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“South Africa cannot remain behind the global technology curve, which is increasingly focussing on low or zero emissions vehicles,” said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) deputy director general, Nimrod Zalk, when addressing delegates at the CAR Conference, which was held at the Johannesburg International Motor Show earlier this week.

DTI Nimrod Zalk

“In this context the development of a South African electric vehicle provides significant impetus for a strategic entry by our country into the emerging electric vehicle space.
“Work is underway to finalise an electric vehicle position paper for cabinet consideration,” continued Zalk.

 “It will include proposals on the creation of a legislative and regulatory environment to allow for the operation of electric vehicles, relative testing infrastructure, local manufacturing for domestic and global markets, the initiation of a charging infrastructure and public educational campaigns on electric vehicles.

“The key principle behind this position paper is that South Africa should not simply become a passive importer of electric vehicle technology – as has occurred with a range of other technologies in the recent past – but rather that the country plays a key role in the production of electric vehicles and related technologies and componentry,” explained Zalk.

The DTI deputy director-general said during an interview after his presentation that transitional support was being considered for certain components which were seen as vulnerable under the Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP) which comes into force on January 1, 2013. These items include catalytic converters and leather products such as seat covers.

Zalk’s comments came in the light of concerns being raised about the ability of certain members of the component manufacturing industry to remain internationally viable as a result of the lower export incentives offered under the APDP, when compared to the current situation under the Motor Industry Development Programme (MIDP).

He added that the proposed transitional period would run from January 2013 for a limited period of “a couple of years”, but he said that the DTI would expect “something in return” from these component makers.

“There would be a set of corresponding obligations to make sure these sectors raised their competitiveness. We don’t want to see any sectors that are no more competitive three years from the start of the APDP than they are now. We want commitments from these manufacturers,” said Zalk.

“One of these commitments the DTI would like to see, for example, was that the ceramic wafer inside a catalytic converter was produced locally and no longer imported and then simply coated and canned locally. We want to see investment in substrate manufacturing in South Africa,” concluded Zalk.

Catalytic converters are South Africa’s biggest automotive component export segment, at 44% of all components exported in 2009 by value. They are used in the exhaust systems of vehicles to reduce harmful emissions. The industry beneficiates South Africa’s abundant platinum-group metals resource. Last year, R11,9-billion worth of catalytic converters was exported to the European Union alone.

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