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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist

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

Uitenhage, now Kariega Plant, on the cusp of securing production of a third model that will be made alongside and not replace the Polo or Polo Vivo.

Volkswagen South Africa has provided a clearer indication of its plans for the local market going forward as it moves towards an electric only future by 2030.

Flanked by Wolfsburg’s new Chairperson and Managing Director for South Africa, Martina Biene, who replaced Robert Cisek this past Monday (31 October), Volkswagen Passenger Cars CEO, Thomas Schäfer, admitted that the brand is still traversing the comeback road as it attempts win back confidence after not only the dieselgate scandal, but also a series of internal squabbles that has dented its standing since then.

Officially introducing Biene, whose position as Head of Small and Compact Products now becomes Cisek’ portfolio, Schäfer, who headed Volkswagen South Africa between 2015 and 2020 before becoming Skoda’s Chairman until April this year, said the brand not only remains committed to South Africa, but will be introducing a third model assembled at its Uitenhage Plant, now Kierga, alongside the Polo and Polo Vivo soon.

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“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,” Schäfer said.

“We are not just here to do business. We are apart of the community. We want to see the team here strengthening and my guess is, you will see an incredible acceleration from the second half of this decade.”

In announcing the new vehicle, which will feature an SUV bodystyle and ride on the same MQB A0 platform as the Polo, T-Cross, Taigo/Nivus, Seat Ibiza and Skoda Fabia, Schäfer stated that it will not replace the Polo or Polo Vivo made for the local and exports markets, but remarked that it will have to readdress its long-term goals past as a business from 2035.

Volkswagen's preview EV map for South Africa plus third locally made model
The initiator of the ID brand, the ID.3, will be updated next year but won’t be coming to South Africa.

Referring to the ban on internal combustion vehicles in Europe from said year, both Schäfer and Biene stated that confidence is high that South Africa’s current electricity woes will be a thing of a past by then, and that production of electric vehicles would be well underway.

“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, adding that Volkswagen wants to assemble and exports EVs from South Africa and Africa rather simply becoming an exporter.

At the same time, Biene said that the push is on to introduce the marque’s electric vehicles following the recent completion of a trial run with the all-electric e-Golf based on the previous generation Mk 7.5.

Volkswagen's preview EV map for South Africa plus third locally made model
ID.4 has been identified as the EV Volkswagen will most likely bring to South Africa first.

She, however, stated that delays attributed to the global semi-conductor shortage had impeded Volkswagen’s plans for the next stage of the project involving sales of the ID.4.

Provisionally the only ID model being looked at despite the presence of the ID.5 and the ID.3, Biene said it has become of importance for Volkswagen to be present in the South African electric vehicle market as proven by sister brand Audi’s e-tron line-up.

Despite the chip shortages, she stated that “I will get pushy” when asked how long the wait for the ID.4 would be.

Volkswagen's preview EV map for South Africa plus third locally made model
Polo remains a key model and will remain in production in Uitenhage, now Kariega, till after 2025.

Cagier was Biene’s response to the identity of the new SUV that is still to be seen or even produced at any Volkswagen factory.  

“It has an SUV bodystyle and is currently not being produced anywhere else. But I have to emphasise that discussions [about production] are still taking place, but [I can confirm] that Polo and Polo Vivo will remain [in production at Kariega] beyond 2025,” said Biene.

The confirmation of the newcomer will see the plant undergoing a number “optimisations”, the exact nature being unknown, with both Biene and Schäfer declining to comment on the amount invested for production and supposed expansion.

Volkswagen's preview EV map for South Africa plus third locally made model
Along with the Polo, the Polo Vivo will continue in production beyond 2025.

“We will have to decide on the product finally before we can comment on the investment,” Biene said, with Schäfer adding “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.”

While more details are expected at some stage, chances are that some could emerge before then by way of Volkswagen or even spy images at some stage.

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