Toyota revving its engine for first locally-produced hybrid vehicle
Toyota's first hybrid synergy drive car on the African continent will be built at the Japanese automobile giant's Prospecton plant in Durban from the end of next year.
The Covid-19 pandemic may throw a spanner in the works but it's all systems go for the R2.5bn investment.
Toyota SA Motors CEO Andrew Kirby told TimesLIVE on Thursday that while the global pandemic had an impact, the plan to produce the new passenger-car model from late 2021 was still on track.
“We are sourcing tooling and machinery from overseas for the production of the vehicle. Of course Covid-19 has put some restraints on shipping and availability of some of the tooling but we have been able to fast-track most of those elements, so currently our plans are still in place. But we did have to put some special measures in place to work around the delays that came from the pandemic,” he said.
“There is one other risk factor for us. The risk factor is being able to bring some specialised people from Japan to SA to help us with some of the advanced technology, and of course right now that is difficult to do.
“We do have a little bit of time, but we need those people to come to SA towards the end of the year. If that is not possible, then that would impact on our timeline.”
The new passenger model will replace the Corolla production line, which ended in 2020. Toyota will continue to produce the Quest in that range.
Toyota's hybrid will not the first locally produced vehicle of its kind, as Mercedes-Benz South Africa has produced the hybrid C-Class model at its East London plant.
Kirby could not reveal the specifications of the vehicle but was confident that it will appeal to motorists.
“I cannot give out details until I make the announcement next year. It will be appealing to the SA market,” he said.
The investment will generate an additional R2.85bn towards the South African economy annually and about 1,500 new jobs.
“It is of particular importance to note that this investment would not have been possible without industrial policy certainty in the form of APDP-2 (Automotive Production and Development Programme). I would like to thank all the role players involved in paving the way to practical implementation of the new policy regime in 2021,” said Kirby.
Economic development, tourism and environmental affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube welcomed the investment with “great relief”.
“Critically, I wish to express my appreciation to the leadership of Toyota South Africa Motors for working with the provincial government to turn around the situation, despite challenges created by the outbreak of Covid-19,” she said.
“This sector has suffered billions of losses as a result of Covid-19, with millions of people facing the jaws of abject poverty.
“Ahead of the outbreak, we were moving with speed to ensure that our automotive supplier park SEZ [special economic zone], located in the south of Durban, is operation in 2021. We had projected the creation of 1,339 jobs through an investment of R2.2bn. It should be remembered that in February we had successful negotiations with the leadership of Toyota, who agreed to be one of our tenants in our supplier park.”
Dube-Ncube was excited that Toyota would soon start assembling the new Hino 500-series truck in Durban.
“These would be exported to Europe and Africa. We expect this province to earn foreign currency with our export capacity being boosted significantly.
“One can never over-emphasise the contribution that has been made by Toyota into our economy. The company spends R24.2bn on procurement, with previously disadvantaged communities benefiting.”