As a key player in democratic South Africa’s automotive success story, Johnson Controls with automotive seating plants in Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage, commemorated two decades of achievement together with employees, vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, business associations and the government at a Gala Evening at Port Elizabeth’s Boardwalk Convention Centre on 11 October.
“When we entered the South Africa (SA) market in 1994 with our first facility in Uitenhage, it was with the goal of playing a major role in the developing automotive sector in the democratic new South Africa,” said Marco vom Wege, vice president and general manager, Johnson Controls South Africa. “We were and still are committed to investing in people, processes and facilities, putting our global automotive industry experience at the disposal of the local business development.”
Since then, the company has created some 2.000 jobs in Uitenhage, East London, Pretoria, Cape Town and Lesotho, with an enviable record of retaining skilled people, making the company an employer of choice. Its 2013 investment of R380 million to expand its plant in the East London Industrial Development Zone added another 180 jobs.
Johnson Controls also invests in future potential by creating learning and job opportunities, including positions for graduates through a fast-track program. It has broadened the supplier base through diversity initiatives and attracted investment from Kutana Investments – a women-only black empowerment organization. In addition, a senior director of Johnson Controls, Phil Gregory, is on the board of the South African Supplier Diversity Council (SASDC). With these initiatives Johnson Controls does not only prove its long-term commitment but also responds to the demands of a prospering industry.
In 1994, local motorists had the choice of only 17 brands with 192 model variants. Automotive exports were 4.1% of the total South African exports. Last year they reached more than 11% with 275,177 passenger cars and light commercial vehicles exported.
“Technology transfer, drawing on our global expertise, investing in facilities and developing human resources have equipped us to become an integral part of the automotive supply chain”, vom Wege explained. “This is reflected in the 400.000 vehicles we fit every year to meet consumer needs of style, comfort and safety. So if you are a car driver, there is hardly any chance you haven’t experienced our products yet. We are proud of being a major player in the Republic’s automotive exports drive.”
If the past 20 years allow Johnson Controls to reflect with pride, what do the next 20 hold?
“South Africa is a member of the BRICS trading bloc which with other developing nations will account for between 41% and 50% of new vehicle sales by 2018, according to the KPMG Global Automotive Executive Survey,” said Jacques Minnie, Johnson Controls general manager in South Africa. “There is the exciting government/industry annual target of 1.2 million vehicles to be produced locally by 2020. So the outlook suggests continued growth in sales. The National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers (NAACAM) estimates that vehicle interiors comprising cockpit, seats, door panels and carpets, which account for 23% by value of new vehicle, provide a huge opportunity for further increasing local content and investments.”
“In short, we are already looking forward to our next 20 years in South Africa,” Minnie concluded.