Pretoria - Nissan South Africa has announced a R3 billion investment in its Rosslyn plant in Gauteng, which will see it produce the Navara bakkie for the first time ever.

Navara production will commence from 2020 on an upgraded, and more flexible, production line that will see it built alongside the existing older-generation NP300 and the unibody NP200 compact bakkie.

The Navara is currently sold in South Africa as a limited range of imported double cab models, but Nissan SA said that it would produce a “full” line-up of Navara models. Although the exact model mix has yet to be announced, an expanded range could certainly include lower-spec double cab and single cab models.

Nissan is hoping that Navara production will add 30 000 units to the plant’s annual production, almost doubling the current volume of 35 000, and although a new export programme has not been formally announced, Nissan states that the move “expands the role of the plant as a Light Commercial Vehicle manufacturing hub" for Nissan. The current NP models are exported to 45 pan-African countries.

The announcement, made at the Rosslyn plant on Wednesday morning, was attended by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who congratulated Nissan employees for securing this important model for local production.

The move does come later than anticipated, however. It was as far back as 2012 that Nissan SA announced it wanted to double its production capacity at Rosslyn through the investment in a new one-tonne bakkie.

1200 new jobs

The investment is expected to create around 1200 new jobs, and will also contribute to the upskilling of staff and to the further modernisation of the plant in terms of equipment and machinery. Through Nissan’s collaboration with the Automotive Industry Development Centre, it will also benefit 15 black-owned companies through the supply chain.

Nissan Group of Africa Managing Director Mike Whitfield enthused: “The new Navara is the perfect model for South Africa and our workforce is ready to build it, supported crucially by the government’s Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP).

“Vehicles already account for around 14% of total exports from South Africa. Navara production will allow us to expand Rosslyn’s role as an export hub for Light Commercial Vehicles and contribute further to the local automotive sector, fully in line with the goals in the next phase of the APDP.”

IOL Motoring