed off down the highway.

My friends are not small but the four-cylinder 1 995 cc diesel engine with eight-speed Steptronic transmission fitted to the X3 just did not even notice the weight. With 140 kW on tap at 4 000 r/min and maximum torque of 400 Nm available from 1 750 r/min, it simply gurgled along quite unphased.

The test unit came with adaptive cruise control fitted, making the more boring sections of the trip heading towards Kokstad a lot less stressful and a whole lot safer considering the notorious N2 in that area is often referred to as ‘Death Alley’.

While the lads waffled on about ‘spoons’ and ‘ties’ and sinker weights, I paid attention to the fuel consumption – in normal mode averaging 5,6 l/100 km and in Sport mode 5,7 l/100 km, both cruising at the requisite 120 km/h and including stop/start traffic or town driving, well village really.

This is now the third generation of the BMW X3 and, while exterior dimensions may be largely unchanged, it has a five-centimetre longer wheelbase, long bonnet and extremely short front overhang so the proportions emphasise the 50:50 distribution of weight between the front and rear axle.

At the front end, the kidney grille treatment and fog lamps feature a hexagonal design for the first time on a BMW X model.

There are three trim variants available and we had the xLine model that has radiator grille and other exterior details in Aluminium satin finish and specifically designed light-alloy wheels

The interior of the new BMW X3 follows BMW tradition and the xLine model features standard-fitted sports seats with cloth/leather upholstery.

The all-wheel drive system at the heart of the X3 is interlinked with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) meaning the power split between all four wheels can be constantly varied to produce the best possible handling characteristics.

There is a reasonable road to Port St Johns but no, fishing is not a simply a matter of driving to a venue and offloading the gear – it involves driving past the venue to locate an obscure trail through the bush that (hopefully) will end up at a pristine part of the beach where nobody has ever been before.

Fortunately, the dune bush is soft and gentle and leaves the paintwork intact – for the rest, the X3 chugged through the soft sand with nary a misstep or signs of running of breath.

As far as the chassis technology is concerned, the third generation of the BMW X3 continues to rely on a double-joint spring strut axle at the front and a five-link rear axle.

BMW engineers succeeded in bringing about a considerable reduction in unsprung mass by fitting aluminium swivel bearings and lighter tubular anti-roll bars as well as optimising wheel location at the front.

Handling dynamics, straight-line stability and steering feel have all benefited from the uprated axle kinematics and the electric power steering system with Servotronic function.

Roll moment has been redistributed a long way to the rear and the rear bias of BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system further increased. Intelligent AWD management allows adjustments to be made as the driving situation demands while still maintaining maximum traction.

To maximise safety, meanwhile, Driving Stability Control (DSC) including anti-lock braking, Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), Automatic Differential Brake (ADB-X), Cornering Brake Control (CBC) and Hill Descent Control (HDC) are all standard kit.

The high ground clearance of 204 millimetres helps to ensure unhindered progress through the sand to the declared ‘ideal’ fishing spot. Why, I have no idea since nobody caught a thing and the only danger came from a rapidly depleting cooler box – including the water for the designated driver.

The approach angle (25,7°) and departure angle (22,6°) of the new BMW X3 together with its breakover angle of 19,4° create plenty of margin for negotiating steep sections or crests. Moreover, with a fording depth of 500 millimetres, the BMW X3 can tackle water crossings with ease as well – something suggested by one of the lads and quickly turned down, since the tide was coming in rapidly.

In addition to the iDrive Controller fitted as standard, specifying the Navigation system Professional opens up the possibility of touchscreen and gesture control – functions that have so far been exclusive to the current BMW 7 Series and new BMW 5 Series.

In addition to the adaptive cruise control the test unit was fitted with steering and lane control assistant, and Lane Keep Assist with side collision protection – all part of the optional Driving Assistant Plus safety package.

I am not a huge fan of either, considering the state of some of our roads and the appalling driving of many of their occupants, meaning the systems are hectically active and become rather intrusive.

So, lack of fish notwithstanding, the fishing trip provided good grounds (pardon the pun) to enjoy the new X3 but I cannot wait to get home….because then I can have a beer.

Confidence remains

Confidence in the South African auto industry remains high with ongoing major investment projects in both plant and people – despite the concerns some have raised about ‘alternative’ facilities being opened in other African countries.

BMW Group South Africa  has put its best foot forward with the opening of its news R73-million Plant Rosslyn Training Academy able to host 300 apprentices a year.

In 1978, exactly 40 years ago, BMW Group South Africa opened its first training centre at BMW Plant Rosslyn. Development and empowerment of workers for the automotive and manufacturing sectors has been a focus ever since. Even in this pre-democracy era, the company was ahead of the times in training learners irrespective of their ethnic background.

Since then 2 000 people have been employed by BMW Plant Rosslyn, after successfully being trained at the Training Academy.

Tim Abbott, CEO BMW Group South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, says: “Global automotive production stands on the brink of momentous change with an increased focus on digitalisation and electrification. The workforce of tomorrow needs to keep pace with these trends. At BMW Group South Africa we are investing in the skills of the future.”

