Tweaks for Suzuki Vitara

There is a completely new look – but same price – for the Suzuki Vitara for 2019 with new headlamps and a redesigned grille contributing to a fresh a more modernised look for the off-roader that has sold some 1 700 units locally since its introduction in 2015.

In front, new clear headlamp clusters flank a redesigned grille with horizontal slats and a large Suzuki S badge. Lower down, the bumper features a trapezoidal air intake with deep-set fog lamps (on certain models). For the GLX specification level, the main driving lights are LED.

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The vertical LED daytime running lights are enclosed in a new J-shaped chrome insert (black on the GL spec level), which extends from the edges of the black number plate housing to the top of the fog lamps and the optional silver scuff plate and side mouldings now integrate with the new bumper design, both in front and at the rear.

At the rear, the new combination lamp is fitted with LED lights that mimic the daytime running lights in the front and on the GLX, the front and rear bumpers are fitted with flush mounted parking sensors.

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Inside, the upper instrument panel is now made from soft touch materials and on the GLX specification level there is a new seat trim material that is both more luxurious and hardy. On the GL+ model, the designers have replaced the black stitching on all seats with contrasting white stitching and on the GLX specification level, the seats are covered with a combination of luxury suede and synthetic leather.

For the driver, Suzuki has fitted the GL+ and GLX models with a new 4,2-inch full colour LCD information display and a 3,5-inch monochrome LCD on the GL specification level. This screen displays information such as driving range, average speed, outside temperature, a gear shift indicator and, on AllGrip models, the selected Driving Mode.

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Suzuki added a second large screen in its new Smart Linkage Display Audio system, which replaces the more traditional analogue system on the GL+ and GLX models. This new touchscreen system features smartphone integration, built-in Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth connectivity. It will display the reverse camera image in full colour.

Standard features include power windows (front only on the GL model), central locking, air-conditioner with pollen filter, power steering and foldable rear seats.

For the GL+ and GLX spec levels, Suzuki added climate control, cruise control, a multifunction steering, all-round power windows and chrome detailing. The GLX model gets a unique instrument panel trim, keyless access with push-button Start/Stop and an electric tilt and sliding panoramic sunroof flanked by chromed roof rails.

All models come with seven crash bags (including one for the driver’s knees), electronic stability control (ESP) and anti-lock brakes with emergency brake assistance.

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Powering the Suzuki Vitara is the 1.6 VVT petrol engine, which delivers 86 kW at 6 000 r/min and 156 Nm at 4 400 r/min and it is mated to the choice of a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox and offered either as front-wheel drive or with the AllGrip all-wheel drive system.

The refreshed Vitara will be sold with Suzuki’s promotional 200 000 km / 5-year vehicle warranty. It also has a 4-year / 60 000 km service plan and roadside assistance for the duration of the vehicle warranty.

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Suzuki Vitara GL (manual): R281 900
Suzuki Vitara GL+ (man): R318 900
Suzuki Vitara GL+ (auto): R337 900
Suzuki Vitara GLX (auto): R359 900
Suzuki Vitara GLX AllGrip (man): R374 900

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Motorists again hit by taxes

Yet again the South African motorist has been made the ‘coffer-filler’ to provide revenue lost by a wrecked Government through its own corruption, greed and ineptitude – the 2019 Budget announced by Minister Tito Mboweni hiking fuel levies.

The chronic failure of State Owned Enterprises (SOE) and the dismal failure of Government to stop state capture, theft, looting and pillaging of tax payer money – in addition to having no success in holding the perpetrators accountable – means the motorist remains the ‘go-to’ target for revenue.

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The changes to the fuel levies will be implemented along with any fuel price adjustments on April 03, the first Wednesday of April 2019.

“Even though the increases to the General Fuel and Road Accident Fund levies are lower than expected, we remain concerned these levies are seen as the ‘go-to’ taxes for easy increases by government. Now, with the addition of the Carbon Tax on fuel, this ‘easy’ tax collection method is being further exploited, thus adding another line of tax to the fuel price,” says the Automobile Association.

Consumers currently pay R5,34 towards indirect taxes on every litre of petrol bought, and R5,19 on every litre of diesel. This is comprised of R3,37 (petrol) and R3,22 (diesel) for the General Fuel Levy, R1,93 for the RAF levy (for petrol and diesel) and four cents for customs and excise taxes (petrol and diesel).

