BUSINESS NEWS - Tyre giant Bridgestone South Africa’s investments into its local tyre plants will total some R700 million in the current and coming financial year.
This is according to the group’s newly appointed CEO, Jacques Fourie, who was speaking to Moneyweb during the launch of a strategic partnership with SA Taxi at Bridgestone’s new headquarters in Midrand on Monday.
“The deal with SA Taxi is part of our commitment to South Africa, which is a key market for Bridgestone,” he says.
“We currently locally manufacture around 1.5 million tyres at our plants in Brits and Port Elizabeth. With the minibus taxi industry being a major transport player and ‘consuming’ around a million tyres are year, we see this as an opportunity for growth and collaboration.”
Asked about Bridgestone’s investment plans in the country, Fourie notes that the group is currently completing an investment of around R400 million at its main tyre manufacturing plant in Brits, North West. “That’s for the current year, but we are looking at a further capex of around R300 million into our SA plants. We are currently finalising plans around this investment.”
The group has also opened a massive new head office building just off Allandale Road in Midrand. The building, developed by Abland and on a 10-year lease, is located near Attacq’s burgeoning multi-billion-rand Waterfall City node.
Fourie, who was appointed CEO in July, says the new purpose-built head office houses around 400 staff and is a further testament to Bridgestone’s growth ambitions in the country.
“Bridgestone has been around for 90 years and we’ve had a presence in SA for 83 years. It is a legacy we are proud of and that we want to grow.”
While Fourie did not elaborate on the degree to which production capacity will increase at Bridgestone’s SA plants as a result of the investments, he says the SA Taxi partnership will see it gain a bigger share of the minibus taxi tyre market.
SA Taxi is a major subsidiary of JSE-listed Transaction Capital and provides alternative finance to minibus taxi owners and would-be entrepreneurs in the industry. It is 25% owned by the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) – the country’s largest taxi body.
New taxi tyre developed
As part of the strategic partnership with SA Taxi, Bridgestone has launched a new tyre which it says is designed for South African road conditions and minibus taxis. According to the company, the move will improve safety in the taxi industry and make taxi tyres more affordable in a “first of its kind partnership between a tyre manufacturer and the taxi industry” in SA.
Bridgestone SA operations chief Christo Jansen van Rensburg says the deal has been over a year in the making. “It is a ground-breaking partnership with SA Taxi that will improve safety on our roads with the introduction of a tyre designed exclusively to meet not only the stringent requirements of the Ses’fikile Toyota Quantum minibus taxi but also OEM [original equipment manufacturer] requirements,” he says, adding that the new tyre will be known as the Bridgestone Taxi R15.
He explains: “Through SA Taxi Rewards, an associated multi-faceted loyalty programme, operators will be able to save R400 per tyre and earn rewards on parts, maintenance, and fuel.”
Van Rensburg says that with some 15 million South Africans using minibus taxis daily, the partnership with SA Taxi is not only going to benefit the taxi industry, but importantly many ordinary South Africans.
“We can’t keep calling this an informal industry. The taxi industry plays an important part in the SA economy. Improving safety will improve negative perceptions of the industry.”
Van Rensburg says the Bridgestone Taxi R15 tyres will be manufactured locally and will therefore also create jobs and boost the local economy.
SA Taxi’s communications executive Maroba Maduma says the deal with Bridgestone will allow SA Taxi to further stimulate the taxi industry, which is critical to the lifeblood of the country’s economy.
“It is mandatory that vehicles we finance are fitted with a telemetry device that collects data on everything from trip duration and distance covered through to driver behaviour and braking events,” he says. “This partnership with Bridgestone will bolster our efforts to make the taxi industry safer, and sustainably support the sector’s growth and development.”
Santaco president Phillip Taaibosch, speaking at the launch, says he welcomes the partnership between SA Taxi and Bridgestone. “All too often the taxi industry is described as unethical and uneducated, but deals like this highlight the important role and value of the taxi industry in SA.”
Taaibosch says the taxi industry is changing for the better and is “not the taxi industry of old”.