The facility focuses on both theoretical knowledge and practical application. Modern manufacturing skills such as robot programming, Advanced Computer Numerical Control (CNC) simulation and training on electric vehicles have been included in the new Academy.

An accredited Trade Test Centre has been incorporated into the building, allowing learners to achieve their trade qualification in-house. This functionality will also be extended to the public in the course of 2018.

Minister, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize (Department of Higher Education and Training) adds:  “In June 2017, Cabinet approved the Human Resource Development Strategy towards 2030. One of the strategy programs talks to the skills that are produced based on the partnerships that can be encouraged within the country.  The country can only achieve this if companies such as BMW continue to encourage Work integrated Learning. Students from the TVET colleges will benefit immensely with such partnerships.”

The Training Academy will continue to provide skills development for existing BMW Group South Africa employees and managers. This includes training on the advanced technologies that will be used in the production of the new BMW X3, which will kick off within a couple of months.

In addition, the following programmes will be offered for external applicants:

Learnerships:

  • Mechatronics
  • Autotronics

Trades:

  • Millwright
  • Electrician
  • Fitter
  • Fitter and turner
  • Motor mechanic
  • Spray painter
  • Panel beater

Rwanda a go for VWSA

Volkswagen South Africa’s previously announced plans for an operation in Rwanda kicked into high gear in the capital, Kigali, today with the formal registration of the company Volkswagen Mobility Solutions Rwanda.

This means the roll out of Volkswagen’s integrated automotive mobility solution, a first for the Volkswagen Group, under the auspices of Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA), which is responsible for the Sub Saharan African Region.

Thomas Schaefer, Chairman and Managing Director of Volkswagen Group South Africa, says: “In December 2016 Volkswagen signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to conduct a detailed study to develop a business case for Volkswagen to introduce an integrated automotive mobility concept in Rwanda, which would be a first for Volkswagen worldwide.

“Our studies are complete and we believe we have a business case that will work and we are now ready to commence with the implementation of our plans for Rwanda. In short after today there is no going back, we are now fully committed to implementing our unique integrated automotive mobility solution in Rwanda together with Rwandans.”

VWSA chose Rwanda as the country in Africa to study the feasibility of an integrated automotive mobility solution for the following reasons:-

  • There is political stability and zero tolerance for corruption
  • There is dynamic economic growth of some 7% per annum
  • There is a young and tech savvy population
  • Rwanda is a leader in innovation and technology
  • Volkswagen have received strong support for our plans from Government and had great cooperation and support from the RDB
  • There is a real need for modern mobility solutions
  • Kigali is spearheading the smart city agenda

Volkswagen will adopt a phased approach in the implementation of the integrated automotive mobility solution and the first phase will focus on:

  • Establishing a local Mobility Services company
  • Oversee the establishment of a Volkswagen manufacturing and sales entity
  • Set up a vehicle assembly operation
  • Establish a sales and service structure
  • Set up a training centre
  • Offer the new mobility solution

“The production facility will have an initial annual installed capacity of up to 5 000 units, with 2018 being our start-up year. The Volkswagen product portfolio will initially include the Hatchback Polo, the Passat, a sedan and possibly the Teramont, a large SUV,” says Schaefer.

Volkswagen will run the production and retail operations, which will include the importation of other Volkswagen models to be sold on the Rwandan market.

The current business plan assumes employment of between 500 and 1 000 people in Kigali in phase one for Mobility Solutions admin, production, training, sales and service and the drivers..

A Rwandan software development start-up company Awesomity Lab has been appointed to develop the mobility App. Volkswagen is also in negotiation with other potential Rwandan suppliers.

The first service to be offered will be community car sharing, which will launch in quarter two, with around 150 vehicles in service within a few months. This will be followed by a ride hailing service with some initial 150 vehicles planned in the medium term still in 2018.

In 2019 public car sharing with some initial 250 cars planned will be launched and this will be followed by a shuttle service and lastly a peer to peer car sharing service is envisaged.  These numbers are based on assumed market demand, as such an innovative integrated mobility solution is a first for the automotive industry.

All the mobility services will be accessed by the custom developed App through which all bookings and payment will be made. Services will also be able to be booked online or via a hotline to cater for people who do not have a smartphone.

Some US $20-million (R246-million) will be spent in Rwanda by VWSA during phase one of the integrated automotive mobility solutions.

“We are delighted with the progress that has been made since we signed the MOU with Volkswagen in 2016. We are ready to partner with Volkswagen as they implement their integrated automotive mobility solutions as well as vehicle assembly operation in Rwanda.

“Our country is determined to become the leading innovator in Africa.  This project is in line with Rwanda’s policies to protect the environment, create jobs, and reduce our trade deficit. We are confident that this partnership will help create countless opportunities for young Rwandans not only in terms of employment but also in terms of skills transfer,” says Clare Akamanzi, CEO of the RDB.

Slight improvement

For the first time in four years total vehicle sales in South Africa for the year have gone up with 2017 showing a 1,8% percent improvement over 2016.

