PRETORIA – Isuzu Motors South Africa (IMSAf) chief executive and managing director Michael Sacke expects the group’s Japanese parent company to make a decision this year about the manufacture in South Africa of the replacement model to its current D-Max bakkie. Sacke said they had been producing the D-Max, previously named the KB, since 2012 and it was starting to get to the end of its life cycle.
He said the successor to the current model would first be launched in Thailand, probably by the end of this year, and it would then be launched in other markets. Sacke said IMSAf was still negotiating with Isuzu Motors Japan and awaiting its approval to manufacture the new model in South Africa.
“Africa is the future for these types of vehicles (bakkies) and we need a replacement, because our competitors are replacing their models. Ford has just launched the new Ranger, Toyota is expected to replace the Hilux in 2021 or 2022 and Nissan will eventually change the Hardbody.
“We have to stay competitive, and to stay competitive we need to change our model. A decision would have to be made on South Africa (producing the new model) this year,” he said.
Sacke previously agreed it would seem illogical if the replacement bakkie was not produced in South Africa after Isuzu acquired General Motors South Africa's (GMSA’s) plant, but stressed that producing the new bakkie would have to make business sense and it would also have to be competitive.
Isuzu’s KB bakkie was produced locally by GMSA until its disinvestment from South Africa in 2017. This resulted in Isuzu acquiring GMSA’s manufacturing plant in Port Elizabeth and establishing a new company in South Africa.
Sacke said Isuzu Motors in Japan liked the extension by the government of the Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP) because it was more beneficial for lower-volume original equipment manufacturers.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies in November announced the extension of the APDP and the incorporation of many of its key elements into the South African Automotive Master Plan, which will replace the APDP from next year and run until 2035.
Sacke said Isuzu Motors in Japan had not raised any issues about the political and economic environment in South Africa but obviously read about what was happening in the country.
He said Isuzu Motors in Japan were happy with the quality of vehicles produced at IMSAf’s Struandale manufacturing plant and the capabilities it had in South Africa.
IMSAf last week officially opened its consolidated truck and bakkie plant in Struandale, which it believed had given it a more efficient manufacturing footprint in South Africa.
The consolidation involved the relocation of its truck plant from Kempston Road in Port Elizabeth at a cost of R27 million.