General Motors has announced that it will cease operations in South Africa, with the Chevrolet brand expected to be phased out of the local market at the end of 2017.
The local arm of the US automaker made the announcement at a press conference in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.
Local operations will be “transitioned” to Isuzu, with the latter purchasing GM SA’s light commercial manufacturing plant in Port Elizabeth (where the Isuzu KB and medium- and heavy-duty commercial trucks will continue to be built) and GM’s minority shareholding in Isuzu Truck South Africa. Isuzu also plans to assume control of GM SA’s Parts Distribution Centre and Vehicle Conversion and Distribution Centre.
GM SA said that local production of the Spark and Utility would come to an end “in the coming months”.
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“After a thorough assessment of our South African operations, we believe it is best for Isuzu to integrate our light commercial vehicle manufacturing operations into its African business,” said Stefan Jacoby, GM executive vice president and president of GM International.
“We determined that continued or increased investment in manufacturing in South Africa would not provide GM the expected returns of other global investment opportunities.”
Isuzu plans to establish a new 90-dealer nationwide network, to be launched in early 2018, which will provide aftersales support and servicing to existing General Motors customers.
What does this mean for the Opel brand? Well, that is not yet clear, with the PSA Group – which owns Peugeot, Citroën and DS Automobiles – in the process of buying the German brand.
However, GM said it “continues to work with PSA to evaluate future opportunity for the Opel brand in South Africa”, adding that existing Chevrolet and Opel customers “will continue to be supported in the market”.
“These decisions were not made lightly. We appreciate the support that our employees, customers, dealers, suppliers, the government and other key stakeholders have given us over the many years that we have operated in this country. We will manage the transition as smoothly as possible,” said GM South Africa president and managing director, Ian Nicholls.
GM SA said that it would work closely with affected dealers on a “robust transition plan”, adding that customer support centre resources would be expanded and emphasising that “all warranties and service agreements as well as ongoing service and parts requirements for all vehicles will continue to be honoured”.