Africa pays attention

The increased activity by local automakers and importers in developing African markets is being reciprocated by unprecedented interest in Automechanika Johannesburg from other African countries this year.

MIAZ, the Motor Industry Association of Zimbabwe, is planning on bringing a delegation of buyers to the show this year, as well as at least 30 buyers from Tanzania, Zambia and Kenya.

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Automechanika Johannesburg will be opened officially on Wednesday, September 18, and will then continue with the awarding of the various, highly valued Innovation Awards.

Many organisations and some companies are also using Automechanika as the venue for meetings, conferences, and workshops. Among those who have already booked events of this kind are: Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), Engine Remanufacturing Association (ERA), Collision Repairers’ Association (CRA), Motor Industry Staff Association (MISA), Fuel Retailers’ Association (FRA) and Safer Connected Mobility.

Many of the exhibitors will be taking the opportunity to announce new products and services during the show.

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One of these is Gulf Oil, who is demonstrating interest in Africa, by launching the brand in South Africa amongst others in Africa. Gulf’s in-country resource, Godfrey Rajool, is a qualified metallurgist with more than 15 years’ experience with a major oil company in South Africa.

Rajool comments the new company is already operating in the lubricants market, with warehouses holding stock in Jet Park, Gauteng, as well as in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Gulf has appointed a national distributor, Shakti Lubricants, which is headed up by Donovan Ivemperumal, previous technical manager at one of the leading oil companies.

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Godfrey Rajool (left) and Donovan Ivemperumal

Joshua Low, Managing Director of Messe Frankfurt South Africa, says he is pleased at the positive response from both exhibitors and the rate at which visitors are registering.

A big draw card for this year’s event is the major focus on skills development by the organisers. There will be a free-to-attend, 3-day programme aimed at sharing knowledge and upskilling attendees.

There will also be a variety of interactive elements such as a tyre changing competition, the Automechanika Body & Paint World Championship which already took place in the United Kingdom in June and will continue in many other countries before the grand finale in Frankfurt in 2020. Also, there will be an all new virtual reality zone where visitors can explore the latest technology through VR.

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“This enthusiasm shows the importance of the world-renowned Automechanika trade fair for the automotive aftermarket in a period of subdued new vehicle sales and the growing importance of the correct maintenance and repairs for motorists and transport operator,” concludes Low.

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Ford ramps up production

Everything considered, good news seems fairly hard to come by so the fact Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) is taking on 1 200 additional workers to staff a third shift at the Silverton Plant, Pretoria, qualifies as great news.

The third shift is to meet the growing international and local demand for the New Ranger, Ranger Raptor and Everest.

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The additional shift, which commences in August this year, will create 1 200 new jobs at the Silverton plant, taking Ford’s total employment in South Africa to approximately 5 500 employees. At the same time, it will significantly bolster supplier companies by adding around 10 000 jobs in this sector. In total, Ford’s local vehicle assembly operations will now support some 60 000 jobs within the total value chain.

“The R3-billion investment in our South African plants, announced in 2017, is now coming to fruition with the addition of a third shift to increase our production output,” says Ockert Berry, Vice President Operations, Ford Middle East and Africa.

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“The investment enabled extensive reworks at the Silverton Assembly Plant to expand our production capacity from 124 000 vehicles per year to 168 000 units, which is 58 000 vehicles more than our original capacity when the current Ranger programme commenced in 2011.

“The third shift will allow us to ramp up our production from the current 506 vehicles assembled per day to a peak of 720 units to satisfy the strong demand from customers in South Africa, as well as for our crucial exports to 148 markets around the world.”

Kicking off at the beginning of August, the Silverton Assembly Plant will run around the clock using a three-shift pattern from Monday to Thursday, with the additional Friday third shift available to address any potential shortfalls in the production schedule.

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“In addition to the job opportunities created for hourly employees, the new shift makes provision for 104 skilled artisans and technicians who have been appointed as permanent employees, thus adding to the skills set of our staff complement in Silverton,” says Berry.

