How the coronavirus is putting the brakes on the SA motor industry

18 March 2020 - 13:18
By Brenwin Naidu
The launch of the new Toyota Corolla to the South African motoring press is one of many events cancelled due to coronavirus.
Image: Supplied The launch of the new Toyota Corolla to the South African motoring press is one of many events cancelled due to coronavirus.

Manufacturers have put the brakes on forthcoming launch activities over safety concerns about the Covid-19 outbreak. This follows the declaration of a national state of disaster by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday.

In the global space, the coronavirus epidemic has prompted the closure of certain carmakers’ production operations. TimesLIVE Motoring had been due to cover six automotive events over the next fortnight — five being new product introductions.

Since these would have involved flight-time and interaction in proximity, cancellations were necessary. First on our list was a reveal by Volkswagen Motorsport, of its contender in the 2020 Global Touring Cars (GTC) championship. It will instead be broadcast via a live stream. Motorsport South Africa (MSA) said on Monday that it had suspended all events under its auspices for the next three weekends, a period that may be extended.

In the Western Cape, the dainty Suzuki S-Presso was ready to be pored over by national media. Its starting price of R134,900 beats direct rivals from Renault and Datsun. We sampled the tyke at its international launch in India in January and came away mostly impressed, hoping that it fares better in crash tests than those two peers.

Meanwhile, Lexus had been preparing to show its new addition to the UX crossover range: a 250h in more attainable EX specification. In the same province, sister division Toyota was raring to release its striking Corolla sedan, arguably the most attractive iteration of the nameplate this country has ever seen.

At Aldo Scribante circuit in the Eastern Cape, Renault was aflutter preparing its launch of a new Mégane RS version, plus a purportedly more luxurious Koleos. Lastly, BMW held off on the unveiling of the four-door 2-Series Gran Coupé, its unique foray into the turf of sedan variants of the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

Of course, these postponements are the tip of the iceberg that is this disaster. The true ramifications of Covid-19 on the automotive industry will only be realised with the fullness of time. Its impact on manufacturing activities, sales and the greater transportation tapestry are inevitable. This is a developing story across every sphere. We will continue to closely survey the issues that pertain to mobility, as we strive to keep you in the know and on the move.