BMW l'Afrique du Sud

BMW M 535i in front of BMW's headquarter in Isando, Johannesburg, © BMW AG

The South African importer ERAD (Euro Republic Auto-Mobil Distributors) asked BMW to produce BMW cars on their own. The reason for this was the "Local Content Program" of the South African government, that advises the Motoring companies that approximately 50 % of the vehicle had to be produced in the country. Which kind of BMW should be produced in South Africa? What happens, if the project failes? BMW had a very good idea. A short time before they bought the car manufacturer Hans Glas in Dingolfing. The GLAS 1700 competed with their BMW 1800. Because of that the production of the GLAS car was discontinued in Germany and continued it in South Africa. They had success with the idea: Since 1968 the models BMW 1800 SA and 2000 SA were made in Durban. Later on BMW revised the design of the Frua vehicles. The cars got the typical BMW face and at the rear they got the BMW E12 rear light. They look a bit funny, because they are mounted "on the head" turned with 180 degrees. These newer models got the designation BMW 1804 and 2004. But there were several quality problems, which may harm BMW's good reputation. But not every car with BMW 5 Series rearlights is a BMW: Opel.

BMW 2004, 520, 525 und E3 in Pretoria, © BMW AG

BMW bought ERAD to prevent a damage to their brand and introduced the BMW 5 Series in March 1974. At first the BMW 520 was sold only, but later on in December the BMW 525. Between 1974 and 1982 53,248 CKDs (Completely Knocked Down) were delivered from Munich and assembled in Rosslyn nearby Pretoria. Lots of components for the interior were referred from local manufacturers. Because of that, the ceiling is different from the German. Or the door panels: Instead of board they used compressed wood, the armrests were only in black colour available. The ashtray at the rear doors also. The carpets had an another struckture and looked different. Caused by the lower production number only one type of hood was used: The embossed style for all models of Series 1. The facelift delayed there: it was in February 1977. At many places the workshops could't work on injecting technology, so BMW waited with the introduce of BMW 528i until February 1979. The BMW 520i wasn't available here.

BMW South Africa also exported cars to other countries. It was the time when South Africa had economical sanctiones. The export models were the BMW 518 DE LUXE and the BMW 520. These were built as a left hand drive. The BMW 518 DE LUXE were delivered to Iran, to Belgium and obviously to Italy. The BMW 520 was made for Argentine. Obviously a automatic version of BMW 520 was planned for export, but I found the car in South Africa itself and it was a right hand drive.

In 1982 there was a Renaissance for BMW E12. BMW South Africa continued the production of the successful BMW E12 and to hold off on the introduce of the new BMW E28. New press tools would have cost too much for a small production. The price for a BMW 5 Series would have increased with 700 Rand. At that time a BMW 520 costed 13,590 Rand. That's the reason, why BMW revised their BMW 5 Series and put the BMW E28 interior into the BMW E12 body. This mixture is called E12/8. New and consumption-optimized fuel injection engines were installed. BMW's decision made the introduce of BMW's 3 Series (BMW E30) possible. Before that only the BMW 5 Series and BMW 7 Series (BMW E23) was offered. By this BMW increased their market share successfully. But with the time the new Audi cars (Audi 500) and Mercedes (E-Class W124) the BMW E12 looked older. The sales were decreasing constantly since 1983. In April 1985 BMW introdueced the BMW E28 to stop the loss in that marked segment. In 1986 the headquarter moved from Isando to Midrand in Johannesburg. The E28 didn't become that successful like the BMW E12. Two years later as in Germany, in 1989 the BMW E34 was introduced. This was the last BMW 5 Series, what was produced in Rosslyn. You recognize these models at their VIN: ABM... (African Bavarian Motorworks) instead of WBA... (Western Germany Bavarian Motorworks).

BMW productionlocation Soth Africa: Rosslyn (nearby Pretoria). Map state 1975, ©