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With the increases announced in the Budget Speech, these levies will now increase by a combined 29 cents for petrol and 30 cents for diesel which include a nine and 10 cent addition for the Carbon Tax on petrol and diesel respectively.

From April the total cost of the levies (General Fuel, RAF, customs and excise and the new Carbon Tax) will amount to R5,63 for petrol and R5,49 for diesel.

“These increases will comprise anything between 40% and 42% of every litre of fuel bought depending on the type of fuel used and where it is purchased (either inland or coastal). This represents a substantial portion of the fuel price and, in our opinion, adds to the burden especially poorer consumers carry directly through paying these taxes, and indirectly through the costs passed on to them by manufacturers and retailers who also have to pay these taxes,” says the AA.

Of particular worry to the Association is the inclusion of the new Carbon Tax announced by the Minister.

“Besides being an additional line of tax on the fuel price, the inclusion of a Carbon Tax is grossly unfair by government given the fact South Africans will now be paying an emissions tax on inferior quality fuel despite not having access to higher quality fuels which are available in many other markets in the world,” notes the AA.

Government has consistently failed to ensure the Petroleum industry in South Africa moves forward and modernises to be able to provide the same quality fuel as used elswhere in the world – meaning motorists are also deptived of access to some of the more modern and ‘greener’ engines available from motor manufacturers.

This means the current Emissions Tax is – and always has been – a farce, since it has nothing to with actual emissions but put in place merely to generate more revenue, as is the case with the Carbon Tax.

“Fuel is a volatilely-priced commodity; geo-political developments affecting international oil production and supply, and the value of the Rand against the US dollar both play a major role in its monthly determination.

“While 2019 has begun relatively smoothly in terms of the fuel price – especially compared with the extreme variations seen in 2018 (which included record highs of over R17/l for some fuels) – there is no guarantee prices will remain as flat as they are currently. In fact, forecasts for March already show a more than 50 cents increase, perhaps even higher,” states the AA.

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Against this backdrop, the Association notes, the increases to the fuel levies will have a deep impact on the fuel price for the months ahead, placing consumers on the back foot before any price adjustments for the rest of the year are even made.

Another factor the AA believes is important is any increases to the fuel price will come at a time when government is appealing to citizens to tighten their financial belts.

“Setting an example in this regard may prove more successful in the short and longer terms than simply adding yet another layer to taxes,” concludes the AA.

Edox joins WRX

Time is ticking away to the start of the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship, presented by Monster Energy but, will have a whole new level of Swiss precision with watch brand, Edox, on board as the new official timing partner.

The partnership with the FIA World Rallycross Championship extends Edox’s long history of involvement with motor sport.

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As Official Timing Partner, Edox will have significant trackside branding and put its name to the fastest lap at each round of the championship. Additionally there are plans for a FIA World Rallycross-themed timepiece collection.

In welcoming Edox to the fold, Paul Bellamy, Senior Vice President of IMG Motorsports, the series promoter, said: “We are delighted Edox is joining our stable of commercial partners as Official Timing Partner.

“Edox has a rich heritage in motor sport and we are privileged it has chosen the FIA World Rallycross Championship as the ideal environment for continuing that association.”

The 135-year old family-owned company combines traditional hand-assembly with innovative materials and functionality at the company headquarters in Les Genevez.

The Chronorally collection has been developed to withstand the most extreme racing conditions and will be the assigned watch for World RX.

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Alexandre Strambini, CEO says: “At Edox, we attach great importance to the world of motor sports and to the values it represents. We have been repeatedly the Official Timing Partner for some of FIA’s prestigious competitions in the past years and we are now very proud to start this new partnership with the FIA World Rallycross Championship.”

Tough times for auto industry

The outlook for the South African automotive industry is not all that great unless Government steps up and fixes infrastructure failures such as roads, rail and ports as well as bringing the country into line with international fuel standards.

The recent 2019 State of the Motor Industry (SOMI) address – hosted by Andrew Kirby, President and CEO of Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) – delivered some sobering facts about the affairs of the local automotive industry and its socio-economic context.

