HomeBusiness DigestWillowvale to export vehicles

Willowvale to export vehicles

Ngoni Chanakira

WILLOWVALE Mazda Motor Industries (Pvt) Ltd (WMMI) says it is now producing between 230 and 300 vehicles a month and hopes to export to neighbouring countries soon in search of elusive fo

reign currency.

The move is likely to rile Zimbabweans who have been waiting for new vehicles for ages and who have now resorted to importing from countries such as Japan and South Africa.

Willowvale managing director Ben Kumalo this week told businessdigest that the production figure varied depending on the number of working days in the month.

“This is an improvement on last year’s average monthly production figure of 160 units,” he said. “You will recall that WMMI was closed for the first nine months of 2001. Consequently our production figures were very low in 2001. In 2002 our production figures improved by 120% and in 2003 further increased by 20%.

“We are studying jointly with Itochu and Mazda prospects of exporting to neighbouring countries – Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Kenya.”

WMMI was recently accused of selling its entire six months’ production to the diversified Trust Financial Holdings Ltd (Trust) at the expense of other customers in a move that raised eyebrows within the financial sector.

Questions were raised as to why a financial institution was buying such large quantities of vehicles, especially at a time when there was a shortage countrywide.

It is reliably understood that the major WMMI shareholder, the Industrial Development Corporation of Zimbabwe Ltd (IDC) was taken to task over the issue as allegations of profiteering were levelled against management by government heavyweights.

“It is not true that Trust purchased WMMI’s production for any period whatsoever,” Kumalo insisted. “WMMI simply had normal bank facilities with Trust with the stock being pledged as security for the borrowings per normal banking practice. All our production is available for purchase by government institutions (these purchase direct from us) and by the public who can purchase our products through our Mazda dealers.”

In May 2000 the Japanese government withdrew its Export Credit Insurance to WMMI which action then forced the company’s Japanese supplier Itochu Corporation to suspend shipment of completely knocked down kits to Willowvale.

Restructuring then ensued which included new financial arrangements for Willowvale’s funding and a reduction in staffing levels from 650 employees to 200.

“At this point in time we have 232 employees,” Kumalo said. “At the beginning of 2003 we had 210 employees. Currently we are producing between 230 and 300 units per month depending on the number of working days in the month.”

Kumalo said WMMI had submitted applications for foreign currency under the new auction system and so far had secured the currency applied for.

“We are happier with the new system as it is more transparent and effective,” he said.

He said the much-talked-about privatisation programme was a non-starter.

“Privatisation remains shelved at this stage,” Kumalo told businessdigest. “The stakeholders are not at this present point in time considering privatisation.”

Last year he said given the economic conditions prevailing in Zimbabwe it would not be advisable to proceed with the privatisation process.

Kumalo said WMMI’s joint venture partners Itochu Corporation and Mazda Motor Corporation had therefore asked them to suspend privatisation for the time being.

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