DaimlerChrysler South Africa reported an almost 50 per cent increase in revenue in 2002 to R20,4 billon, with record sales and a bigger market share for Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

DaimlerChrysler South Africa reported an almost 50 per cent increase in revenue in 2002 to R20,4 billon, with record sales and a bigger market share for Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

DCSA chairman Christoph Kopke said the manufacturer had exceeded its targets for 2002, increasing its turnover by R6,5 billion to a record R20,4 billion. The company sold a total of 42 700 vehicles and had a record production of 56 000 vehicles.

The Mercedes-Benz Car Group recorded sales of 21 857 for the year, up from 16 373 in 2001. This represented a market share of 9,4 per cent. “A major factor in the increased sales were the improved availability of the top-selling C-Class as well as increased demand following a number of exciting new model launches such as the E-Class and several high-performance AMG models,” said Fritz van Olst, management board member for sales and market.

Chrysler and Jeep sold 7 611 units in 2002, up from 6 593 units in 2001. “We are the proudest of the Chrysler/Jeep story and their market penetration of 3,3 per cent is incredible,” said Kopke.

Mitsubishi Pajero and Lancer sales went up from 661 to 1 167, but Colt sales dropped from 13 048 to 8 004. Van Olst said the drop in Colt sales was due to completion of a large fleet order from Telkom. Colt still had a market penetration of 7,6 per cent.

On the exports side, management board member for finance Rudi Borgenheimer said export revenue from vehicles had increased from R2,69 billion to R4,22 billion, while components revenue brought in R3,55 billion, up from R2,45 billion in 2001.

The East London plant exported 36 000 right-hand C-Class units, of which 44 per cent were destined for the United Kingdom, and 11 per cent for Japan and Australia. The South African market accounts for 25 per cent of the plant’s output.

Borgenheimer said DCSA was continuing to export catalytic converters, leather, engine parts and plastic parts, while exports of alloy rims would start in earnest in 2003. Van Olst said the plant was getting a bigger spread of components for export. “We are continuing to grow catalytic converter exports, but there is an increase into other areas, in particular engine components,” he said.

Hansgeorg Niefer, board member for manufacturing, said production at the East London plant increased by eight per cent in 2002. The plant increased total production from 52 171 to 56 143. C-Class production went from 38 725 in 2001 to 47 665 in 2002, while production of the Mitsubishi Colt dropped from 13 446 to 8 488.

Niefer said DCSA was preparing for the race for the contract to produce the new C-Class for the local and world markets. “We are constantly improving quality, on time delivery and cost effectiveness, to try and win the contract. A decision will be made in October,” he said.

In light of the possibility of the contract, DCSA board member for human resources Johan Evertse said the company was preparing for the 2004 National Bargaining Forum negotiations. “We are setting aside 2003 to prepare as we cannot have another strike,” said Evertse. He said another three-day strike “would be a killer and would scare off investment”.

DCSA spokesman Deon Ebersohn said recently that if the company was awarded the contract, the East London area could attract investment of about R10 billion. "It would mean that as from 2007, when production of the new vehicle starts, the plant would introduce a third shift, to operate 24 hours a day," said Ebersohn.

"Currently we manufacture 42 000 vehicles per year and aim to increase to 50 000 from next year. It is estimated that in terms of the new contract we would have to manufacture 100 000 vehicles per year. This would mean that exports would increase from 31 000 to 75 000 a year,” Ebersohn said.

DCSA’s commercial vehicle sector sales increased by eight per cent from 12 693 to 13 705 units. Medium commercial vehicles rose by 5,1 per cent from 5 220 to 5 486 units.

Kopke said he was impressed by the figures for the truck segment. He said this showed the economy was performing a lot better than thought. Extra heavy commercial vehicles rose by 17 per cent from 3 562 to 4 185 units, while buses went up 28,1 per cent from 837 to 1 072 units.

Original article from Car