The production line of the popular and lucrative sedans ground to a halt at Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) after three of their largest component suppliers – Feltex Automotive Trim, Feltex AIC and Caravelle – were put out of action by the blast at the East London Industrial Development Zone on the West Bank that left a trail of destruction last week.
The companies manufacture and supply front and rear carpets, wheel arch liners and boot trim packages for MBSA.
More than 1500 workers at MBSA’s production shop were told to stay at home following a critical shortage of the components.
Speaking to the Dispatch on Friday, Feltex plant manager Graham Young said: “We have ordered from a leading German supplier to make sure that production at MBSA continues while we focus on getting the factory up and running again.”
Breaking the company’s silence about the explosion, Young also revealed that the blast, which injured 11 workers, started from the chemical storage room.
This is contrary to allegations made by a worker at the firm that the explosion started after machinery-welding went wrong. “The information was wrong, there was no welding that took place at our factory and there was no compressor inside the factory. The explosion started in our chemical room but we are not sure what caused it yet,” said Young.
The explosion sent tremors through surrounding areas in East London. “I can tell you that we will leave nothing unturned to get to the root cause of the blast,” Young said.
He said the company, in conjunction with other major players in the automotive industry, including MBSA and VWSA in Port Elizabeth, had contributed with engineers to rebuild the blown facility. “The help has been great from everyone. MBSA is flying in experts to assist us. We have explosive experts from all over the country to help us with the investigation as well.”
Young visited the 11 workers at Life St Dominic’s Hospital, where they went for a checkup on Friday. “They are recovering well. Their jobs are not at risk. As soon as we are up and running, we will call them back to resume their duties,” he said.
Eastern Cape MEC for economic development Sakhumzi Somyo praised Feltex for taking the initiative to get supplies from overseas.