Tuesday 29 April 2014

Do you know where your car was made?

South Africans really love their cars – it is plain to see in everyday life here, but if you require further evidence you can look to the steady increase in the number of people with car insurance, this despite the costs of our cover being among the world’s most expensive. The global automotive industry has come a long way since the humble horse and carriage in the 1800s, and globalisation has played a huge role in the success and competitiveness of car manufacturers around the world.

Cars have become a part of what we do every day. They are intricately entrenched in our lifestyles and we often take them for granted, but how often do we don’t stop to think where they actually come from?

One of the most popular car brands among South Africans is the Toyota Hilux, with 2 739 sold here in the month of September 2013. Toyota originates in Japan and has its headquarters in Tokyo. In South Africa, all Toyotas are made at Toyota’s headquarters in the Kwazulu-Natal – these are then transported to Toyota dealerships across the country. Another popular vehicle is the VW Polo, selling 2 634 models (September 2013) and the Polo Vivo (2435 sales). VW comes from Germany and is still currently made in Wolfsburg, Germany. Locally, the VW factory is situated in Uitenhage, an industrial town 35 km outside Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. VW is then also transported to VW dealerships all over the country.

Because car making comes with so many different factors, manufacturers are always looking for new and innovative ways to get ahead of the competition. Many are using the popular Just-In-Time (JIT) system, to make sure their cars get onto the showroom faster. The JIT system means the parts arrive only when they are needed. This reduces inventory and production costs, but it relies on supply and demand. The system of inventory requires an accurate forecast in demand, keeping assembly lines complete and making sure finished vehicles are shipped as soon as they are done.

This means that because Asia currently has the best industrial mix of low-cost technology and affordable labour, it is a firm favourite when it comes to the manufacture of motor vehicles. This is why most brands of vehicles have factory plants there.

Other hugely popular vehicle brands in South Africa are Ford, BMW and Mercedes. While the Ford it is a product of General motors, an American firm, it was likely assembled in Asia. Silverton, Pretoria is the manufacturing home of all Ford vehicles in South Africa. BMW and Mercedes Benz are German products. BMW is headquartered in Munich, Germany and is locally based in Rosslyn, near Pretoria. Mercedes Benz has its headquarters in the German city of Stuttgart, while its local plant is in East London, Eastern Cape.

Peugeot and Renault are French vehicles and if you’re lucky enough to drive a Ferrari, your car was most likely hand crafted in Italy. Hyundai, Kia and Daewoo come from Korea, while Honda and Mitsubishi have their origins in Japan.

Cars and vehicles have evolved so much in the last century; we have gone from the horse and carriage to multi-million rand luxury vehicles. People have also changed their preference in automotive transport, and instead of expensive super cars, which only the extremely wealthy can afford, they are moving toward more practical vehicles. For example, the newest innovations in car manufacturing are cars that can park themselves – Ford and Honda are among the first to do this. It cuts parking time and is especially popular among women and new drivers who haven’t yet mastered parallel parking.

According to consumerreports.org, the top car manufacturers include: Ford, Toyota and Honda. They rank higher than luxury cars such as Cadillac and BMW, due to their constant innovations in making driving easy and safe, especially for the family. As stated before, there are so many aspects that go with manufacturing a car in conjunction with JIT, and 74% of total motor vehicles are those owned by private motorists and the remaining 26% amount to public and commercial vehicles such as buses and trucks. 

Most of the world’s cars come from China, with 14 485 326 produced in 2011 alone (worldmeters.info). This can be attributed to the fact that the average car has over 30 000 unique parts. Most of the additional pieces, such as seat covers, music systems, lights, mirrors and new electronics such as hands-free kits are made and installed in China. It’s cheaper and faster for the industry to perform operations in this way, and the quality remains fairly good.

South Africans spend a lot of time in their cars and are willing to spend a lot of money on them. It is wise to get your car covered by a decent insurance policy so that if something happens to it you’ll be safe in the knowledge that you can restore it to its former glory.

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