Yokohama-based Nissan is considering adding manufacturing at its assembly plant in Pretoria, South Africa, but lack of skilled workers and instability are stumbling blocks, Japan’s No. 2 car maker said in a report in Bloomberg Business Week.
Nissan wants to double car sales to 220,000 by 2016, Mike Whitfield, managing director of Nissan’s South African business, told Bloomberg Business Week. The company expects small passenger cars to lead sales gains in sub-Saharan Africa as the emerging middle class buys more cars and countries improve their roads.
To meet rising demand in Ghana, Nigeria, Angola and Eastern Africa, Nissan is adding new models to its lineup including Micra, Almera and Sentra. Existing offerings include SUVs, commercial vans and pickup trucks, the report said.
Nissan’s 2,500 assembly plant workers in Pretoria assemble pickups in left-hand and right hand-drive for sale domestically, across Africa, the Middle East and Russia. They assembled 51,000 vehicles in 2012 – about a third of capacity.
South Africa’s car market will likely increase 4 percent to 5 percent this year, Whitfield said. That compares with growth of 9.2 percent in 2012. Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen, ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the world, are the largest sellers in South Africa, according to Bloomberg Business Week.
As consumer spending slows in South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy, Nissan is seeking growth elsewhere in Africa. Its primary focus is exports and the No. 1 market is Africa, Whitfield said.
“There is a lack of skills” to expand manufacturing at the Pretoria factory, Whitfield said. “As we move forward to grow competitiveness and to grow production, we are going to be faced with a shortage of skills.”
The other challenge to Nissan’s manufacturing hopes for South Africa is stability in the local labor market amid unrest in other industries, he said in the Bloomberg Business Week interview. “We need to work together with labor to ensure we can grow both productivity and flexibility.”