Durban. – Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) is again producing minibus taxis – specifically the Ses’fikile – following a R70m investment in its Prospecton plant.
The step follows an adjustment to the Department of Trade & Industry’s incentive programme for the motor industry aimed specifically at local production of minibus taxis. In Durban TSAM already manufactures the Corolla, Hilux and Fortuner.
Dr Johan van Zyl, the president and chief executive of TSAM, says a total of 300 new jobs were thus created – 90 at TSAM and 210 at its suppliers.
Toyota produced the Hi Ace minibus taxi locally between 1994 and 2007. The Quantum, whose minibus taxi version is known as the Ses’fikile, was imported from 2007 to early this year.
According to Fezile Myoli, vice-president at the assembly plant, it usually take three years to get a new product ready for local manufacture, but the process was speeded up and finalised in 18 months. A total of 49 contractors were involved in getting the plant, which had to be equipped from scratch, ready for production.
The first Ses’fikile minibus taxi was produced on March 26 this year. Daily production currently runs at 40/day and this could increase to 80/day later on. For the present 10 000 to 15 000 minibus taxis a year will be manufactured.
The Ses’fikile will be available as a 2.5-litre diesel model and a 2.7-litre petrol model.
According to Myoli, clients’ requirement of an additional seat was acceded to and the locally manufactured version with 16 seats is being sold for the same price as before.
Production will initially consist of semi-knocked down kits. Local groups like Shatterprufe, Widney, Duys Manufacturing, Bosch and First National Battery will supply some of the additional components, says Myoli.
The Ses’fikile is also being supplied to Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland.
In June TSAM sold 1 085 Quantums, around 800 of which were Ses’fikile minibus taxis.
Trade & Industry Minister Rob Davies says the department has for some time been working on an incentive programme for the medium and heavy commercial vehicle industry because of the demand for these vehicles and the potential that the industry has for job creation.
According to Davies, in 2009 there were a total 280 000 registered minibus taxis on the country’s roads and 19 000 were sold that year. But fewer than 100 of these were manufactured in South Africa.
Davies says his department decided to alter the Automotive Investment Scheme (AIS) in such a way that local minibus taxi manufacturers can receive incentives for semi-knocked down kits until March 2015. But after that there must be a shift to fully knocked-down manufacture.
Davies reckons local taxi production can be further expanded and ultimately attract R1bn worth of further investment as well as support at least 2 000 direct job opportunities. Further opportunities could also be unlocked with the launch of the proposed free-trade zone, which includes 26 African countries.
Philip Taaibosch, general secretary of the Santaco taxi association, reacted by saying the industry had for some time hoped that South Africa would be able to manufacture its own minibus taxis because of the jobs this would create and the large number of people using them. It is estimated that around 9m commuters depend on minibus taxi transport each day, and that this industry contributes R30bn-odd to the country’s gross domestic product.
Taaibosch says the taxi industry purchases about 35 000 of these vehicles a year, and the number is still growing.