Port Elizabeth was once known as the Detroit of South Africa – we were the hub for combustion engined motor vehicle assembly in Africa.
The actions of an apartheid government led to disinvestment, then global markets and rapid transport cut into our ability to produce vehicles at a favourable price point.
Now the pressure from our Rand and demands from a maturing labour market are cutting further into our ability to deliver a quality product at an equitable price point.
Those who can remember the times when Ford and then General Motors left Port Elizabeth as the really dark days – thousands of people out of jobs, businesses closing left right and centre, the jokes about the ‘ghost on the coast’, locals telling each other ‘if you are the last to leave PE please switch off the lights and let the dolphins go’, suicides and the start of a long slide into depression and poverty.
There are many very successful businessmen still around from that era and even today their actions are tempered by memories of what those dark times of disinvestment did so you will find that they pursue a cautionary approach to any form of investment – no risks.
For years we as a city have been looking for that ‘magic bullet’ – an industry that is shared by all and will sustain us for years to come. We want excitement, our children to stay and tourists to flock to our shores.
We need an industry that will bring masses of money into our region and that will stay here to support jobs and our citizens who all deserve a shot at happiness and sharing in the excitement of being prosperous and giving.
Our best shot at that balanced, across the board industry is tourism and a major attraction to bring foreign tourists to our shores.
For years we have been arguing over what our ‘iconic international attraction’ will be. Let’s face it – Cape Town has that bloody Table Mountain which is a massive attraction that cannot be unseen and it has been pulling the punters in for hundreds of years.
Suffice to say that we already have a favourable climate, situation, wildlife, marine wildlife and population to pull the tourists in so a little help from that ONE major iconic attraction will be welcomed.
BUT, whilst we squabble over that we also need to move with the times and recognise that the days of the combustion engined motor vehicle are fast coming to a close.
The tipping point when Electric Vehicles become more cost effective than combustion engined vehicles (without the benefit of government subsidies) is literally around the corner with various ‘experts’ saying that it will happen from the end of this year to 2023.
Imagine if you will that ALL of our Nelson Mandela Based automotive factories suddenly have to shut down because no-one is buying combustion engined vehicles anymore?
So that is then goodbye to Volkswagen, Isuzu, Ford Engine Plant, BAIC, FAW and all the associated industries that support them like Continental, Goodyear and all the smaller suppliers and landlords supporting them……
I will hazard a guess and say that all of the businesses involved directly in the motor manufacturing industry in Nelson Mandela Bay have around 25 000 employees. If each employee in turns supports 6 people we are looking at over 10% of our citizens being directly affected by the loss of the automotive industry.
Imagine what that would do to our local economy? It would be devastating to say the least.
So in order to avoid what happened to Detroit – not only do we have to look for that ‘magic bullet’ industry to replace our automotive industry but we have to find a way to ensure that the skills developed by employees in the automotive industry become easily transferable to a similar industry with immense growth potential.
As an ordinary, run of the mill media person I can honestly say that only ONE of our automotive industries are actually doing something locally – one in Coega. By the same token I have to call out VW, Ford, BAIC and FAW for not making their plans around electric vehicles clear.
The intervention to ensure that our citizens continue to have jobs needs to come from a higher place – our City Council needs to engage with our major employes in the automotive sector and offer assistance where necessary, demand where required and take an active interest in the future well being of our city.
The Challenge is simple:
No more crisis management from our Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality – we need action, we need answers and we need a plan on how we are gong to accommodate the coming Electric Vehicle Revolution as well as position our City as the renewable hub of Africa.
You can help the quiet revolution along by installing an EV Charging station outside your Guest House, Hotel, Coffee Shop, Restaurant, Shopping Centre or in your forecourt. Contact Straton Electrical for EV Charging Station options.
Tell MyPE your sentiments around Electric Vehicles: