Italian automotive leather companies, Mario Levi SPA and Ambra Leather, have
opened a 39 million rand ($US4 million) factory in Uitenhage, South Africa.
The re-tanning and finishing joint venture produces leather mainly for export
to Italian car maker Alfa Romeo although negotiations for supply deals with
local vehicle manufacturers are under way.

The Eastern Cape plant is capable of processing up to 1,500 hides a day, Managing
director Tony Stottelaar said. The hides are re-tanned, dyed, finished and cut
into components in the Uitenhage facility, which he claimed is one of the "most
modern of its type".

"This is an all-new investment, with the very latest technology. It shows
that the Italians have a lot of confidence in the future of the South African
motor industry," Stottelaar said.

One of the main factors which made the investment attractive was financial
support from the Pretoria government’s Motor Industry Development Plan,
(MIDP), he added.

"Automotive leather is a high-value export which is much sought after
[for export credits] by South African vehicle distributors. We have the capacity
to supply other markets as well," Stottelaar said.

Car manufacturers negotiating with the new leather plant include Delta, the
Port Elizabeth-based manufacturer of General Motors cars and components, Volkswagen
SA’s assembly plant, also based in Uitenhage, and the Port Elizabeth Toyota
and Volvo car assembly plants.

"As a supplier to original equipment manufacturers in Europe, the plant
is designed to meet international quality and environmental standards. We already
have ISO 9002 accreditation, and by the end of the year we will have TS 16949,
quality certification. By that time we will also have met the ISO 14000 environmental
standards," Stottelaar said.

Effluent is handled on-site in a plant designed by Ninham Shand in conjunction
with Envirotan. The solid waste is dried into cakes which can be safely disposed

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