Chinese enter local taxi assembly market

BAW-SA reveals opening of minibus factory

BAW enters local taxi market
Chinese Haice Taxis

Beijing Automobile Works (BAW) in South Africa has announced the opening of a minibus taxi assembly factory in Springs in a move that is likely to shake up the sub-Saharan market for these vehicles, currently dominated by Toyota.

The plant will start off by assembling semi-knock-down (SKD) kits of the Inyathi, a minibus taxi based on the fourth-generation Toyota Hi-Ace (known in China as the Haice) and is expected to move to full manufacturing of the next-generation Haice, codenamed 009, by 2015.

BAW-SA is a joint venture between Beijing Automotive Works, a subsidiary of the Chinese state-owned Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Company, which holds 51% equity, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) with 24.5% and the remaining 24.5% being held by China Africa Motors (CAM), a company owned by James Chung, has been importing the Inyathi for a number of years.

According to the IDC, the combined investment is worth R196m and would, including the dealer network, create about

1 000 jobs.

The announcement was made at a function, attended by a number of South African and Chinese VIPs, including Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel, who described the BAW investment as "a concrete step in the move to re-industrialise South Africa".

"Taxis are a vital part of our public transport system. We require a market that makes affordable, safe and reliable vehicles," he said.

The local taxi market is relatively small — about 20 000 to 25 000 units a year — and with the opening of the Springs assembly plant the government is hoping for increased "price competition" and innovation in the local minibus taxi market.

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