Sumitomo Rubber South Africa (SRSA) is investing R2 billion in its Dunlop tyre manufacturing plant in Ladysmith.

The initial phase of the investment – worth R1.1 billion – commenced in 2014 and focused on upgrading and modernising the plant’s capacity. New technology and equipment resulted in increased manufacturing output at the plant of passenger and Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) tyres.

Dunlop’s parent company, Sumitomo Rubber Industries (SRI) in Japan, allocated the investment for the first phase of development. This coincided with the introduction of new SUV tyre models that were not yet manufactured at the Ladysmith plant. “This is our response to the market trend and demand for these models in both South Africa and other African markets,” says company CEO Riaz Haffejee.

Phase Two, at an estimated value of R910 million, focuses on the introduction and manufacture of truck and bus tyres for commercial use. This Dunlop branded product line is currently being imported into South Africa from SRI’s plants in Japan and China, due to the unavailability of suitable manufacturing capacity locally. This new investment will establish a suitable local manufacturing base and end the current import arrangement.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) approved SRSA’s application for a support grant of an estimated R300 million under the Automotive Investment Scheme programme toward the initial phase rollout. In addition, the implementation of the DTI’s Tariff-free Trade Agreement (T-FTA), will enhance foreign trade and is set to strengthen export activity into key African markets.

The Emnambithi Ladysmith Municipality donated the underutilised tract of land adjacent to the existing plant to SRSA at no cost, further underscoring the innovative Public-Private partnership. SRSA says it will explore onsite resource efficiency improvements in renewable energy generation and water management interventions.