Bet you didn't know these cars were manufactured right here in Mzansi

Viva local automotive production, viva!

27 September 2020 - 00:04
By Brenwin Naidu
The new 2020 Toyota Hilux.
Image: Supplied The new 2020 Toyota Hilux.

We have an automobile manufacturing sector worth bragging about — and this Heritage Month we wanted to remind you of that. The 10 cars featured here are made in South Africa; they are either built from the ground up or locally assembled from knock-down kit format.

Yes, some of these brands are responsible for more than one locally-produced model, but for the sake of limited parking space, we asked each to send a single representative.

Perhaps we need to start with a genre that our nation arguably loves the most, that of the beloved bakkie. The littlest contender here is the Nissan NP 200, darling of small businesses and an offering with the sub-one-tonner category all to itself.

It hails from Rosslyn, Tshwane. The NP 300 is also birthed here. Plans are afoot to start production of the current Navara from 2021.

Coming straight out of Benoni is the Hyundai H-100. The South Korean brand spent R110-million setting up its commercial vehicle plant here in 2015, which also builds the larger EX8 truck.

And then we have the Mahindra Pik-Up, coming to you from Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, and assembled in a plant that sources up to 40% of components locally, with an annual maximum production capacity of 4,000 vehicles. The facility was inaugurated in 2018.

Also from Durban is a Japanese nameplate with a truly envied reputation. The Hilux needs no introduction. Toyota established manufacturing operations at its Prospecton plant in 1972, which is also responsible for the Fortuner, Corolla Quest and Hiace. It plans to take a step towards the future of electrification by manufacturing a new hybrid model, details of which are yet to be confirmed. Hino trucks are also manufactured at Prospecton.

From Silverton, Tswhane, comes the redoubtable Ranger by Ford. The Blue Oval company has two major factories in South Africa. First up is its engine plant in Struandale, Port Elizabeth, which opened in 1964. The Silverton operation was established in 1967.

Last but not least is the Isuzu D-Max, whose production lineage in Port Elizabeth spans decades. In addition to the pick-up, Isuzu also assembles its heavy-duty truck models at the facility. When it was owned by General Motors, which withdrew from the market in 2017, the plant was also responsible for the Opel Corsa Utility, which became the Chevrolet Utility.


But our competencies are not limited to tough steeds with commercial applications. We do premium cars too — and rather well at that. Case in point? Say hello to the BMW X3, from Rosslyn, Tshwane. When it opened shop in 1973, it was the first BMW plant established outside of Germany.

The facility was responsible for the 5-Series (E12); five generations of the famed 3-Series and now this. And did you know, they also cobbled together a handful of 8-Series (E31) examples too? Of course, we cannot forget the many special edition versions that emerged from its skunkworks, specifically for our market, such as the 530 MLE, 733i, 333i and 325iS.

Mercedes-Benz passenger cars have been built at an East London facility since 1958. In 2015 it celebrated its one millionth unit

And how about the three-pointed star? Mercedes-Benz passenger cars have been built at the East London facility since 1958. In 2015 it celebrated its one millionth unit.

The plant was responsible for legends like the W123 and even the W126 S-Class, of which a special red example was made by employees for our beloved Tata Madiba. Oh, it does Mercedes-AMG derivatives as well.

We must issue a disclaimer, though: the plant currently builds the C-Class exclusively in saloon format. The coupé pictured here is German-sourced and for illustration purposes — it was the only version of the C-Class that could be availed to us at the time.

Staying in the Eastern Cape, we have the Beijing Automotive International Corporation (BAIC), a firm that opened shop in 2015. At its Port Elizabeth facility, it produces the X25 crossover.

A fairly decent start, but certainly the brand has a way to go before being regarded as a household name in the same breath and with the same reverence as another company in the province.

And that is Volkswagen. In 2016, the brand celebrated its 65th year of manufacturing vehicles in South Africa, saying that over 6.5 million vehicles had rolled off the production line in Uitenhage. Currently, it produces the Polo and Polo Vivo, regular leaders on the monthly new car sales charts.

To the men and women working with tireless temerity on the automotive production lines of South Africa, we salute you. These cars play a role in keeping the wheels of the economy turning, literally.