India's Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) last week took full control of its South African joint venture Mahindra South Africa set up in October 2004 with African Automotive Investments Corporation, a subsidiary of African Resources and Logistics Corporation.

"The South African vehicle market is one of the largest and most dynamic in Africa. Value for money products and a strong focus on after sales have contributed in large measure to our success in the market. This additional equity reflects our long-term commitment to the market that is of strategic importance to Mahindra," said Pawan Goenka, president of M&M's automotive sector and chairman of Mahindra SA.

Four months ago M&M invested INR30m in Mahindra SA, which increased the company's share in the JV to 91% from the initial 51%.

Mahindra SA has 30 dealerships in the country's nine provinces and sold over 11,000 vehicles in its first five years. It sold about 1,500 units in the last fiscal year.

The JV has also exported vehicles to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Swaziland and Namibia so far.

"We have achieved significant growth in South Africa since 2004. We will focus on introducing a new range of products and on building the Mahindra brand in South Africa over the next few months this year," said Ashok Thakur, the recently-appointed chief executive of Mahindra South Africa.

Mahindra SA sells the Scorpio SUV and pickup, the Bolero pickup and the new Xylo MPV.

The company is also keen on setting up a fully owned manufacturing facility in South Africa as its penetration into markets on the continent grows.

At present it costs US$1,000-$1,500 to ship a vehicle from India.

Kevin Jacobs