Thanks to Ford Motor Company’s ongoing investment in South Africa, which reached R11-billion between 2009 and 2018, Ford’s domestic turnover now accounts for 1% of the country’s GDP. This makes the Silverton-based company a significant player in the country’s economy and manufacturing sector, as well as a major contributor to South Africa’s employment –  both through direct jobs, and within the total value chain amongst supplier companies.

Approximately two thirds of Ford’s local production is exported to 148 global markets, with the balance sold in South Africa and Sub-Saharan African countries. The Ranger leads the light commercial vehicle (LCV) sector exports, with the locally-built model consistently ranked as the top-selling pickup in Europe.

As demand for the New Ranger and the exceptional Ranger Raptor continues to grow in Europe, Ford began exporting vehicles through Port Elizabeth in April this year – a strategic move to address the high level of congestion at the Durban Harbour’s Roll On Roll Off (RORO) Terminal, which is the country’s primary import and export hub.

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The multi-port strategy makes effective use of Transnet’s rail infrastructure to transport vehicles from the Silverton plant to the Port Elizabeth vehicle terminal. Approximately 1 000 Rangers are being exported via this new route each month, which has improved the efficiency and delivery timeframes to European markets.

Port Elizabeth is also home to Ford’s Struandale Engine Plant, which supports two global diesel engine programmes. Production commenced at the end of last year of the new-generation 2,0-litre Bi-Turbo and Single Turbo engines that are used in selected Ranger and Everest models, with an installed capacity of 120 000 engines a year – all of which are supplied to the Silverton Assembly Plant.

Additionally, the Struandale plant continues machining component sets, comprising the cylinder head, block and crankshaft, for the existing 2,2-litre and 3,2-litre Duratorq TDCi engine. Following the recent investment and expansion, installed capacity climbed to its highest-ever figure of 280 000 sets a year to support export markets in Thailand and Argentina, as well as local engine assembly.

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Besides supplying fully assembled engines to Silverton for installation in the Ranger and Everest, the local plant also ships engines to North America, China and several customer plants in Europe with a production capacity of up to 130 000 units per year.

BMW icon reborn

There is a wonderful South African saying – ‘Boer maak a plan’ – which, translated back into English as ‘Farmer makes a plan’ does not quite capture the true meaning or convey the intent to overcome whatever the circumstances.

So, when BMW South Africa wanted to go racing in the mid-1970s, a time when the country was something of a world pariah and had limited access to much of the then current automotive technology or models, the company made a plan and sought out famous racing driver and Head of BMW Motorsport Jochen Neerpasch.

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Shortly thereafter, two of the first generation BMW 5 Series (E12) race cars were prepared to compete in the flagship Modified Production Series in South Africa.

The BMW 530 Motorsport Limited Edition (MLE) rolled up to the starting line in the Modified Production Series in 1976. Fifteen wins from 15 consecutive starts followed and BMW stamped its authority on the racing series with three championship titles in three years. The BMW 530 MLE was the most successful racing BMW 5 Series in history when it was retired in 1985.

To qualify for entry, however, BMW South Africa had to sell 100 road-going versions of this first generation BMW 5 Series, known as the 530 MLE, to the public. Developed by BMW Motorsport as a limited edition ‘homologation’ model for South Africa, 110 units of the Type 1 were produced in 1976, while 117 versions of the Type 2 rolled off the production line at BMW Group Plant Rosslyn in 1977.

The six cylinder engine was a factory tweaked version of the same unit found in the 3.0L, boasting figures such as 147 kW, 277 Nm, a 208 km/h top speed and a 0 – 100 km/h sprint time of 9., seconds. It proved to be an early step of BMW Motorsport’s ventures into track oriented cars for the road.

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And now, the restoration of the last SA-only built BMW 530 Motorsport Limited Edition (MLE) is now at an advanced stage. In April this year, the revival process of the legendary classic car began. The car was stripped down from its rusty condition, cleaned and received its first coat of paintwork. A number of new and old parts were neatly laid out waiting to be assembled into various parts of the car.

