Indian Carmaker Opens Assembly Plant in South Africa

Tata Motors’ joint venture with Tata Africa Holdings formally opened its assembly plant in SA at Rosslyn, north of Tshwane, on Friday.

“The establishment of the plant is a major step towards bolstering the operations and presence of the Tata Group in SA,” the group said.

The plant was inaugurated by SA’s Minister of Trade & Industry, Rob Davies, in the presence of top dignitaries from SA and India.

Among them were Noel Tata, managing director of Tata International, Carl-Peter Forster, group CEO and managing director of Tata Motors, Raman Dhawan, managing director, Tata Africa, as well as dealers and key associates of the company.

“Established with an investment of 110 million rand, the plant can assemble, from semi-knocked-down (SKD) 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 plant has been awarded with ISO 9001 accreditation by Bureau Veritas, SA. To begin with, it is assembling two models, the Tata LPT 813 and Tata LPT 1518, both already popular in SA.”

Speaking at the event, Davies said that the launch of the plant could be attributed to SA’s investment-friendly policies. He added that the project came at a time when his department was aggressively pursuing an industrial development strategy for the South African medium and heavy commercial vehicle (M&HCV) sector.

“The key focus area of the M&HCV strategy is based on support for market development (local and regional), development of OEM production capabilities and the strengthening of the supply chains (1st tier supplier base).

“Industry role players have and still are part of the extensive consultation process that accompanies the development of such a strategy. This will be an opportunity for further expansion of Tata Motors in SA,” Davies said.

Built over a period of 18 months, the plant was spread over an area of 34,500 square metres, the group added.

“In line with latest world-class manufacturing practices, the plant has been equipped with state-of-the-art equipment following lean manufacturing principles. 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.”

The entire capital outlay, encompassing civil and plant engineering work for the facility, had been sourced from and carried out by South African suppliers and companies. In addition, all major equipment, like heavy duty cranes, inversion mechanisms and paint booth, had also been sourced from South African vendors. The entire workforce of the plant was from SA.

Training, skill transfer and development of the local workforce was one of the top priorities of the Tata group in SA.

“The Tata group’s training processes and facilities in India have been acknowledged as among the best. Leveraging this expertise through a robust local skill transfer and apprentice programme, Tata Motors SA 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 SA and various other countries on the continent.”

Tata Motors started exports to SA in 1998, with commercial vehicles. Export of passenger vehicles began in 2004. – I-Net Bridge