The continent’s premier motor show heads for the big time
Every two years, the South African automotive industry revs its engine, buffs up its paintwork and congregates at Nasrec, south of Johannesburg, for the continent’s biggest showcase of what’s hot in the world of wheels. This year, though, Auto Africa will be different: for the first time, the show has been given international accreditation. It’s finally made it on to the global roster of car shows, and is now worthy of mention in the same breath as Frankfurt, Tokyo, Geneva and Detroit.
So, get ready for brand new model launches, enticing new colours and trends, dazzling designs and sizzling styles, from futuristic concept vehicles to the latest and greatest gizmos, gadgets and technology.
With a whole host of international brands, (some of whom fly their sets straight from the Paris Motor Show to Auto Africa) – and an array of exciting exhibitors, Auto Africa 2006 is set to be the biggest and best yet.
The organisers are expecting significantly bigger numbers this year. A quarter of a million public visitors are expected, for instance. To add to that, there will be 20 000 trade visitors, 650 media, and 2 500 international guests. Exhibitors and their guests should total 15 000, and conference conveners are catering for 2 500.
Auto Africa 2006, which runs from October 26 to November 5, will celebrate a South African motor vehicle market that is on a high. Industry highlights include Motor Industry Week from October 30 to November 3.
Naturally, POPULAR MECHANICS will be there – and we’ll have a significantly bigger presence than before. As headline exhibitors in a dedicated arena, we’ll highlight the latest and greatest in today’s (and tomorrow’s!) technology.
POPULAR MECHANICS’ theme at Auto Africa this year embraces the dominant theme of the 2006 event – advanced technology for today’s applications. Although we were still working on the line-up as we went to press with this issue, we can reveal that our exhibits will include at least one solar-powered car, some compelling military hardware, and a vehicle that will really blow your hair back. Visit our Web site(www.popularmechanics.co.za) for updates closer to the event.
Moving on up
Auto Africa has been held at the National Exhibition Centre (Nasrec) in Johannesburg every two years since 1996. It’s currently the foremost automotive trade show in Africa. “And it’s been accredited by the International Organisation of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA) for the first time this year,” says Auto Africa 2006 exhibition manager, Pula Dippenaar. That means it is one of only 22 exhibitions worldwide that are on the OICA list of accredited international motor shows for 2006. “As such, the exhibition provides an ideal opportunity to enhance South Africa’s global image while promoting international automotive-related trade into Africa and the rest of the world.
“Auto Africa is more than just about the latest vehicle trends, innovations and lifestyles. It is also, to a great extent, about a burgeoning and successful industry that is investing in the future of South Africa on a daily basis.
“The South African motor industry has made an investment of more than R100 million in the show this year, while the Auto Africa organisers and Expo Centre management have invested significantly on a wide front, including improving logistics and security as well as upgrading of the facilities” Dippenaar adds.
What to expect
From styling to performance, trends to business, touring to off-roading, fuels to materials, there isn’t a base left uncovered.
Not only will the three large halls devoted to passenger cars display the latest available on the world market, but a substantial number of new offerings for the local market are also expected to be unveiled at the show for the first time.
Topical issues such as care for the environment and vehicle safety will also be points of great interest as some exhibitors will be promoting the development of solutions to the issues with state-of-the-art hybrid vehicles and the latest and most effective safety systems.
Together with the wide array of new passenger and light commercial vehicles on display, visitors will also be exposed to the biggest variety of heavy trucks ever displayed at the event. Several of these freeway juggernauts will show off sleeper cabs similar to upmarket bachelor flats to cater for the safety and comfort of their hard-working drivers.
Outdoor experiences are likely to be a highlight once again. Visitors will be able to get hands-on experience with some of the latest vehicles on the daunting off-road track, a rally stage and an advanced driving experience.
Honda’s celebrated humanoid robot, ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility), is likely to be one of the unconventional stars of Auto Africa (below). The latest generation of this 1,2-metre electronic celebrity – first conceived 20 years ago – can walk autonomously, descend and ascend stairs, comprehend and carry out tasks based on simple voice commands.
And don’t think the wheels aspect of the show is limited to cars, LCVs and trucks, either.
Given that South African motorcycles sales are the highest they’ve been in almost a quarter of a century, interest in two-wheelers and quad bikes is sure to be higher than ever. According to Andr van Rooyen, Director of the Association of Motorcycle Importers and Distributors (AMID), although superbikes are still selling well, low-cost commuter machines are really taking off as our roads become more congested and gridlock sets in.
A number of important industry-related conferences will take place during Motor Industry Week to promote trade and business-to-business exchange. Auto Africa 2006 will play host to, among others, British Trade Design, the Trade Information Promotion Service and the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations during the course of the show. Organisers are expecting more than 20 000 trade visitors from all over the world.
All the major motor industry bodies endorse Auto Africa, including the association of motor manufacturers, their automotive component colleagues, and the Retail Motor Industry (RMI) organisation with its 12 constituent associations.
“South Africa is the only major vehicle manufacturing country in Africa, so many automotive companies see Auto Africa 2006 as offering the ideal gateway to the rest of the continent,” commented exhibition manager Dippenaar.
“Auto Africa provides an interactive platform that brings together all the aspects of the motor industry under the proverbial ‘one roof’ at Expo Centre every two years,” she says. “This year’s exhibition will showcase the best from both South African and global automotive companies.”
*To find out more, visit the official web site www.autoafrica.co.za
Against a background of booming production, the South African motor industry is expected to make investments exceeding R8 billion during 2006, according to the organisers of Auto Africa.
This is more than double the amount spent in 2005, according to statistics provided by the Association of Automobile Manufacturers (NAAMSA).
It’s testimony to the industry’s astonishingly good health.
Most recent available figures show that the broader automotive industry’s contribution to South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during 2005 stood at 7,6 per cent versus the 7,1 per cent recorded in 2004, according to research by Econometrix. The share contributed by the vehicle and component manufacturing industries alone amounted to 4 per cent in 2005.
The motor industry is also a major employer in South Africa. According to the association of automobile manufacturers, in its review of the second quarter of 2006, the number of people e
mployed by the South African vehicle manufacturing industry, reached nearly 39 000 – the highest aggregate industry level in the past 10 years.
That’s largely because of increased production on the back of soaring local sales plus unprecedented growth in South Africa’s export programmes.
Last year, the association reported a record 564 974 units sold, and that’s besides the estimated 50 000 vehicles not recorded via official channels.
Provisional figures for 2006 suggest that this year’s total may exceed 650 000.
What lies behind the boom? According to the association,
*Stable retail pricing and vehicle financing scenarios since 2003;
*Low interest rates.
And production will continue to rise as a result of a jump to record levels in export sales (particularly light commercials).
Globally, the South African vehicle manufacturing industry’s share of production has also been rising steadily in recent years. At the end of 2005, it stood at 0,79 per cent out of a total of about 66,5 million.