At the beginning of July 2019, car number 100 was painted to its original Chamonix White metallic paint. Friday, July 12 saw another milestone of the restoration being reached – the body shell mounted onto the suspension of the car. The bare engine was also started for the first time after more than 20 years and will soon be installed into the vehicle.

After years of searching, BMW South Africa acquired one of the only BMW 530 MLEs known to have endured beyond its 70s heyday. Car number 100, which came with a particular pedigree, was owned by race driver and the racing 530 MLE’s team manager Peter Kaye-Eddie and its engine and chassis numbers are a matching set. In December 2018, BMW South Africa embarked on an exciting journey in its classic car expedition to restore this lauded model.

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The restoration process included the input of BMW Group South Africa employees who assembled the original vehicles. Unique in the world, the Rosslyn-produced vehicles saw weight-reduction measures that included bodywork and pedals drilled by hand, manual windows with no air-conditioning and Mahle wheels.

South Africa enjoys a long history of rare and storied BMW special editions. In 1973, BMW Group Plant Rosslyn was the very first BMW plant established outside of Germany and several models were specially built for the local market until 1990. A growing list of these have been meticulously restored by BMW South Africa in later years, including the cult classic BMW 333i and BMW 325iS. The restoration of the 1976 BMW 530 MLE, is led by Luis Malhou of Custom Restorations.

The restored BMW 530 MLE is scheduled to be unveiled in the last quarter of this year (2019). Follow #BMW530MLE on social media to see the progress of the restoration.

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Ice, ice baby

Imagine travelling in a vehicle at 280 km/h on a sheet of ice – and then stopping before you become an immovable part of the landscape. A Jeep Trackhawk has done just this!

At the traditional annual 2019 Speed Days of the Baikal Ice Motor Sports Festival in Russia recently, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk set the speed record for SUVs driven on ice.

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According to data confirmed by the Russian Automobile Federation (RAF), the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk was able to achieve an average speed over a distance of 1 km of more than 257 km/h with a rolling start and an average speed starting from a standstill of more than 100 km/h. The maximum speed on ice according to GPS trackers was 280 km/h.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk backs up its claim as the most powerful mass-produced SUV in the world with a 6,2-litre V8 engine powering it to 100 km/h in just 3,7 seconds and on to a maximum speed of 290 km/h.

Participation in this event means a serious load on the braking system due to the specifics of the Baikal ice. In sunlight, the surface of the lake is covered in a film of water, which reduces grip on the surface. However, even in such conditions, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk demonstrated excellent results when braking thanks to its Brembo brake system, which uses large front brakes.

Traction was granted by the Jeep Quadra-Trac on-demand four-wheel-drive system, which includes an electronic limited-slip rear differential and a single-speed active transfer case and the Selec-Track system with five dynamic modes – Auto, Sport, Track, Snow and Tow – which allows for the driver to choose a vehicle setting that ideally meets any requirement and ambient conditions including ice driving.

Before the race, unnecessary items were removed from the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and it was checked that the fuel level was sufficient.

All the runs were conducted in line with the regulations of the Russian Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). The maximum average speed was counted over a distance of 1 km with a rolling start; the drivers had to cover 1 km in the middle of the track at the maximum possible speed and 1 km from a standing start.

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The rules also dictated that the timing gates needed to be passed in both directions, with the judges calculating the average result. To allow for the required acceleration and braking, the total length of the course was 12 km.

Additionally, the absolute maximum speed achieved in each run was included in the official Book of Records of Russia.

The Speed Days on the Baikal Ice festival were first held in 2011. Over eight years, more than 20 speed records have been set on the Baikal ice in different categories of vehicles. All runs are traditionally conducted on natural bare ice and preparation of the route is limited to the removal of obstacles (packed snow, hummocks) affecting safety for drivers and judges.

Achievements are recorded by licensed judges from the Russian Automobile Federation using timekeeping equipment approved by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).

