Tragic times for workers as GM decides to pull out - Times LIVE
Fri May 26 22:53:45 SAST 2017

Tragic times for workers as GM decides to pull out

Times Editorial | 2017-05-19 06:44:07.0

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General Motors, which announced yesterday that it was ceasing operations in South Africa at the end of 2017, has a rich history in this country.

Its first local product rolled off the line way back in 1926. Sixty years later, it pulled out of South Africa to protest against apartheid. The Delta Motor Corporation took over, manufacturing Opel, Isuzu and Suzuki.

GM returned in 1997, buying a stake in Delta. The company became wholly owned by GM again in 2004. It assembled cars for export to other right-hand drive countries in the region, such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Kenya and Mauritius.

Although Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said GM's departure from South Africa was no surprise, it remains a devastating decision for us.

GM is selling its light commercial vehicle manufacturing operations in Port Elizabeth to Isuzu and will cease operations at the end of 2017.

The company's vice-president of international operations, Stefan Jacoby, gave a rather negative outlook on South Africa.

"After a thorough assessment of our South African operations, we believe it is best for Isuzu to integrate our light commercial vehicle manufacturing operations into its African business. We determined that continued or increased investment in manufacturing in South Africa would not provide GM the expected returns of other global investment opportunities."

To keep this in perspective, South Africa is not the only affected country. GM also said it would exit India; and it said in March it would leave Europe. GM exited Australia in 2013 and closed a plant in Indonesia in 2015.

Sales have been on a downward trend while exports in our region were low. The numbers can be analysed over and over again, but the real tragedy lies with the GM employees and their families whose livelihoods depend on their jobs.

GM has not put a number on the expected job losses, but it is certain to be significant.


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