040914 Hyandai Automotive South Africa ( HASA) Alan Ross (R) and and employee Sipho Mbatha at the official openning of their new commercial vehicles in Brakpan East of Johannesburg.Photo by Simphiwe Mbokazi

Roy Cokayne

HYUNDAI Automotive South Africa has plans to produce a bakkie at its R110 million new truck assembly plant in Benoni, which will require a further investment of about R20m and create an additional 100 new jobs.

Hyundai SA, part of Imperial Holdings subsidiary Associated Motor Holdings, officially opened the facility yesterday. It has started assembling Hyundai HD65 and HD72 medium duty trucks on a semi-knocked down (SKD) basis.

It bought an existing plant from Imperial Holdings as part of a R110m investment in the commercial vehicles sector of Hyundai in South Africa.

Hyundai SA chief executive Alan Ross said the plan was to start with the assembly of the HD65 and HD72 trucks and ensure quality was up to scratch, then in the second phase start the assembly of the Hyundai H100 bakkie.

He believed it would be able to start on the bakkie by February next year. He said another R20m would have to be invested in the plant for the assembly of the H100, which would created another 100 jobs in the plant.

Ross said the plant would have an annual capacity of about 6 000 units, of which the H100 bakkie would account for about 4 200 units.

He said the plant would be exporting the assembled trucks and bakkies into right-hand drive markets in southern Africa. Ross said it made sense to export into the region although it was a small market and it anticipated exporting only about 100 to 150 units a month.

There was a possibility the plant would also eventually assemble heavy trucks and also expand into assembling Kia bakkies.

“We have to settle this, find our way and bring in the H100. If we are successful with the H100, Kia has a similar bakkie and then we will also do Kia’s. Then there’s big expansion but we will do it slowly but smartly. So there’s an option to do a Kia model later. It’s a natural addition.”

Ross believed the group would import the Hyundai Xcient heavy duty truck into the South African market by the end of this year, adding that Hyundai Motor Company wanted to expand into more right-hand drive markets with heavy trucks.

He said there was a possibility of also assembling the Xcient at the plant.

Wade Griffin, the director of commercial vehicles at Hyundai SA, said the rationale behind the SKD assembly plant was largely driven by a long-term strategy to grow Hyundai’s share in the South African commercial vehicle market, be more competitive, and increase Hyundai’s investment in the economy.

“[It]… forms an ideal platform from which to strengthen our business strategy, both in terms of commercial market growth and sustainability, as well as an increasing commitment and investment in the South African economy.”

Griffin said the initial aim was to produce 50 units a month, focusing specifically on the Hyundai HD65 and HD72 trucks. He said the plant had an initial workforce of 30 but this would expand to 60 when it was in full production.

He said the local production of HD65 and HD72 would give Hyundai a lot of momentum to increase its present 3 percent share in the medium commercial vehicle market.

An increase in local content of the vehicles that were assembled in the plant would bring further savings, a more competitive business model and create further jobs in the local economy, he said.