Hundreds at Nissan South Africa to lose jobs after deal with Russian partner collapses over Ukraine war

By Thulani Mpofu October 11, 2023

The carmaker Nissan South Africa has started a discussion that is likely to result in a rationalisation of its operations and headcount, according to local media, meaning hundreds of workers stand to lose their jobs.

Nissan SA plans to discontinue making NP200 model small light trucks (known locally as bakkies) in March 2024, News24 wrote on October 9, as a replacement deal with a Russian partner fell through due to the global fallout over its invasion of Ukraine and ongoing war there.

"[The] geopolitical situation in Russia meant this model was no longer viable due to significantly reduced volumes,” News24 writes, citing a Nissan SA release.

"Until our future plans are confirmed, the business will be operating at reduced production volumes and needs to act responsibly to maintain its long-term competitiveness and be ready to secure future opportunities."

The South African subsidiary of Japanese carmaker Nissan now employs roughly 1,600 people. It expects to lay off around 400 at its production facility in Pretoria, the administrative capital of Africa’s most developed economy.

The factory, IOL Motoring wrote on October 9, produces about 1,000 NP200 pick-up trucks monthly. 

“In line with our African strategy, securing a second model for production in South Africa is a priority and a study into an alternative vehicle is already progressing,” the carmaker said.

“Until our future plans are confirmed, the business will be operating at reduced production volumes and needs to act responsibly to maintain its long-term competitiveness and be ready to secure future opportunities.”

Mikel Mabasa, chief executive of the automotive business council at the National Association of Automotive Manufacturers of South Africa told Moneyweb that there is a possibility that some retrenchees can be absorbed by three vehicle makers who are setting up plants in the country.

“I’m sure that many of them, when they do come in, will be looking to appoint people who are already experienced and have the necessary skills because the production of vehicles requires very specialised skills,” he said, according to Moneyweb on October 9.

Along with alliance partner Renault, Nissan's formal withdrawal from the Russian market took place last year, a move reported by Reuters as having cost the Japanese carmaker $687mn.

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