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According to Kirby, total vehicle sales for the 2019 will continue the downward trajectory that began in 2013 – with the exception of 2017 when the market registered a marginal increase – and settle at 550 000 at the end of the year.

As Mamello Matikinca-Ngwenya puts it: “2019 will essentially be a year of two halves, in the first half we are expecting activity to remain relatively benign in the economy because we are heading into the elections. We are certainly monitoring business confidence, which has been quite weak due to political uncertainty. On the business side, our view essentially is businesses are likely to stay on the sidelines till after the outcome of the elections; only then will we start to see business confidence improve – investment of course follows that.”

Both the World Bank and the South African Reserve Bank have predicted this year’s economic growth will be less than 2% – with forecasts of 1,3% and 1,9%, respectively. The extrapolation – based on a variety of socio-economic factors – does not bode well for the local motor industry.

The automotive sector currently contributes 7% to local GDP, constitutes 30% of South Africa’s total manufacturing output, is responsible for 14% of total exports and employs 112 000 people in the vehicle and component production.

However, the figures pale in comparison to the targets set by the industry and the government in the recently-announced South African Automotive Masterplan (SAAM) 2035 – which is essentially an extension of the Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP).

The vision of the Masterplan is to increase the number of people working in the automotive industry by 100% (from 112 000 to 224 000) and double the percentage of vehicles assembled in South Africa from 38,7% to 60%. This will amount to 1,4-million vehicles produced annually and grow the South African vehicle production to 1% of the global output.

The Masterplan, developed jointly through strategic collaboration between the government, industry and labour unions, will replace the APDP from 2021 to 2035.

Kirby says while the automotive industry appreciates the government’s continued support of the sector, there are a number of focus areas that need to be addressed in order for the Masterplan to be a success. These include lack of infrastructure such as stable and competitive ports and rail, as well as the maintenance of urban roads.

The quality of South African fuel is also poor, which in turn, could hinder the availability of world-class vehicle engines for the South African market, while there are also concerns about technology disruptors and how they’re likely to influence customer needs.

However, one of the main challenges to domestic market stimulation is the relatively high tax structure that makes vehicle ownership almost impossible for many.

Africa offers a good prospect for local vehicle manufacturers, however the proliferation of used cars from overseas markets is a threat.

“Africa is not a dumping ground for second-hand vehicles,” says Dr Martyn Davies, Managing Director of Emerging Markets and Africa at Deloitte.

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Hino Crew Cabs arrive

The Crew Cab variants of the Hino 500 Wide Cab range have arrived with options being a 6-speed manual gearbox or a 6-speed Allison automatic.

This ups the Hino 500 Wide Cab range to 14 with the addition of the two 1627 Crew Cab derivatives, that provide seating for seven people, including the driver.

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“The Hino 500 Wide Cab range, which was introduced to South Africa at the end of 2017, has been well accepted in the market and now we can fill requirements in another niche segment with the arrival of the Crew Cab models,” says Ernie Trautmann, the Vice President of Hino SA.

“We see the new additions appealing to municipalities, removal companies, tow truck operators as well as the construction and mining industries.”

The Crew Cabs are well specified, with standard equipment including air-conditioning, power windows, audio system, cruise control and hill start-assist on the manual model.

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The Hino 1627 Crew Cab outperforms its direct competitor with a more powerful engine, fully automatic transmission, higher GVM of 16 000 kg, full air braking system, much bigger fuel tank, tighter turning circle and far better gradeability.

Penta backs SAGMJ

With less than a month to go to the final evaluation of the models nominated for the 2019 AutoTrader South African Car Of The Year competition, the Penta Motor Group has joined as a second-tier sponsor.

The South African Car Of The Year has never had any restrictions other than that no second tier sponsorship must clash with the headline sponsor regarding the sponsorship of the competition. The South African Guild of Motoring Journalists (SAGMJ) welcomes Penta, the first sponsorship by a multi-franchise dealership.

The Penta Motor Group had humble beginnings when Philip Botha and Roelof Janse van Vuuren decided they wanted to strike out on their own in 2011. In 2012 Penta started off with a Suzuki dealership in Rustenburg with Suzuki Klerksdorp being added in 2013.

