BMW X3 in Indonesia .BMW X3 next generation will be produced in Pretoria South Africa in their new plant they are planning to build in the near future Photographer: Dadang Tri/Bloomberg

Johannesburg - BMW has kick-started its R6 billion investment in South Africa for the production of the new generation BMW X3 by acquiring a vacant stand adjacent to its plant in Rosslyn in Pretoria for a new state-of-the-art body shop.

Tim Abbott, the managing director of BMW South Africa, said the acquisition of the additional land would allow them to build a new body shop while still continuing production of the BMW 3-Series.

“That was the first piece of investment. We just broke ground there last week and are beginning to clear the site,” Abbott said on the sidelines of the celebrations for BMW Group’s centenary in Munich in Germany this week.

BMW announced in November that it would be investing R6bn in South Africa after awarding a contract to its Rosslyn plant for the production of the new generation X3 for the domestic and export markets, but at the time provided scant details about the investment.

Abbott said this week that the latest investment by BMW in South Africa was the single largest automotive investment ever in the country and “was not an easy decision”.

He said R3bn of the total investment was on hardware and R3bn on the infrastructure in the plant, including some new training centres.

New technology

He said 40 percent of the plant would be renewed for the production of the X3, with the state-of-the-art body shop also encompassing new technology, while new technologies would be introduced in the existing paint shop, which would have to be enlarged to accommodate the new model.

Abbott said the roof of the main building in the plant was too low for the new model, because the X3 was a taller vehicle and 24 concrete pillars were installed in the sides of the building over the Christmas period to enable them to jack up the roof by 3 metres.

He confirmed BMW SA had been given responsibility for the entire sub-Saharan Africa region, which was previously managed by BMW in Munich.

Abbott said BMW sales into the region would initially be very small, because logistics were still a problem, but would grow over time.

He said BMW had looked at the Nigerian market but the establishment of an assembly or production plant in that country was not on the cards. He added that the company was happy with South Africa’s Automotive Production and Development Programme, which extended to 2020.

“We have got security around that so it’s definitely not in our plans to do anything in Nigeria, but never say never,” he said.