Joint venture on road to success in minibus market

Updated: 2014-05-13 10:10

By Xing Zhigang and Li Jiabao (China Daily)

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Beijing company is banking on new plant to upstage Toyota in SouthAfrica, report Xing Zhigang and Li Jiabao from Johannesburg

It's not often that one finds a new entrant stealing the thunder of an established global company in a mature marketplace like South Africa.

But one Chinese automotive company looks set to zoom past the market leader, Toyota Motor Corp, in the fast-growing South African minibus market.

Joint venture on road to success in minibus market
A minivan travels down the production line at a factory of BAW South Africa in Springs, Gauteng province. WANG JING/CHINA DAILY 

The company has already made a splash with its 16-seater Sasuka minibus, whose name means "we are departing" in the local Zulu language. These vehicles have become popular for their reliability and affordability.

"We want to dethrone Toyota in minibus sales in South Africa," said James Chung, 50, chief executive officer of BAW South Africa.

Sitting in his sprawling office on the East Rand in Gauteng province, about 50 kilometers east of Johannesburg, Chung said that success in South Africa may prove crucial to the company's long-term success.

"Our products are cheaper (than Toyota's) and of exceptional quality. It's just that we need to do much more to promote our brand," he said.

BAW South Africa is a joint venture between Beijing Automotive Works Co Ltd, the Industrial Development Corp of South Africa and China Africa Motors. It was set up in November 2012 to assemble minibus taxis on a semi-knocked-down basis.

BAW's parent company, Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co, owns 51 percent of the company, the balance being held by the Industrial Development Corp of South Africa and China Africa Motors - a company set up by James Chung and family.

Chung, born in Taiwan, started his trading business in South Africa in 1991, selling items including gadgets, electric fans and tires. China Africa Motors was previously the importer and distributor of BAW taxis in South Africa. It holds a 24.5 percent stake in BAW South Africa.

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