The new vehicle industry ended 2017 on a positive note, according to the annual sales data from the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa).  Despite December 2017’s year-on-year sales declining 2,4%, the year-to-date new car sales for 2017 still grew 1,8%. In total, 557 586 new vehicles were sold in South Africa during 2017.

“The new vehicle market’s positive performance for the last year was almost exactly in line with our forecast of 1.74% growth,” says Rudolf Mahoney, Head of Brand and Communications, WesBank. “This can be attributed to the Rand being resilient in the face of volatility and the South African economy performing better than anticipated. However, the economy is still underperforming and faces a long road to recovery.”

In the second half of 2017, OEMs were able to stave off price increases as the Rand firmed against foreign currencies. This allowed manufacturers to pass value back to consumers through very attractive marketing incentives when purchasing new vehicles.

WesBank’s data for 2017 also reflected the continued shift back to the new vehicle market, especially when measuring demand through the number of vehicle finance applications received. Demand for new vehicles rose 6,4% in December, while demand for used vehicles slowed 0,2%. Overall, demand for new vehicles grew 3% in 2017, while demand for used vehicles declined 1,5%.

Since the introduction of the Polo and Polo Vivo in 2010, Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) has been passenger market leader every year. The Volkswagen Group ended the year with 80 308  sales giving VWSA a total market share of 21,8%, with the Volkswagen brand achieving 18,9% share in a run out year of its volume models.

“The Polo Vivo and Polo remained the first and second best-selling passenger cars in 2017, which is also for the seventh consecutive year – this is an incredible achievement for the Volkswagen brand considering that we effectively ran out of supply in December of the key models which is illustrated by the unusually low 14,8% market share we achieved in December,” says VWSA Chairman and Managing Director Thomas Schaefer.

“I am delighted by the performance of both the Volkswagen and Audi brands in 2017 and know that we will do even better in 2018”,

Volkswagen will be launching the new Polo later this month which will be followed by the Polo Vivo still in this quarter.

According to Naamsa, export sales recorded a decline in December, 2017 and at 17 374 units reflected a fall of 1 333 vehicles or 7,1% compared to the 18 707 vehicles exported during December, 2016.  This was largely attributable to the effect of model run out and new model introduction of the new VW Polo range in 2018.

Annual aggregate annual industry sales by sector, since 2014, were as follows –

 

Sector

 

2014 2015 2016 2017 2017 / 2016

% Change

Cars 438 938 412 478 361 264 368 068 +1.9%
Light Commercials 173 492 174 701 159 283 163 346 +2.6%
Medium Commercials 10 780 10 394 8 315 7 785 -6.4%
Heavy Trucks,  Buses 20 534 20 075 18 685 18 387 -1.6%
Total Vehicles 643 744 617 648 547 547 557 586 1.8%

Source:  Lightstone Auto, NAAMSA

Whilst the modest improvement was welcome, the figures should be seen in the context of industry sales 11 years ago when the domestic market recorded an all-time high sales number of 714 314 units of which the new car market had represented 481 558 vehicles.

2017 Vehicle exports represented the third highest annual Industry export figure on record and total vehicle exports at 329 053 units were down on the 344 820 vehicles exported in 2016 – a decline of 15 767 units or a fall of 4,6%.

2017 Industry export sales data, compared to previous years, were as follows –

  2015 2016 2017 2017 / 2016

% Change

Cars 229 723 238 547 221 928 -7.0%
Light Commercials 103 000 105 219 106 126 +0.9%
Trucks & Buses 1 124 1 054 999 -5.2%
Total Exports 333 847 344 820 329 053 -4.6%

Source:  Lightstone Auto, NAAMSA

South African financial markets have reacted positively to the outcome of the December, 2017 ANC elective conference.  However, economic and fiscal policy uncertainty, political challenges, the risk of further credit rating downgrades and increasing geo-political tensions make forecasting difficult.

On the positive side, several recent economic indicators support the view the South African economy is performing better than anticipated despite low levels of business and consumer confidence.  Barring a further credit rating downgrade, an improvement in economic growth from about 1,0% in 2017 to around 1,9% in 2018 remains possible and this would lend support to new vehicle sales in the domestic market.

The substantial improvement in the Reserve Bank’s leading indicator of economic activity heralds improved economic prospects. Also on an encouraging note, the positive global economic environment – with International Monetary Fund projections of 3,7% global expansion – will lend support to industry export sales.

Faster economic growth remains an imperative to address South Africa’s socio-economic challenges and to take pressure off strained public finances and overburdened taxpayers.  In this context, concerted steps are needed by Business, Government and Labour to create a more investor-friendly environment as a means of boosting growth.

NAAMSA anticipates further modest improvement in domestic new vehicle sales during 2018 as well as further growth in vehicle exports and industry production numbers.

The outlook for 2018 in terms of Industry domestic vehicle sales by sector

 

Sector

 

2015 2016 2017 2018 Projected
Cars 412 478 361 264 368 068 375 000
Light Commercials 174 701 159 283 163 346 170 000
Medium Commercials 10 394 8 315 7 785 8 000
Heavy, Extra Heavy, Commercials, Buses 20 075 18 685 18 387 19 000
Total Vehicles 617 648 547 547 557 586 572 000