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Keynote address by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the launch of the Toyota Corolla Cross vehicle, Prospecton, KwaZulu-Natal

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Programme Director,
Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Mr Ebrahim Patel,
Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Sihle Zikalala,
MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Mr Ravi Pillay,
Mayor of eThekwini, Cllr Mxolisi Kaunda,
Ambassador of Japan, His Excellency Norio Maruyama, 
President and CEO of Toyota South Africa, Mr Andrew Kirby,
Head of Toyota’s operations in Africa, Mr Toshimitsu Imai,
Members of Numsa and workers of Toyota South Africa,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning, Sawubona, 

I come here today to celebrate a fine achievement.

When I delivered the State of the Nation Address in February this year, I announced that Toyota was investing in its plant here in KwaZulu-Natal to produce the first generation of commercial-scale hybrid electric vehicles to come off a South African assembly line. 

I am therefore delighted that I have been able to fulfil my undertaking to Minister Patel to get behind the steering-wheel of a car made by South African workers with an internal combustion engine and an electric motor.

This is more than simply a new model coming off a production line. 

It is also about South Africa embracing the opportunities of the green economy, greening our country and continent and making sure that South Africa benefits. 

It is about the ingenuity and skills of workers and managers in KwaZulu-Natal being deployed in productive labour to drive our industrialisation. 

During my visit to Japan in 2019, I met with Japanese businesses and political leaders and I called on Japanese car-makers to strengthen their investment levels in South Africa. 

A few months later at the second South Africa Investment Conference, Mr Andrew Kirby came up to the stage to announce Toyota’s new investment.

Today we see one of the results of that investment, in the form of the Corolla Cross. 

This is a vote of confidence by an iconic Japanese car-maker in our country. 

Japan is a long term and significant investor in South Africa. 

There are about 130 Japanese companies operating in South Africa including Nissan, Isuzu and Sumitomo Rubber Industries, among others.   

The Corolla Cross investment of R 2.6 billion is significant for the South African economy. 

Following the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal in July this year, Toyota was one of the first companies to affirm their continued commitment and investment in KwaZulu-Natal. 

I appreciate the long view that the Toyota headquarters has taken because it sees the value of the company’s presence in South Africa and the enormous opportunities in the years and decades ahead. 

Companies who stand with the nation during difficult times are companies that we will support in the years to come. 

I would like to acknowledge the local management for their expertise and drive to continuously improve the competitiveness of the plant in South Africa. 

We would also like to thank the workers of KwaZulu-Natal for building and equipping the plant in time, despite the challenging period and ensuring the Corolla Cross is ready for the launch. 

Workers are often the unsung heroes of daily production and I want to acknowledge the contribution of production workers to making world-class, safe vehicles that we and the rest of the world can drive with confidence. 

The auto industry is one of the drivers of our localisation programme. 

It is a significant contributor to GDP and accounts for more than 100,000 jobs in assembly and component manufacturing. 

It is a big magnet for foreign direct investment.

The seven local light vehicle producers invested a record R9.2 billion in 2020 while the component sector invested R2.4 billion during the same period. 

These investments are made possible by an enabling policy regime in the form of the industry master plan. 

The new version of the master plan, the Automotive Production Development Programme, came into operation in July this year. 

It provides investors in the automotive sector with policy certainty and confidence in making long term investment decisions. 

The master plan vision calls for a globally competitive and transformed industry that actively contributes to the sustainable development of South Africa’s productive economy, creating prosperity for industry stakeholders and the broader society.

Through the master plan, we aim to grow the industry in South Africa over a 15 year period to reach 1 per cent of global production.

We want to increase the local content of South African assembled vehicles to 60 per cent from the current 40 per cent.

We want to double employment, to at least 224,000 jobs.

In addition to improving manufacturing competitiveness levels, the plan seeks to transform the industry across the value chain to bring in black South Africans and young people and to deepen value addition. 

This investment builds on a relationship that stretches back many decades.

Toyota is currently the market leader in South Africa with a 25 per cent market share. 

The Corolla has been produced in South Africa since 1975

It is significant that South Africa is one of only seven global locations for the production of the Corolla Cross. 

This is testament to the skilled, productive workforce and competitive plant at Prospecton. 

During the plant tour, I met workers who are passionate and committed and I saw the value of the skills programme the management has put in place. 

The Corolla Cross will be exported to 40 countries across Africa, helping to give green options to consumers on our continent and boosting the African Continental Free Trade Area. 

I am advised that the company will seek to ramp up its projected 4,000 hybrid vehicles planned for next year if availability of batteries improve. 

This could provide great opportunities in the future for localisation. 

Localisation and transformation are critical pillars to the Automotive Masterplan and we are working with Toyota to ensure that the Corolla Cross is giving practical implementation to both these pillars. 

There are a number of initiatives by Toyota to improve local content and increase the number of new suppliers into South Africa from the global supply chain, as well as using and developing new suppliers locally. 

Industrialisation through localisation is a key pillar of our Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, including the development of export competitive sectors that can expand the sales of South African made products on the continent and beyond.

With 621 localised parts in the Corolla Cross, the localisation level for the Corolla Cross will be higher than that of the standard Corolla produced here.

I am advised that there are 56 local suppliers for this new model, of which 16 are black-owned companies. 

These efforts will contribute to the common goal agreed at NEDLAC to reduce the country’s overall import bill by R200 billion over the next five years, through producing more manufactured and agricultural products locally. 

The CEO has advised us that 575 new jobs have been created in the plant and a further 1,200 new jobs have been created in the supplier companies. 

This is an excellent step forward to bring young people into employment and fight unemployment and poverty. 

We cannot mark this historic day without recognising and paying tribute to the legacy of Dr Johan Van Zyl, the former CEO and Executive Chairperson of Toyota, who sadly passed away in July this year from COVID-19.

Dr Van Zyl was a passionate South African and visionary who would be immensely proud of the launch of the Corolla Cross. 

Before he passed away, he was chairing Minister Ebrahim Patel’s Green Hydrogen Panel and he met with me as part of the ongoing engagement on improving the business climate in South Africa.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is fitting that we are launching this hybrid vehicle a week before the COP26 Climate Change Conference. 

We have called on leaders of developed economies to support South Africa’s efforts to green our economy and address our very ambitious climate change goals through equally ambitious grant and concessional funding support. 

We have identified three key priorities for climate action: for Eskom to reduce its carbon emissions, for electric vehicles to be produced in South Africa, and for the green hydrogen economy to be fast-tracked locally. 

Government published a draft paper for public comment on a roadmap to the production of fully-electric vehicles, which will be taken further based on the discussions with international partners and the local industry. 

The launch of the Corolla Cross Hybrid is an important step on our path to transforming the car-making business into a green industry success story. 

It will take hard work. But we must do it. 

Today is about celebration, about a new milestone we have reached locally. 

I would like to congratulate Toyota on this launch and look forward to seeing the Corolla Cross on our roads.

Let us continue to work together to build our economy, to improve our global competitiveness and to make excellent products that demonstrate the great potential of the South African people. 

I thank you.