General Motors has announced this week that it is combining its operations in Africa into a new business unit with immediate effect.

GM Africa will now incorporate Sub-Saharan operations, including manufacturing in South Africa, with North Africa, including its production facilities in Egypt and Kenya.

“Bringing our operations in Africa together will enable us to take advantage of synergies across the continent,” said Tim Lee, GM vice president, Global Manufacturing, and president, International Operations. “It will put GM in a strong position to expand in the a part of the world that has tremendous long-term potential for vehicles sales growth.”

The company does business in more than 50 markets on the continent and last year it sold around 180,500 vehicles there. Just under 70,000 vehicles were sold in South Africa and just under 10,000 in Sub-Saharan Africa markets.

Chevrolet is the company’s main brand across Africa, including the Aveo small sedan, Cruze compact sedan and the Spark. The Chevrolet Utility remains number one in the sub-one tonne segment and it introduced the Trailblazer SUV last November. In addition it began assembly of the Chevrolet Move passenger van at its facility in the Egypt’s 6th of October City near Cairo last year.

The move appears to further a regional consolidation that took place two years ago when GM North Africa was integrated with Egypt and took in activity across Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania. Meanwhile, activity in Sub-Saharan Africa, which included all other countries on the continent, was integrated with GM South Africa.

That re-structuring was in support of plans to grow vehicle exports, using South Africa as a base, in Sub-Saharan countries according to the company (read more here).

However, a spokesperson for the company said it was too early to comment on how the latest move would impact on transport and logistics activity or further plans to grow vehicle exports.

Executive shakeup
The consolidation of the business has led to a number of executive moves at the company. Mario Spangenberg, who is currently president and managing director of GM North Africa, will become president and managing director of the overall GM Africa unit, based at the division’s headquarters in Port Elizabeth in South Africa.

“We are pleased to have Mario, a proven leader and an agent of change, overseeing our Africa operations,” said Mark Barnes, GMIO vice president, Sales, Marketing and Aftersales, and chief country operations manager, Africa and Australia. “He has done an outstanding job growing GM’s business in North Africa, despite intense political and economic change.”

Tarek Atta, who was GM Egypt director of manufacturing and engineering, will become managing director of GM Egypt and North Africa, reporting to Spangenberg.

Edgar Lourençon, who has been managing director of GM South Africa and president of GM Sub-Saharan Africa since 2009, is moving back to South America later this year following a period spent assisting in the transition to the new organisation in Africa. That transition will include overseeing the launch of a new pick up in South Africa and further strengthening the Isuzu relationship.

GM South exported its first shipment of Isuzu KB models to Kenya last year.

Lourençon was previously director of Quality and director of Sales and Field Operations for GM in Latin America amongst other roles.