According to a report by Automotive News, BMW, along with other automakers, have temporarily stopped production at their South African plants due to an employee strike. South African autoworkers are seeking wage increases more than triple the inflation rate.
The powerful National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, which represents 31,000 autoworkers, said it had rejected employers’ offer of a 7 percent increase in the first year and a raise equal to consumer price inflation in the remaining two years.
The union is demanding a 15 percent wage increase, well above inflation, which was at 4.2 percent in July.
National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) represents seven companies including BMW, Volkswagen, Toyota, Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Daimler.
BMW’s Rosslyn plant was also closed and the company hopes the strikes will come to a resolution soon.
“There is no way we can build cars without workers. There is no contingency plan in place,” said Guy Kilfoil, a BMW spokesman in South Africa.
BMWs have been assembled in South Africa since 1968 when Praetor Monteerders’ plant was opened in Rosslyn, near Pretoria. BMW initially bought shares in the company, before fully acquiring it in 1975; in so doing, the company became BMW South Africa, the first wholly owned subsidiary of BMW to be established outside Germany.
Three unique models that BMW Motorsport created for the South African market were the E23 M745i (1983), which used the M88 engine from the BMW M1, the BMW 333i (1986), which added a 6-cylinder 3.2 litre M30 engine to the E30, and the E30 BMW 325is (1989) which was powered by an Alpina-derived 2.7 litre engine.
Unlike U.S. manufacturers, such as Ford and GM, which divested from the country in the 1980s, BMW retained full ownership of its operations in South Africa.
Following the end of apartheid in 1994, and the lowering of import tariffs, BMW South Africa ended local production of the 5-Series and 7-Series, in order to concentrate on production of the 3-Series for the export market. South African–built BMWs are now exported to right hand drive markets including Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong, as well as Sub-Saharan Africa. Since 1997, BMW South Africa has produced vehicles in left hand drive for export to Taiwan, the United States and Iran, as well as South America.