Tata opens truck plant in South Africa

25 July 2011

Tata Motors South Africa, the joint venture between India’s Tata Motors and Tata Africa, has opened a R100-million assembly plant at Rosslyn outside Pretoria. Light, medium and heavy trucks will be assembled at the plant, at a rate of 3 650 vehicles a year.

“The establishment of the plant is a major step towards bolstering the operations and presence of the Tata Group in South Africa,” Tata Motors said in a statement on the opening on Friday.

“Established with an investment of R110-million, the plant can assemble, from semi knocked down kits, light, medium and heavy commercial vehicles ranging from 4 tonnes to 50 tonnes, with an annualised capacity of 3 650 vehicles. The capacity can be further expanded as required,” the statement read.

Two models, the Tata LPT 813 and Tata LPT 1518, both already popular in South Africa, will be assembled to begin with.

Investment-friendly policies

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, speaking at the launch event, said the opening of the plant could be attributed to South Africa’s investment-friendly policies, adding that the government was aggressively pursuing an industrial development strategy for the medium and heavy commercial vehicle (MHCV) sector.

“The key focus area of the MHCV strategy is based on support for market development, development of OEM [original equipment manufacturer] production capabilities, and the strengthening of the supply chains,” Davies said.

“Industry role players have and still are part of the extensive consultation process that accompanies the development of such a strategy.”

Tata Motors MD Carl-Peter Forster said Tata Motors “is now at a stage where it can consolidate its international business in its chosen markets. The assembly plant in South Africa is an expression of that resolve.”

Mr PM Telang, MD for Tata Motors’ India operations, said South Africa “has traditionally been among our focus countries. It is integral to Tata Motors’ international business presence and plans. The company has already carved a niche for itself in the country, and is confident of greater opportunities.”

Training, skills transfer

Built over 18 months, the 34 500 square metre plant has been equipped with state-of-the-art equipment “following lean manufacturing principles,” Tata Motors said. “It has built-in flexibilities to assemble large numbers and different variants in mixed mode production, to meet the requirements of the South African market.”

Tata added that the entire capital outlay, encompassing civil and plant engineering work for the plant, had been sourced from and carried out by South African suppliers and companies, while major equipment like heavy-duty cranes had all been sourced from South African vendors.

Training, skills transfer and development of the all-South African workforce was one of the Tata Group’s top priorities, the company said.

“Tata Motors South Africa is committed to ensuring that skill levels of individuals employed in various industrial trades, such as auto mechanic, welder, painter etc, are further enhanced.

“Tata has an already established state-of-the-art technical training centre in Germiston, Johannesburg, operating since 2006, for skill development of dealer mechanics in South Africa and various other countries on the continent.”

Tata Motors started exporting commercial vehicles to South Africa in 1998, followed by passenger vehicles in 2004, and currently offers over 20 commercial models and five passenger models to the local market. It has so far exported over 32 000 commercial and 31 000 passenger vehicles to the country.

SAinfo reporter