Toyota goes local

Two national organisations representing the industry – the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) and National Taxi Alliance (NTA) – yesterday called for the full manufacturing process to take place in South Africa, which they hoped would reduce the price of the vehicles.

Toyota South Africa announced on Friday it had begun to assemble the Ses’fikile vehicles at its Durban plant. The company said it aimed to produce about 15 000 Ses’fikile units to the southern African market annually in its second phase. About 10 000 units were targeted for the first phase.

Santaco general secretary Philip Taaibosch and his NTA counterpart Alpheus Mlalazi said the assembling of vehicles locally was a good move and was proof the country had the skills to manufacture the vehicles.

Mlalazi said: “You must remember the Hi-Ace used to be produced here. The manufacturing of Quantums and Ses’fikile locally will reduce the price because it would do away with the shipping costs.”

Taaibosch said the introduction of a 16-seater was an advantage for the industry compared to the 15-seaters produced in Japan.

The new 16-seater kombi will cost about R285000.

“Reducing the capacity to 15 passengers hit us hard. We have been calling for the additional seat to be included,” Taaibosch said.

The organisations and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), which has members in the vehicle-manufacturing sector, described the move as a positive step since President Jacob Zuma called for job creation.

Numsa’s general secretary Irvin Jim said the trade union expected other government projects, which include the roll-out of bus rapid transit systems, to learn a lesson from the taxi industry’s bold move.

He said only countries that prioritised manufacturing had survived the global economic crisis.

Toyota spokesman Leo Kok said: “We have started with Ses’fikile because it is the most selling vehicle. We will see how it goes, but we share the same wish with the taxi industry and unions to manufacture locally.

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