Driving forward: huge investment allows BMW Group SA to produce all-new BMW X3
With Plant Rosslyn now producing the all-new BMW X3, the BMW Group South Africa family is confident about the future
In February 2018, the 1,191,604th BMW 3 Series sedan rolled off the production line at Plant Rosslyn, north of Pretoria – the last time for that model.
“It feels like the end of an era,” said Plant Rosslyn director Stefan Huelsenberg. “When Plant Rosslyn started production of the first-generation 3 Series, we started our growth story – both with regard to increasing our production volumes and to creating jobs in our community and growing the family of the plant.”
And that’s not changing, even if the production line has. Following a massive R6.16-billion investment, Plant Rosslyn has switched from producing 3 Series sedans to all-new BMW X3 crossover sports activity vehicles (SAVs).
As a compact luxury SAV, the all-new BMW X3 is higher, longer and wider than the BMW 3 Series sedan – so Plant Rosslyn needed an extensive infrastructure overhaul to prepare for the production switch.
Upgrades to Plant Rosslyn
The expansion included a new, 26,000m² purpose-built body shop, equipped with 288 state-of- the-art Kuka vehicle assembly robots, rendering Plant Rosslyn capable of building the all-new BMW X3. These robots represent some of the most advanced technology in the automotive industry, and to ensure Plant Rosslyn’s associates had the skills required to operate them, BMW invested about R25-million in training ahead of the plant’s BMW X3 production start-up.
“Over the years, the development of our production and export programme has been the catalyst for our sustainable growth and contribution to the South African economy,” said Tim Abbott, CEO of BMW Group South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. “With the imminent production of the new BMW X3, we remain a committed and engaged corporate citizen dedicated to the upliftment of South Africa and its people.”
Investing in the people
Plant Rosslyn’s expansion also includes a brand-new, state-of-the-art centre of excellence where associates are trained to operate BMW’s futuristic vehicle-assembly equipment.
“Our R6.16-billion investment to prepare for the new-model BMW X3 is the biggest investment yet in the South African automobile industry,” said Huelsenberg. “This is a clear sign of the commitment of the BMW Group to South Africa’s economy and its people. And when we talk about BMW Group South Africa’s investment in the community, it’s not only the investment in the people who are working at Plant Rosslyn.”
He’s right, of course. BMW Group South Africa directly and indirectly employs more than 40,000 people, including associates at Plant Rosslyn, along with the national sales organisation, dealer staff and first-, second- and third-tier supplier employees.
“You can invest a lot of money in buildings and production equipment, but ultimately the success of your operations is determined by its people,” said Huelsenberg. “We have a brand-new academy at Plant Rosslyn, where our associates are trained in the latest technologies related to car production – from the body shop to the paint shop and the final assembly.”
One of those associates is Peter Temba, head of lean manufacturing system (VPS) at BMW South Africa. “I started working here 36 years ago, in June 1982,” he said. “So I’ve been part of all the BMW 3 Series produced at Plant Rosslyn. The BMW 3 Series is a small car compared with the BMW X3, and when I started out I was a small boy. Now I am a grown-up, an old man ready to go on pension – and now the big car is coming in.
“My wish is for the younger generation to be able to say the same. Let them see new and bigger models coming in as they stay here at Plant Rosslyn so that they can tell their own story.”
This article was paid for by BMW.