Jacques Brent, the president for Ford Middle East and Africa, says the government's current Automotive Production and Development Programme is export-biased, whereas the proposed new programme has a more local bias. Photo: EPA
JOHANNESBURG - Some of the proposals in the government's new automotive development policy, which would replace the current Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP) from 2020, were “a violent departure” from the existing policy, according US vehicle manufacturer Ford.

Jacques Brent, the president for Ford Middle East and Africa, said: “I definitely get the idea that it's not going to be business as usual.”

Brent said one of the proposals was not to scrap the export credits on vehicles made in South Africa but to increase the local content threshold of these vehicles in order for them to qualify for an export credit. This will make it more difficult for vehicle manufacturers to earn export credits, which can be used to offset the import duty on fully built-up vehicle models that were imported to be sold in the domestic market.

Brent was speaking on the sidelines of a function in Port Elizabeth, where the Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa reported that it had more than doubled the capacity of its Struandale engine plant as part of its R3billion investment in production in South Africa.

Brent said the current APDP was export-biased, and the proposed programme had a more local bias.

However, Brent expected that there would be a compromise and that the new programme would be more neutral.

“Not everybody is going to be happy, but I hope it is going to be as much a win-win as possible,” he said.

Brent said that vehicle manufacturers needed to get “payback on their investments”.

He said if the policy changed, all the financial metrics that were used to evaluate a particular programme were impacted.

Brent said there needed to be a fine balance in the export credit requirements, and he understood the government's quid pro quo. “You need people to invest, to get the local content, and you need to create the employment, otherwise why is the government paying all this money (in incentives).

“I don’t think it’s going to be a case of the pendulum swinging violently left or right, but who knows?” he said.

Oliver Zipse, the management board member responsible for production at BMW AG and the chairperson of BMW South Africa, cautioned earlier this month that the proposed changes to the automotive policy would endanger the growth and future of the industry.

Zipse said that if the export credit incentive were removed, it would endanger the successor to the BMW X3 at the group’s plant in Rosslyn in Pretoria.

He added that BMW had recently invested R6.2bn in South Africa, its biggest investment in the country in 50 years, and it was necessary to maintain the current policy or it would endanger their use of that investment.

Engineering News reported that Brent confirmed that a decision on where to produce the next-generation Ranger pick-up was “imminent”.

South Africa is one of three global production sites for the Ranger, and about 65percent of the domestic production of this model is exported.

Brent told Engineering News it was not a question of whether the next-generation Ranger would be built in South Africa, but what the production volume would be, which would depend on the content of the new automotive support programme.