BETWEEN 7000 and 8000 exhibitors and delegates from around the country will descend on Nelson Mandela Bay today ahead of South African Automotive Week (SAAW), which starts tomorrow and runs until Saturday.
The event, which has been described as the only dedicated automotive components industry showcase in South Africa, will have more than 300 exhibitors showcasing their products and equipment.
The last SAAW, held in 2009, brought economic benefits to the city to the tune of R45-million, according to the event's director, Andrew Binning.
"The economic spin-off for the city was found in an independent study. This was through the delegates making use of transport, accommodation and restaurants during their stay in the city," he said.
Binning said while plans were on track, there were some challenges and delays being experienced due to the current transport strike, as some exhibitors had found difficulty transporting products and equipment to the city.
"Some have hired private companies to deliver and this is putting a bit of pressure on us. But all in all we are on track with the plans," he said.
Binning said the majority of the trade show and its various conferences were already sold out.
Among those sold out is the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC) conference, which with 320 delegates is fully subscribed.
Highlights at this year's SAAW include a gala dinner which 600 delegates will attend, including Department of Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.
"The various vehicle manufacturers, including GM, VW, Mercedes Benz, Nissan and Toyota will host a presentation breakfast where they will showcase upcoming models set to be released in the next three to five years," Binning said.
He said delegates from a number of countries, including Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Mexico, Sweden and Venezuela were also set to attend and businesses had already set up more than 1000 meetings, where they could discuss new business opportunities.
"These meetings could bring better spin-offs to the sector. Everyone understands that the automotive sector is a big role player in the region's economy but it is still under threat.
Industry players will use this opportunity to discuss potential joint ventures and new business deals," he said.
National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers (Naacam) executive director Roger Pitot said the hope was that component manufacturers could secure new opportunities with vehicle manufacturers.
"Perhaps some can make a case for why a part can be manufactured here in South Africa instead of being imported. It will be an opportunity for them to network with these vehicle manufacturers which they would otherwise not have a chance to talk to," he said.
He said this was the only event focused on component manufacturers as others were consumer-focused. He said there were also high-level speakers at the conferences which were a big attraction at SAAW.
Trade and Industry Department automotive director Mkhululi Mlota said SAAW was important because it showcased the country's abilities to manufacture components and other products in the automotive sector.
"There will be a lot of dignitaries there from around the world and the event is a platform to show our capacities and capabilities," he said.
Ryszard Nowosielski, commercial counsellor at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland, said the country was a leading manufacturer of components and confirmed that two Polish companies would be present at SA Automotive Week, namely InterCars and AC SA.
Binning said there would be various vehicles on display and new technologies, such as a driving simulator and an electrical bicycle.
He said more information, such as a list of conferences, maps and programmes could be found on www.saaw.co.za.