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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist

Volkswagen ‘confident’ new SUV will be made in South Africa

Newcomer expected to enter production in 2026, but only if South Africa is granted approval by Germany.

Volkswagen’s mostly still secretive third model planned for production alongside the Polo and Polo Vivo at its Kariega Plant in the Eastern Cape, has taken another step towards completion, albeit a year after originally expected.

An SUV with ICE

Reported in January as possibly being a bakkie in the shape of the on-again, off-again Tarok that had been tipped for unveiling in 2024 or 2025, the automaker has all but confirmed the still unnamed model will be an SUV powered by a combustion engine.

ALSO READ: EVs and third locally-made model key to Volkswagen’s future

Known internally as the A0 Entry, the newcomer will ride on the same MQB A0 platform as the Polo Wolfsburg will continue to manufacture after 2024 at Kariega in lieu of sales to Europe ending in said year in preparation for the all-electric ID.2all.

Volkswagen’s route map

In confirming the news last year, Chairperson and Managing Director for Volkswagen South Africa, Martina Biene, said assembly has not yet taken place and discussions are ongoing for it to be assembled in South Africa in order to safeguard exports once the Polo comes to an end in Europe.

Announcing both the Polo and Polo Vivo will, however, remain in production after 2025, former Volkswagen South Africa CEO Thomas Schäfer, who now heads the marque’s passenger car division, said, “the body shape is not that decisive, but as soon as we are clear on the model and the business case is presented in a way that it gets prioritised for our global investment decision, then we can tell you”.

What needs to happen?

Addressing the media on the sidelines of the Polo line-up drive in Kariega last week, Biene confirmed a signature on the dotted line approving the new model for production still hasn’t happened, but added it remains “confident we will get it”.

Volkswagen still awaiting on approval of new SUV
Volkswagen South Africa Chairperson and Managing Director Martina Biene has said despite the country’s economic challenges, confidence is still high it will receive approval to manufacture the new SUV locally in 2026. Image: Mpumelelo Macu

Denouncing suggestions of it being a localised version of the T-Cross, reportedly on the chopping block after 2025, Biene said an announcement is expected around October or November and Volkswagen South Africa will only disclose more information relating to the newcomer and projected investment once given the greenlight by Wolfsburg.

She added that should the nod be given, projections point to assembly starting in 2026 and not 2025 as previously mentioned.

The challenges

Citing South Africa’s ongoing energy crisis, as well as dilapidated road and rail infrastructure as key concerns raised by Germany, Biene said it is working to find solutions in order to alleviate potential discourage that could see the SUV being made in another country instead of South Africa.

Volkswagen still awaiting on approval of new SUV
Polo and Polo Vivo will remain in production after 2025, followed by the much reported new SUV in 2026. Image: Mpumelelo Macu

In an interview with local radio station Algoa FM in February, she said Volkswagen has been forced to cut production by 30 000 units in 2022 as a result of not only load shedding, but also the dire water crisis still affecting Nelson Mandela Bay.

“We lose a lot of units when we ramp down, then we stand still, and then ramp up again but then we also lose. So it’s better not to ramp up and ramp down a lot,” she said.

Why no EV?

Explaining the decision to offer the new product with a combustion engine rather than an electric, Biene said while Europe remains on-track to become an EV nation by 2035, key developing markets such as Africa and South America simply won’t be by the end of the decade.

“By 2026, Africa will not be ready for [fully]. Therefore, the new product will be an internal combustion engine [model],” Biene said.

More details are only expected once outright approval is given towards the end of this year.

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