In an automotive first for North Africa, German automaker Opel will quickly start producing electrical automobiles in Morocco. Opel’s electrical automobile manufacturing in Kénitra leapfrogs China’s plan to construct electrical automobiles in Egypt, giving Morocco’s automotive trade an vital first-mover benefit. The transfer additionally represents a strategic achieve for European automotive manufacturing over China. As a gateway to West Africa, Morocco supplies Opel and its mother or father firm Stellantis a close-by manufacturing base for the eventual cost-effective export of electrical autos to quickly increasing markets in Sub-Saharan Africa.
On Aug. 25, 2021, Stellantis introduced that its German auto manufacturing subsidiary Opel would start electrical car (EV) manufacturing in Morocco. The German automaker’s Rocks-e mannequin, an upgraded model of Citroën’s Ami EV microcar, would be the first all-electric, passenger automobile to be manufactured in North Africa. Opel will produce the autos in Kénitra on the plant of its sister firm Peugeot, which the latter opened in 2019 previous to the 2021 merger of Peugeot and Opel’s mother or father firm Groupe PSA with Fiat Chrysler to type the multinational conglomerate Stellantis.
Opel’s new two-seater EV can also be a product growth milestone for Morocco because the Rocks-e mannequin was developed on the Morocco Technical Heart (MTC) in Casablanca, the design and engineering R&D laboratory initially based by Groupe PSA. Whereas EVs can price greater than their inner combustion engine (ICE) counterparts, MTC’s improved design has helped Opel to attenuate manufacturing prices to scale back the retail value of the Rocks-e to probably as little as $7,000. Designed as a carbon-free city mobility resolution, Opel is seeking to initially market the Rocks-e in main European cities, making the car accessible for order in Germany from autumn 2021 after which in different European markets throughout 2022.
Opel’s graduation of EV manufacturing in Morocco represents nimble market timing following the European Fee’s July 2021 name to section out all ICE autos within the European Union by 2035 as a centerpiece of the Union’s European Inexperienced Deal. A number of northern European international locations, taking issues into their very own fingers, had already adopted measures requiring all automobiles to be zero-emissions autos by 2030. Nonetheless, the appearance of EV manufacturing in Morocco was not solely surprising. As famous in a earlier MEI publication, European semiconductor producer STMicroelectronics’ latest inauguration of a microchip manufacturing line for EVs in its Bouskoura plant on the outskirts of Casablanca put Morocco on the fast-track to host EV manufacturing.
China and Egypt try to drag into the lead with EV manufacturing partnership
With the capability to provide over 700,000 autos per yr, Morocco’s automotive trade is the undisputed king of car manufacturing in North Africa. But previous to Opel’s announcement, Egypt had been poised to leapfrog Morocco to change into North Africa’s first electrical automobile producer and thereby emerge because the area’s subsequent main automotive manufacturing heart. In a serious breakthrough for Cairo, Chinese language automaker Dongfeng signed a framework settlement in January 2021 with the moribund Egyptian state-owned El Nasr Automotive Manufacturing Firm to collectively produce electrical autos in Egypt. One of many “Huge 4” of China’s car trade, Dongfeng bought 1.13 million autos in 2020. The settlement between Dongfeng and Nasr, whose amenities had been dormant for 11 years, requires 55% of car parts to be manufactured regionally.
Dongfeng and Nasr performed technical exams on the Chinese language producer’s E70 mannequin throughout summer season 2021 to find out the design modifications required by Egyptian driving situations. The Chinese language-Egyptian three way partnership plans to promote the brand new mannequin in Egypt and regional markets because the Nasr E70. Aiming for an annual manufacturing capability of 25,000 electrical automobiles at Nasr’s manufacturing amenities, manufacturing is slated to begin in mid-2022. In distinction to Opel’s method, the Nasr E70 will probably be priced at $18,600, possible making the Egyptian authorities and company fleets, in addition to taxis, the first preliminary marketplace for the Nasr E70.
Europe maintains pole place in Morocco’s auto manufacturing worth chain
By jumpstarting Morocco’s entrance into EV manufacturing, Opel’s EV manufacturing additionally helps preserves Europe’s main place in Morocco’s automotive manufacturing worth chain, initially fashioned by the institution of Groupe Renault and Groupe PSA’s manufacturing crops in Morocco together with the roughly 200 worldwide suppliers working their very own native manufacturing amenities to help these crops. Amongst these suppliers having built-in into the European-led worth chain are Chinese language corporations reminiscent of CITIC Dicastal, which opened a $400 million plant in Kénitra to produce aluminum solid parts to Peugeot’s manufacturing unit.
In 2017, China’s electrical car producer BYD Auto inked a deal to construct its personal EV manufacturing plant in Morocco, aspiring to change into the nation’s third automaker. However the Chinese language try and create an unbiased automotive manufacturing worth chain in Morocco has been mired in delays and the end result stays unsure. A profitable run for Opel would possible spur the manufacturing of EV manufacturers owned by Peugeot or Renault. Peugeot already manufactures its ICE, 5-door hatchback Peugeot 208 in Kénitra and will change with relative ease to producing the all-electric e-208 mannequin that makes use of the identical chassis. In June 2021, Renault signed a strategic cooperation settlement with STMicroelectronics for the availability of electrical and hybrid car superior energy semiconductors, elevating the prospect that STMicroelectronics’ Moroccan autochip manufacturing might finally provide the manufacturing of EV fashions in Renault’s Morocco crops.
Morocco as an EV gateway to West Africa
The intensifying competitors amongst North African nations, reminiscent of Morocco and Egypt, together with their international manufacturing companions to determine EV manufacturing within the area additionally stems from North Africa’s place as a gateway to the quickly increasing automobile markets in Sub-Saharan Africa, famously dubbed by a Bloomberg Information article because the “final frontier for automobile makers on the hunt for progress.” Though initially advertising to Europe, Opel’s Morocco manufacturing line might promote the reasonably priced Rocks-e mannequin in West African markets, the largest prize of which is Nigeria — Africa’s most populous nation with a driving-age inhabitants of about 99 million. In 2019, Nigeria imported 1.3 million autos, however assembled solely 14,000 autos regionally per yr. With its small dimension and built-in charging cable, Opel’s Rocks-e presents wherever charging choices that make it interesting for cell phone-based ride-sharing companies which might be more and more turning into the main mode of shopper adoption in Nigeria and different Sub-Saharan Africa auto markets.
Morocco’s “first in North Africa” electrical automobile manufacturing might present the dominion and its European companions first-mover benefit within the increasing automobile markets of Africa’s quickly urbanizing areas south of the Sahara.
Professor Michaël Tanchum is a non-resident fellow with the Center East Institute’s Economics and Power Program. He teaches at Universidad de Navarra and is a senior fellow on the Austrian Institute for European and Safety Coverage (AIES) and visiting fellow within the Africa program on the European Council on International Relations (ECFR). The opinions expressed on this piece are his personal.
Picture by FADEL SENNA/AFP through Getty Photographs