JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Japanese automotive group Nissan is to set up a new regional business unit for Africa as it seeks to boost manufacturing capacity and penetrate one of the world’s biggest undeveloped new car markets.
The move marks a reorganisation of the company’s disparate operations on the continent, bringing them within one entity headed by Mike Whitfield, who has previously served as managing director of Nissan’s units in both South Africa and Egypt.
“Beyond internal operating enhancements, this also positions Nissan to focus on the massive opportunity that Africa presents to the organisation globally,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s population and household incomes are rising. But its 1 billion inhabitants account for only 1% of the world’s new passenger car sales, based on industry data.
Most carmakers have focused manufacturing and sales in South Africa – the continent’s most developed economy – which accounts for 85% of Africa’s new car purchases.
Nissan, along with competitors Volkswagen, BMW, and Toyota, have been lobbying African governments to grant conditions that favour local assembly and manufacturing while curbing imports of cheap used cars.
Carmakers are also hoping to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which is expected to come into force early next year and will reduce tariffs and ease the flow of goods between its members states.
(Reporting by Joe Bavier. Editing by Jane Merriman)