With sales weakness in mature markets such as Europe and Japan, automakers are going to the ends of the earth to seek growth opportunities. Much attention has been paid to the BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia India and China, but other regions are showing a growing appetite for personal transportation. One of those regions is Sub-Saharan Africa, and a growth target for Nissan. The company’s 220,000 unit sales target for the region by 2016 may seem modest by developed-market standards, it represents a significant growth over current sales volumes.
Nissan has a plant in Pretoria, South Africa, currently producing 51,000 vehicles a year. This is only one-third of the plant’s potential capacity. The plant currently assembles one-ton trucks for the local market, as well as export to the Middle East and Russia. The biggest issue standing in the way of Nissan’s production expansion in Africa is a shortage of skilled labor.
South Africa, the continent’s largest economy, is seeing a slowdown in new car demand, with the new car market forecast to grow four to five percent this year compared to 9.2 percent in 2012. This has also been a factor at Nissan’s strategy of exporting vehicles to other African nations. Toyota and Volkswagen are the two most popular automotive brands in South Africa.