FIA goes autonomous

Delegates at the 2019 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Conference at Sun City have been shuttled between the hotels and Conference Centre using the Navya Electric Autonomous Shuttle – the first time this has been used on the African Continent.

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“I am excited by the gradual shift to electronic modes of transport. We need to look to the future to obtain solutions for the present. With some foresight, we might be able to save government billions in the long run, as well as conserving our future,” said Transport Minister Blade Nzimande when he opened the Conference on Monday.

The Conference is being held in South Africa for the first time at the invitation of the Automobile Association of South Africa (AASA), with the support of Motorsport South Africa (MSA).

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FIA President, Mr Jean Todt (left), and South African Minister of Transport, Dr Blade Nzimande, during the inaugural trip on the autonomous, fully electric Navya Shuttle, demonstrated for the first time at Sun City. 

The joint Mobility and Sport Conferences – which brings together close to 500 delegates from 117 different countries – is held under theme ‘Stronger Together’, and signifies the unity between mobility and sport within the FIA and member countries. The event takes place in conjunction with the FIA Region 1 Spring Meeting and FIA Sport Regional Congress, and is being held in Africa for the time in the FIA’s history.

During his visit to the conference at Sun City in the North West province, Minister Nzimande and the President of the FIA, Jean Todt, took the opportunity to travel on the Navya Autonomous Electric Shuttle, the first autonomous, driverless, fully electric, commercially available vehicle to be demonstrated in South Africa.

Autonomous transport technologies have the potential to change the act of driving and the perception of mobility. The FIA has long acknowledged the benefits these could bring to revolutionise transport systems, making them cleaner, safer, and more accessible, especially in urban areas.

By proposing the Navya Electric Autonomous Shuttle service to the attendees of the FIA Conference 2019, the Federation asserts its commitment to accompany its Member Clubs, and all road users, in the journey towards the adoption of driverless vehicles. The launch event was the occasion to highlight the opportunities and challenges of these innovations, the necessity to develop and monitor independent trials in real conditions to build user confidence, and the regulatory changes required for these new vehicles to safely transition to the road.

This demonstration in South Africa is one of the first trials on the African continent where the road mortality rate is almost 50% higher than the world average, and 85% to 95% of the fleet is made of used vehicles.

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FIA President Jean Todt welcomed the initiative and encouraged authorities to adopt strategies for automation to address these mobility challenges.

“Autonomous transport can have an important impact in tackling some of the pressing issues that local and regional authorities are facing, particularly in the areas of road safety, congestion and air quality. While there is much potential behind this new technology, understanding the effect it will have, and how it can be best deployed, is an important step to ensure informed and appropriate decisions are taken.

“I am pleased to see the FIA Conference offers an interesting opportunity for South African authorities to test automated transport technologies and identify potential use cases for their cities, in line with sustainable urban mobility objectives”, he said.

With neither a steering wheel nor pedals, the Navya Autonomous Electric Shuttle uses effective guidance and detection systems that combine various types of advanced technology. Data from sensors, cameras, GPS and odometry is merged and interpreted by deep learning programmes on-board the vehicle. Through this technology, the Navya Autonomous Electric Shuttle moves about efficiently, and makes proficient decisions without any driver.

“There are huge challenges in terms of mobility in our country and, certainly, this demonstration shows us what is out there right now. It may not necessarily be technology which will be implemented throughout South Africa tomorrow, but it is shining a light on where we think we need to be going.

“Given the problems on our roads and the lack of reliable, affordable public transport, we need to be looking at innovative developments such as those offered by the Navya Autonomous Electric Shuttle, which can provide answers,” said Sikkie Kajee, chairman of the AASA.

A short video of the Navya Autonomous Electric Shuttle at Sun City is available at https://we.tl/t-jajckQBPNa

Combo time

Opel, through its distributor Unitrans, returns to the local commercial vehicle segment with the Opel Combo Cargo Van.

