IN a firm commitment to developing a world-class automotive cluster, the East London industrial development zone (ELIDZ) yesterday announced a new R180-million investment by a major component manufacturer.
German-based company Fried- rich Boysen GmbH & Co KG is the second multimillion-rand automotive investment to be announced by the ELIDZ this year.
About 70 new jobs will be created as a result of the new manufacturing plant.
Additionally, the ELIDZ will build a new R50-million metal surface treatment plant to attract new players to the region's automotive sector.
The announcement was made at the SA Automotive Week trade show at the Boardwalk yesterday via a live video link to the sod-turning at the construction site at the IDZ.
With clients such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz elsewhere in the world, and a manufacturing presence in Germany, the US, India, China, Egypt and France, the plant in the ELIDZ will be the company's first in South Africa.
It will produce complete exhaust systems for Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) for the new C-Class and will create 70 direct jobs by 2014. The envisaged production start date for this massive project is April 2014 and the company will produce 90000 units per annum.
ELIDZ chief executive Simphiwe Kondlo said the project underlined the IDZ's commitment to strengthening foreign investment and creating jobs.
"It is a renowned international company with an extensive global footprint, which will introduce new technology to South Africa and deepen the region's automotive value chain, and the project underlines the ELIDZ's commitment to strengthening foreign investment and creating jobs in the country," he said.
Kondlo said negotiations regarding three more investments at the ELIDZ which would also contribute to the production of the new C-Class were currently under way and were expected to be finalised shortly.
He said the ELIDZ had embarked on an extensive marketing drive to attract more suppliers to the zone and already the Automotive Supplier Park (ASP) housed 11 suppliers that produced a wide range of components for both the local and export market, including fuel tanks, brake and fuel pipes, suspension components, polypropylene impact dampers, wheelhouse liners, tyres and rims, boot liners and seat components.
Earlier this year, the first new international supplier for the C- Class, RG Brose, took up residence at the ELIDZ with an investment of R80-million.
Construction of their new premises commenced in May and once completed, the plant will supply seat structures and door modules to MBSA's next generation W205 C-Class production from 2014.
MBSA manufacturing vice-president Arno van der Merwe said the new Friedrich Boysen facility would assist in driving content localisation, and with skills development and job creation.
"Our plant in East London is widely recognised as one of the best-quality producers in the world and we continue to engage to find ways of enhancing local market competitiveness. Developing skills is top of our agenda," Van der Merwe said.
Friedrich Boysen president Rolf Geisel said the company aimed to see production at the plant starting in nine months' time.
ELIDZ corporate communications manager Ayanda Ramncwana said the metal surface treatment plant was critical as many of the parts that went into vehicles produced in South Africa needed to be treated chemically to protect against rust.
"The fact that we did not have such a facility was a major constraint in the past but now with this new technology we can increase value to potential suppliers and attract further investment," she said.