This was followed by a Suzuki and Mahindra dealership Montana and in 2014 Mahindra Klerksdorp was completed. By 2016 Nissan Standerton joined and the official name was changed from North West Motor Group to Penta Motor Group.

In 2017 Suzuki Menlyn became the newest member and in 2018 Penta has grown into Limpopo with Mahindra Polokwane that encompasses Volvo, Peugeot and Mahindra Mokopane.

Penta motor Group has a number of brands in itrs stable being: Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Suzuki, Nissan, Datsun, Peugeot and Mahindra.

“We look forward to a fruitful relationship between Penta, the SAGMJ and 2019 AutoTrader South African Car Of The Year,” says Guild Chairman, Rubin van Niekerk.

Isuzu consolidates production

A major slice of South Africa autotive history is being consigned to the books with the move by Isuzu Motors South Africa to leave the Kempston Road, Port Elizabeth plant and consolidate its manufacturing operations at its Struandale facility.

The R27-million project of relocating the Isuzu truck production facilities from Kempston Road in Port Elizabeth to Isuzu Motors South Africa’s headquarters in Struandale, Port Elizabeth, ensures all bakkie and truck manufacturing now takes place under one roof.

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The relocation follows the official merging of Isuzu’s truck and bakkie business in February last year with the establishment of one company, Isuzu Motors South Africa.

Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Michael Sacke, said having both Isuzu production facilities under one roof has many advantages – including driving a common team culture and the optimisation of shared resources.

After 21 years of truck production at Kempston Road, it was the end of an era when the last truck rolled off the production line on 30 November 2018.

“We started with regular production of our market-leading trucks at their new home in Struandale in January 2019. These changes have resulted in greater efficiencies in terms of our manufacturing support resources and an opportunity to improve the application of our lean manufacturing system,” says Sacke.

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It took many months to study, plan and execute the truck plant move and offered the ideal opportunity to correct historical layout inefficiencies, said the Manufacturing and Supply Chain Executive, Johan Vermeulen.

“Materials are now stored closer to the truck line which reduces travel distances substantially. This improves efficiency and eliminates waste and unnecessary cost. We also used the opportunity to work together with our source plant to change the way that material is packed, providing us with easier access to the correct material at the correct time. We also came up with some innovative solutions with regards to material storage,” said Vermeulen.

Compared to the Kempston Road location, a 50% improvement in space utilisation under one roof was achieved, and a 22% improvement in the overall amount of space required.

Managed by Isuzu Motors South Africa’s internal team using local contractors, site preparation took around eight months (Phase 1) followed by the relocation, commissioning and start-up of the truck facility in just seven weeks (Phase 2). Phase 2 took place during the shutdown period, which also included in-depth training for the truck manufacturing team.

By positively promoting a single company culture, the new modern site will allow for shared production learning.

“By uniting the two manufacturing facilities, the end result will be even better, that is, quality products and services to both our truck and bakkie customers,” Vermeulen concluded.

Isuzu’s investment in South Africa a year ago preserved 1 000 direct jobs and secured around 4 000 jobs through its network of 80 dealers in South Africa and 35 dealers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Isuzu also ensured the continuity of business with around 430 direct and indirect suppliers; while managing its smooth transition to new operations and to a new dealer network.

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The company successfully transitioned to new Information Technology systems and moved its engineering equipment from Kempston Road to the Vehicle Conversion and Distribution Centre in Markman Township in Port Elizabeth. Furthermore, Isuzu’s dealer network also went through major changes in line with its dedicated focus of providing the right solutions to light commercial vehicle, SUV and commercial vehicle customers.

“As we look towards future growth, Isuzu is keen to play its part in the economic development, growth and transformation of South Africa along with our customers, dealer network and partners. As a company we experienced a wave of positive change throughout the organisation both operationally, strategically and in the market place,” says Sacke.

In 2018, Isuzu expanded its product portfolio in Southern Africa through the addition of the new SUV competitor, the Isuzu mu-X. The 40-year-old KB bakkie’s name changed to D-MAX, aligning to the global naming convention with a new, enhanced D-MAX hitting the market at the same time.

For the first time in 2018, Isuzu became the highest volume selling truck brand in South Africa. Additionally, Isuzu has occupied the number one position in the medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicle segment of the South African market for six years in a row.