Willowvale Motor Industries targets regional market
By Lovemore Ranga Mataire
HARARE – The recent reopening of Willowvale Motor Industries (Pvt) Ltd (WMI) has raised hopes of Zimbabwe’s economic recovery of the automobile industry, which is geared to serve both the domestic and regional appetite for affordable durable vehicles.
The company has been closed for the past five years and only resumed operations on Monday this week following a joint venture with a Chinese firm to assemble a new range of pick-up trucks from semi-knocked down kits.
The joint venture company is a partial fulfilment of the mega economic deals President Robert Mugabe assented to with his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping in August 2014.
According to the joint venture agreement, WMI will assemble 3,000 units in three years, which have the potential of creating 5,000 jobs and generate about US$1.3 million in value added tax this year.
The partnership between WMl and the Chinese firm has given birth to company called BEIQI Zimbabwe, which is an amalgamation of the Beijing Automobile International Corporation (BAIC), Astol Motors car manufacturer and WMI. The trucks that will be churned out from the assembly plant are called BAIC Great Tiger.
Total sales volume is expected to be about 490 units this year before the figure rises to 940 units in 2018. It is envisaged that out of 3,000 units comprising of pick-ups, sedans and SUVs, 500 units will be exported to other SADC countries.
Zimbabwe’s Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mike Bimha – who officiated at the resumption of operations by the company – said the investment had come at the right time given that WMI had stopped production in 2012.
“We would like to see a situation where BEIQI Zimbabwe moves from sKD production to completely-knocked down (cKD) production and possibly venture into local manufacturing of vehicle components,” said Bimha.
BAIC’s vice president, Wei Huacheng, said the company was geared to assist in the growth of the economy through investment in the motor industry.
‘“Beiqi’ considers Zimbabwe and SADC as a whole market, we are going to export assembled vehicles from Zimbabwe to SADC countries in 2018,” Huacheng said.
Willowvale Motor Industries (Pvt) Ltd manufactures and distributes vehicles in southern Africa. At its peak, the company used to produce a range of passenger and commercial vehicles in diesel and petrol models. Formerly known as Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries, the company was founded in 1967 and used to produce 18,000 vehicles per year before production plunged to below 4,000 in 2012 due to a number of economic inhibitions.