General Motors pulls out of South Africa

A 1913 Chevrolet, GM’s first car in South Africa.
A 1913 Chevrolet, GM’s first car in South Africa.

GENERAL Motors, once among the world’s ‘big three’ of car making, is hell-bent on trimming its operations in a bid to maximise profits.

It has taken a ruthless turn with the announcement the US car giant will stop building vehicles in South Africa, where it has been for 104 years.

It follows the imminent end of GM’s presence in Australia, with Holden shutting down in October, the recent sale of its Opel and Vauxhall operations in Europe to France’s PSA (Peugeot and Citroen) and last week’s seizure of its Caracas plant by the Venezuelan government. It had been in Venezuela since 1948.

The vast South African plant at Struandale in Port Elizabeth will be taken over by Isuzu Motors, but it’s not yet known how many of the 2000 GM workers will be retained.

GM first entered the country in 1913 with distribution of its Chevrolet and started building the cars there in 1926.

The Opel brand, acquired by GM in 1929, was sold there since 1934 and produced at Struandale from 1937.

The last made-in-South Africa Chevy will come off the production line by the end of 2017, but Opel will likely carry on under Peugeot direction.

GM vice-president Stefan Jacoby put it bluntly: “We determined that continued or increased investment in manufacturing in South Africa would not provide the expected returns of other global investment opportunities”.

“It’s a business decision, based on business priorities.”

The GM plant in India has also come under the scrutiny of the GM beancounters.