By NBF News
Listen to article

As a key player in South Africa's auto manufacturing industry, and the hub of General Motors operations in Sub-Saharan Africa, GM South Africa is keen on expanding its market shares across the African continent. The company which supplies from its plants a good number of the vehicles CFAO Automotive Division markets in Nigeria through NMI/ Intermotors, is not resting on its oars as far as making progress on the project is concerned.

In the past five years alone, the leading auto maker had launched 34 new Chevrolet, Isuzu and Opel products, and plans to unveil more with time. Some of the products, particularly Chevrolet and Isuzu models, are leading an onslaught on select segments of the Nigerian market aimed at returning the global brand to the forefront of the competition.

These hints were dropped by the Managing Director of GMSA, Edgar Lourenncon, during a reception for a team of motoring journalists from Nigeria which visited its facilities in Port Elizabeth recently. He disclosed that his company planned to make no less than R1 billion (about N20 billion) worth of investments in three years (2010 to 2012) towards the production of top quality vehicles, some of which would be hitting the Nigerian market at different times in future.

For now, the new Chevrolet Spark is already in NMI/Intrmotors showrooms, while a couple of other new vehicles are quietly testing the market.

In the current Chevrolet range of vehicles are Spark Lite, new Spark, Aveo, Cruze, Lumina, Captiva, Corsa utility, Optra, and Orlando, while Isuzu features single/double/extended cabin pick-ups running on either petrol or diesel, as well as N, E and F Series light trucks. Like aces, a few more that are in the making, would be released when the time is ripe, it was gathered.

In total, GM sold 164 794 vehicles in Africa in 2010 (up 10 percent versus 2009), an indication that the new drive is already yielding the desired results, even as Lourenncon maintained that in view of the fact that Nigeria is a big market with great potentials, GM would in conjunction with CFAO target an improved performance through a better product portfolio dedicated to the needs of the buying public.

Among the vehicles introduced to the visitors in Port Elizabeth, the new Chevrolet mid-segment Cruze with 1.8 litre engine and the new-look Captiva, which may stage an official come-back in its bigger and more endowed form, were tipped to do well in Nigeria ('all things being equal'), if and when they are formally launched. Some early units of the new passenger car have been feeling the pulse of the Nigerian market for some months now.

Cruze's engine and transmission are mounted on a sub-frame that is isolated from the main body structure by four rubber mountings. This helps minimise the amount of road noise and vibration that is transferred into the cabin of the vehicle and also facilitates tuning of the ride and handling characteristics.

The lower engine compartment side rails that carry the sub-frame extend into the two main longitudinal members along the floor of the vehicle. This helps to further dissipate powertrain noise and vibration, while also reducing vibrations that occupants might typically feel in their feet resting on the floor of the vehicle.

The front bulkhead is sandwiched between two large sound deadening mats. On the cabin side, a 25mm thick rubber mat is tightly fastened to the metal. On the engine compartment side, pre-formed fibreglass insulation 10mm thick is used. All openings for wiring and cables are as small as possible and are closed off with composite grommets.

The new Chevrolet Captiva SUV has been significantly restyled and refreshed to the extent that it is effectively an all-new vehicle with a fresh new look, a number of interior upgrades, improved power trains for better performance and efficiency, refinements to the chassis, a new advanced electronics package and lower interior noise and vibration levels. So, certainly, this Captiva is a new wine in a new wineskin: not the old one you knew.

Significant amongst the improvements to the vehicle electronics system is the adoption of Regulated Voltage Control (RVC). This enables the intelligent control of the Captiva's electrical system voltage for improved efficiencies. Benefits of RVC include improved fuel economy and longer life for lamps, switches and relays and improved battery performance. The system continually monitors the state-of-charge of the battery and battery temperature to ensure optimised battery charging in all conditions.

The new Chevrolet Captiva is powered by either a 2.4 litre Ecotec engine with variable valve timing that produces 123 kW and 230 Nm of torque, or a direct injection 3.0 litre V6 that delivers 190 kW with 288 Nm of torque. Both are latest generation engines from Chevrolet that offer exceptional fuel economy.

Apart from touring the production lines for Chevrolet and Isuzu, the journalists also visited the new Vehicle Conversion and Distribution Centre and the PDC (Parts Distribution Centre), located in Coega Industial Development Zone. Opened in 2010, the PDC consolidated GM's four parts warehouses under one roof, and is fully capacitised for expected future business growth. The world class state-of-the-art facility, accommodates 144 000 part numbers, using nine different storage methods.