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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist

On again? Volkswagen Tarok a candidate for local assembly

On-again, off-again half-ton bakkie has emerged as one of the models Volkswagen could build locally alongside the Polo and Polo Vivo this year.

Volkswagen’s confirmation last year of potentially adding a third model to its production roster at the Kariega Plant, formerly Uitenhage, alongside the Polo and Polo Vivo from 2023 has taken another twist as the planned model could well be the off-on, on-again Tarok half-ton bakkie.

A South African home?

Shelved indefinitely in November last year, after a series of conflicting reports ever since its showing as a concept at the São Paulo Auto Show in 2018, the Tarok had been tipped as the replacement for the aged Saveiro in South America, which seemingly won’t be discontinued after all as evident by recent spy images of the facelift model undergoing testing not far from the São Bernardo do Campo plant in Brazil.

Billed at the time of its unveiling as a world model as it offered both petrol and turbodiesel engines, as well as the ability to have the steering gear on the left and right, the Tarok had been slated for unveiling in 2024 or 2025, which subsequently came to nothing after it got branded not “a focus model” by Volkswagen boss Thomas Schäfer last year.

In an apparent reversal of Schäfer’s analysis though, the Tarok has re-emerged as not only a focus model, but in contention for the mentioned builder’s slot at the Eastern Cape plant.


Despite confirming the planned vehicle as having an “SUV bodystyle”, neither Schäfer nor Volkswagen South Africa’s new Chairperson and Managing Director Martina Biene wanted to reveal anything further about the model that has so far not been seen or turned-up on any online platform undergoing testing.

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“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,” Schäfer, who headed Volkswagen South Africa from 2015 to 2020 before departing for Skoda, told the media at a hybrid presentation sitting in November.

What needs to happen

In an in interview with Engineering News about Volkswagen’s plans for 2023, Biene stated that while a bakkie below the new Ford Ranger-based Amarok is indeed an option, it will have to sell some 20 000 units a year locally to be considered feasible.

Seeing as the concept Tarok already came underpinned by the Polo’s MQB-A0 platform, which the Vivo also uses, the possibility for production approval, according to Biene, appears logical but not confirmed.

The back-up for Polo

Should the Tarok emerge as the preferred model above any other option, it will most likely be offered as either a single or double cab and exported to key markets in lieu of the plant’s main model, the Polo, facing the axe after 2025 due to the stringent Euro 7 emissions regulations.

Despite it and the Vivo being retained for South Africa post-2025, another model is required as a means of not only countering its possible departure from Europe, but also to ensure the future of the Kariega Plant that exports the Polo to 38 countries, including Europe, in both left-and-right-hand-drive configurations.

Volkswagen Saveiro no longer appears viable
With a facelift model in the works, the left-hand-drive only Saveiro now appears more unlikely to ever arrive on South African soil.

At the same time, speculation is also rife that the new vehicle could be electric as Europe move towards the banning of all internal combustion powered vehicles by 2035.

“There is no way back. It is a myth that [current matters] in South Africa will stay as is. Change will have to happen,” Schäfer said reference to the country’s ongoing electricity woes.

“Each region must carry their weight and perform. And South Africa has always been a joy. But moving forward, what is the plan? There has to be one. Volkswagen South Africa has always been a cornerstone of Nelson Mandela Bay and that has to continue.”

Coming this year

Based on the Engineering News report, which alleges the newcomer being developed in conjunction with Brazil – but unlikely to be the recently unveiled Polo Track – a reveal could take place in the second quarter of the year if everything goes according to plan.

Before production officially takes place though, don’t be surprised if subtle hints in the from of teaser images or details are released by Volkswagen in due course.

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