Japan Motors Trading Company (JMTC) has been approved to begin producing the all new ‘Built of More’ Nissan Navara at its brand-new, state-of-the art assembly plant in Tema, outside the capital Accra.

The company went through the rigorous Nissan manufacturing quality standards validation process in February 2022.

On 29 March, Nissan will commemorate the opening and start of production for the all new Nissan Navara. “I would like to congratulate the team at Japan Motors,” said Nissan Africa managing director Mike Whitfield.

“Nissan’s production standards are extremely high, so achieving formal approval to start production is an incredible feather in their cap and testament to the dedication of their entire team and the Nissan South Africa engineers who have been at their side throughout this process, first in Rosslyn and now in Tema.”

“I can truly say that I am as excited about this news as I was when the first all new Navara rolled off the production line in Rosslyn in June last year, opening the way for the Navara to be finally built in Africa.”

Nissan Sub Sahara Africa sales director, Hide Kuwayama, agreed: “passing the start of production trial is certainly not an easy milestone in the Nissan World, so please accept our heartiest congratulations!”

The ‘Built of More’ Navara is one of the toughest vehicles ever produced by Nissan engineers. It was designed for Africa, is built in Africa and will shortly be assembled in Ghana by Ghanaians. Nissan selected Japan Motors, one of its two long time Ghanaian sales companies along with Nissan Auto Parts (APL), to be its manufacturing partner in 2020.

This followed Nissan becoming the first mover in Ghana by signing a memorandum of understanding with the government in 2018 to support the development of the domestic automotive sector.

“Establishing automotive assembly plants is a key part of the strategy to build a viable, indigenous automotive industry, which in turn is critical if we are to maximise Africa’s potential as the last frontier in the global automotive market,” said Whitfield.

“I am looking forward to being at the production line with Japan Motors managing director, Salem Kalmoni, when the assembly plant officially starts production next month. I can’t wait. It is going to a very big moment for Nissan, for Africa and especially for Ghana.”

Kalmoni is as excited and proud.

“The decision by Japan Motors to invest almost US$9-million in this venture to create a 100% wholly owned and staffed Ghanaian assembly plant was because we truly believe in the government’s vision to create an automotive industry in this country, that can build cars made in Ghana for Africa,” he said.

“We have built this factory to support this vision, to support our country, but also support ourselves as Ghanaians.”

When production starts in Tema, it will be will be the culmination of an 18-month long process in establishing the state-of-the-art 5 000 sq. m factory, which consists of four warehouses for the assembly and testing lines.

The factory also has a special shower bay fed by an underground 180 cu m water tank and an outdoor test track with 12 noise and vibration testing bays to ensure every vehicle that leaves the plant is as good as any other Nissan Navara made anywhere else in the world. All of this, including a modern showroom and office block, is contained in a 22 407 sq. m site.

For Whitfield, the investment made and the immediate impact in terms of job creation and the spin offs are proof indeed of the incredible value of creating an indigenous automotive industry.

“COVID 19 has exposed many of the fault lines in our society and the weaknesses of economies that are neither diversified nor industrialised,” he said.

Developing an indigenous automotive sector creates jobs and helps diversify the economy, by creating upstream and downstream sectors while earning vital foreign exchange by exporting locally made vehicles rather than spending vitally needed foreign funds to import them. South Africa, he said, was a great example of what could be achieved through decades of close, honest and progressive private public partnerships.

“Today the South African automotive sector directly employs 470 000 people and three times more in the value chain. It contributed 7.1% to the GDP in 2019 and earned US$ 14,3-billion through exports.

“The speed of the development of the Ghanaian automotive sector from a standing start slightly less than four years ago when Nissan became a first mover with the signing of the memorandum of understanding with the government of Ghana, has become a benchmark for what other countries should aspire to when it comes to both developing their legislative framework and partnering with investors.

“I am really excited about the potential of this new factory and the impact that it can have, not just on Ghana but on the region as a whole.”

“I am grateful too today for our continued friendship and association with Salem Kalmoni and his team at Japan Motors, as well as Subhi Accad and his company APL Nissan Ghana. Together these two companies, Nissan’s two sole distributors in Ghana, have a history with us that goes back more than 60 years.

“I have no doubt that together they will put Nissan right back up as the top selling automotive brand in Ghana once again.

Japan Motors sent a core team of 12 engineers to Nissan Motors continental light commercial vehicle manufacturing hub in Rosslyn, South Africa for intensive training on the built of more Nissan Navara last year. Today that team has more than doubled in size to 30, excluding the non-technical staff in the back office and the showroom.

During the construction phase, the 12 members of the core team were deployed across Japan Motors’ five branches to share their knowledge with local technicians to ramp up service levels and competencies across the company’s entire operation to the benefit of the customers.

“We have been very hard at work,” said Kalmoni, “this is a very intensive undertaking that started with Nissan signing the memorandum of understanding in 2018 and then choosing us in 2020 as their preferred partner to establish an assembly plant.”

Japan Motors Trading Co. Ltd. grew out of Kalmoni and Sons, which was started in the 1920s by Kalmoni’s grandfather, also named Salem, eight years after he arrived in Ghana from Lebanon. In 1958, Kalmoni and Sons acquired the Datsun/Nissan distributorship. The Kalmoni family have since built Japan Motors into a Ghanaian automotive powerhouse, with branches in Ghana’s five major cities.

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