The Motor Industry in Port Elizabeth


Ford Motor CompanyWith a port as the gateway to the world, Port Elizabeth is the heart of car country in South Africa. Ford was the first to establish an assembly line in Africa opening in Port Elizabeth in 1924. Two years later General Motors opened an assembly operation in a converted woolshed in Port Elizabeth. In 1928 Buicks, Chevrolets, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs began to roll off the assembly line from the new premises of General Motors in Kempston Road on the “outskirts” of the city.

After the Second World War, SA Motor Assemblers and Distributors (SAMAD) opened its doors to produce Studebakers and Austins in the town of Uitenhage a few kilometers away. The first VW beetle rolled off the production line at SAMAD in 1951. In 1966 SAMAD became Volkswagen of South Africa.

The first tyre company was established in 1936 by Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company and nine years later Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company opened its doors in Uitenhage.

In 1985 Ford Motor Company pulled out of Port Elizabeth to its new Pretoria based home under the SAMCOR banner. The “Detroit of South Africa” was a thing of the past. In 1987 General Motors disinvested its interests in South Africa because of the Apartheid policy prevalent at the time. In its place Delta Motor Corporation was born with its plant situated in Kempston Road. Isuzus and Opel Kadetts were the first models to be manufactured. By 1990 Delta boasted the fastest production of the Opel Kadett in the world. Then a second major expansion programme was introduced in 1992 with a truck plant commissioned at Markman Township a few kilometers away. However this truck plant returned to Kempston Road in 1999.

When democracy had been established in South Africa for three years, General Motors revised its policies and renewed economic links in 1997. They re-invested 49% in Delta Motor Corporation. Early in 2004 GM fully returned to South Africa, purchasing the remaining 51% of the company, forming General Motors South Africa. 68 % (by value) of all components bought in South Africa are sourced from the Port Elizabeth-Uitenhage area.

In 2004, Volkswagen SA announced a R25-billion export programme that will see the company exporting about 2 300 of its new Golf 5 cars each month through 2009, mostly to Japan and Australia, but also to New Zealand, Brunei, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia

In April 2005, General Motors awarded its South African arm a contract worth US$ 3-billion (around R18-billion) to manufacture a new global version of its Hummer sports utility vehicle - the H3 - for export to markets in Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.

BACK TO Business in Port Elizabeth...

TEXT:  R Hift

Did You Know?

Approximately 400 shipwrecks are to be found in and around Algoa Bay.

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Last updated:
3 October 2012 7:51