It is available in Standard and LWB configurations measuring 4 403 mm and 4 753 mm respectively, with generous width of 1 848 mm. It delivers a payload of up to one ton and a towing capacity of up to 1 250 kg with a braked trailer.

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Safety comes via dual front crash bags, 3-Point Seatbelts, Hill-Start Assist, anti-lock braking, EBD and ESP, with comfort features including air-conditioning, Radio/Bluetooth/USB/MP3 Input and four speakers.

It offers maximum protection for cargo and equipment by keeping it out of sight in the alarm-equipped, enclosed shell that is an integral part of the vehicle’s body due to blacked-out windows, remote-controlled central locking, rear interior electronic door lock and an anti-theft immobiliser.

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The 1,6-litre turbo-diesel engine is more efficient and fuel combustion is 15% to 20% less with a combined fuel consumption of 5,0 l/100 km. It offers 230 Nm of torque and 68 kW of power.

The Combo offers up to 4,4 cubic metres of load space with a flat floor and no intrusion from the wheel arches. The van’s lower load floor height allows for efficient and easier maneuvering of goods and equipment, both in and out of the sliding side and dual-opening back doors and the squarer body shape means there is ample space inside to load up to 600 kg and 1 000 kg of cargo in both the Standard and LWB option.

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Combo has a Warranty & Roadside Assistance for 3 Years / 120 000 km, a 3 Year / 60 000 km service plan and service Intervals are every 12 Months /15 000 km

Pricing:
Standard configuration – R311 700.
LWB configuration – R350 400.

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Hillclimb to be live streamed

Viewers from around the world can watch the live action at the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb this weekend via live streaming of this, the 10th running of the event in the Eastern Cape village of Knysna.

All three days of the race, starting on Classic Car Friday and wrapping up with the King of the Hill Finale on Sunday Afternoon, will be available online for any viewer with an internet connection. Some 12 cameras will be placed alongside the 1,9 km Simola track to catch every moment of action, while a dedicated camera at the start will broadcast every competitor’s launch off the line.

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Another camera will roam the pit complex to offer live updates from two presenters.Popular radio personality and motoring journalist Jacob Moshokoa, together with Jaguar Simola Hillclimb race veteran Dawie Olivier, will be the voices of Jaguar Simola Hillclimb 2019 and will inform viewers of all the happenings on track and behind the scenes.

Aside from the live commentary, viewers will benefit from live timing and competitor leaderboards making it easy to keep track of which car and driver combination is placed in individual sessions including respective grand finale runs.

Viewers can tune into Jaguar South Africa’s YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/JaguarSA1 at any time over the course of the race weekend which runs from the morning of Friday, May 3 to the afternoon of Sunday, May 5. The broadcast will also run 24-hours a day outside of the live action for viewers to catch highlight reels and a selection of on-demand content.

First held in 2009, the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Jaguar has been the title sponsor of the event for the past six years and on each occasion has used the opportunity to demonstrate the high-performance capabilities of its various product ranges.

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For the 2019 edition Jaguar has enlisted five well-known racing drivers to take on the Simola Hill and rival competitors alike. World Champion karters and former professional race and rally drivers Mark and Gavin Cronje will challenge for the overall win in the road and supercar category in a pair of identical Jaguar F-TYPE SVRs. This thrilling race within a race will finally reveal which brother is quickest after a decades-long rivalry between the two.

A fleet of three all-electric Jaguar I-PACEs will contest the EV and Hybrid class, with ex-Touring Car aces Mike Briggs, Deon Joubert and Shaun Watson-Smith at the wheels. The trio comes armed with more than 20 South African and international championship titles between them. Ultimate bragging rights are on the table for the quickest of the three, who famously battled door handle to door handle in a variety of tin-top racing series throughout the 1990s.

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The 2019 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb also marks the South African debut of the new 405 kW F-PACE SVR. A pair of Jaguar’s highest-performance SUVs are entered with journalists and skilled drivers Ashley Oldfield from Cars.co.za and Marius Roberts from Ignition TV set to challenge for Bakkie and SUV category honours.