Rubber hits road: R970m tyre factory launched in Ladysmith

03 October 2018 | Web Article Number: ME201812038

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Rubber hits road: R970m tyre factory launched in Ladysmith
Keynote speaker, MEC for Social Development, Weziwe Thusi

SUMITOMO Rubber South Africa, manufacturer of the Dunlop, Sumitomo and Falken tyre brands, officially launched its modern new Truck and Bus Radial (TBR) factory in Ladysmith on Tuesday, 2 October 2018.

This second phase of SRSA’s multi-billion-rand investment to upgrade and modernise the plant’s capacity saw a further injection of R970 million to introduce and manufacture truck and bus tyres locally, bringing the total investment into the Ladysmith facility since 2014 to more than R2 billion.

VIP guests, stakeholders and dignitaries were given an opportunity to tour the TBR factory. They included government and industry representatives together with President and CEO of Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ikuji Ikeda, who delivered an address and unveiled a plaque to mark the opening of the facility.

He said SRSA had been a part of Sumitomo Rubber Industries group company from December 2013 and “from then we have worked together to step ahead in various areas of the business, such as safety, Passenger Car Radial tyre production, quality, products, sales channel and people. This marks the first time Sumitomo Rubber Industries has established a Truck and Bus Radial factory outside of Asia”.

Ikeda said the reasons for pressing ahead with the investment – despite the challenges of developing a TBR factory from scratch – included the African market’s potential and particularly the Free Trade Agreement which would support SRI’s business initiatives. He added that local TBR tyre production would result in the expansion of business for truck and bus vehicle manufacturers and present opportunities for government related businesses.

SRSA CEO Riaz Haffejee said, “We will be industrialising a total of 24 sizes between our Dunlop and Sumitomo brands, from this year until September 2019”.

He elaborated on the community impact that the investment and development of the factory has had: “Following SRSA’s first phase factory investment in 2014 which saw us increase our output of high-quality passenger and sport utility vehicle (SUV) tyres at this plant, the new TBR factory has created growth and a brighter future for the local community. SRSA’s total investment in employment, utilities and procurement has doubled since 2014, which has had a direct impact on the town and has served as a catalyst for community development and entrepreneurship.”

The keynote address was delivered by the MEC for Social Development, Weziwe Thusi who said the province and country as whole needed to increase export levels, particularly of finished products, just like the tyres being made at SRSA’s Ladysmith plant.

Renai Moothilal, executive director of NAACAM (National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers), who is also overseeing the operations of the SATMC, said SRSA should be recognised, “not only for its significant investment in plant and processes, but for its commitment to a region outside South Africa’s industrial heartlands, and its contribution towards employment”.

“They have demonstrated how automotive component manufacturers can drive true economic development across the country and the importance of ensuring that a greater level of manufacturing of automotive component happens.”

Production at the plant commenced as planned in July 2018. According to a statement from the company, local production of the TBR range – following extensive research and development processes – would “ensure that customers, both in South Africa and on the African continent, have the right tyre for the country’s specific application. These will be designed in Japan, tested in Africa and manufactured in South Africa, for Africa with the Ladysmith factory certified to test TBR tyres to European compliance standards”.

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