The decline of Willowvale

In the mid-1990s WMMI assembled seven passenger vehicle models and five commercial vehicles from Mazda as well as Scania, Renault, and Bedford trucks.
By 1999, the company was the country’s vehicle assembler of choice with the installation of a new production facility for welding, pre-treatment and a new body shop that increased sales to about 1 000 monthly.

Sitting on huge profits Willowvale Mazda increased administration overheads, through additional top management and its incentives while at the same time non-core operations including a costly tooling plant were established.

By 2005 the company was struggling locally and began exploring regional markets by exporting a small batch of B1800 and T35 trucks to Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.

However, the relief was short-lived as South African-subsidised exports proved popular in those countries because of affordability.
But Engineer Dawson Mareya of WMMI believes supportive policies can help.

“Based on the current demand for new vehicles of 5 373 units per year (2013), WMMI should be able to satisfy the needs of the market as it has an installed capacity of 9 000 units per year on a single shift,” he said

“In addition, there is also Quest that has a capacity of 9 000 units per year to take up any further demand as we start to produce cheaper vehicles.

“Once there is a supportive policy in place, we will be able to attract brands that can give us kits for cheaper and affordable models.”
Eng Mareya, however, skirted around questions on the actual capital injection needed in Willowvale Mazda.

“It is difficult to quantify at this stage as this depends on what policy measures Government can pronounce immediately. Such measures will dictate what models we can bring.

“The recapitalisation is generally required to make jigs/fixtures, minor refurbishing of key equipment and working capital to bring the kits in. All the above requirements are based on the model selection,” he said.

 

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