BAIC pushes to finish plant

Work on track for completion of first phase of PE factory by June

With little more than four months to meet its deadline, Chinese vehicle manufacturer BAIC has ramped up construction efforts to ensure completion of the first phase of its R11-billion Port Elizabeth factory by June.

Construction on the project, considered the largest single investment in the country in decades, had faced significant challenges and delays last year due to bids by Bay small businesses to be awarded contracts at the Coega Special Economic Zone (SEZ) factory site.

BAIC Motors South Africa spokeswoman Tao Li said no disruptions to construction had occurred since last month.

“The progress on construction on the site is in line with a revised project plan that was adjusted to make up for the lost construction days,” she said.

“BAIC SA has committed additional financial and human resources to reach the original construction completion date.”

Expanding on progress at the site, where the massive factory now has much of its roof in place, Li said more equipment was being dispatched to Port Elizabeth.

“BAIC announced the arrival of the first shipment of equipment for the plant in December – the second shipment of the equipment has also arrived in Port Elizabeth, and the third shipment is being prepared to be shipped to Port Elizabeth from Tianjin Port in China.”

Li said other problems were being experienced at the site.

She said the challenges around the SMME groups which had forced construction stoppages, and in turn had caused serious financial impacts on the manufacturer, had stabilised.

“The various groups are however still engaging with BAIC and BAIC-appointed representatives around opportunities at the site,” she said.

Li, who is expected to visit South Africa in April, said the management structure for the plant would be announced in the near future.

Asked about the establishment of a national dealership network ahead of the start of production at the facility, including in Port Elizabeth where the Kelston Motor Group was one of the first to engage with BAIC, Li said this process had not yet been completed.

“BAIC SA is in the process of finalising the network. For Kelston Motor Group in Port Elizabeth, further discussions will take place on the terms of cooperation,” she said.

“As the completion for the BAIC SA plan draws closer, BAIC SA will intensify its market and marketing operations. BAIC SA has a full-time marketing team in Johannesburg conducting market research in South Africa around the dealership network.”