/ 21 April 2024

Plant boost ahead of new SUV for VW

Making changes: The VW production facility at Kariega in the Eastern Cape. Photo: David Dettmann

Volkswagen Group Africa has announced a plan to manufacture a new SUV at its Kariega production facility in the Eastern Cape, starting in 2027. 

This model will share a production line with the well-established Polo and Polo Vivo models.

The brand is investing R4 billion in its Kariega production plant which will be used to upgrade facilities in various areas in preparation for the addition of the third model. 

According to  VW Group Africa, a portion of the investment will be allocated to production facilities and tools, as well as local-content tooling and quality assurance. 

The VW Group Africa also expects to be spending about R877 million on improving automation in the body shop, while nearly R418 million will be used to procure new press tooling for the shop.  

In addition, the changes being made at the plant will include training and upskilling opportunities for production employees.

“Plant Kariega is an important manufacturing plant within the Volkswagen Group production network,” says Martina Biene, chairperson and managing director of Volkswagen Group Africa. 

“Since 2011, Volkswagen has invested R10.28 billion in production facilities, manufacturing equipment, local content tooling and training of people. The new investment is a vote of confidence in the future of the plant. It also futureproofs jobs, not only for our people, but also those employed in our supplier network.”

The first steps in upgrading the plant are expected to be made at the end of the year.

Volkswagen Brazil is handling the design and development of the yet-to-be-named SUV. 

Volkswagen Group Africa’s engineering team has teamed with Volkswagen Brazil to adapt the new model to local and continental requirements, including the production of a right-hand drive variant.

The new SUV comes at a time when vehicle manufacturers are transitioning to electric vehicles (EVs) but, according to Biene, African markets, including South Africa, will continue to build and sell internal-combustion engine cars in the coming years, because of  the slow adoption of EVs on the continent. 

Making changes: The VW production facility at Kariega in the Eastern Cape. Photo: David Dettmann

The Polo and Polo Vivo models have 46% and 58% local content levels, respectively, and VW Group Africa says the trend will continue with the introduction of the new SUV, which aims to achieve about 40% local content through a R1.2 billion investment.

Despite the slow uptake of EVs, the VW Group Africa plans to introduce the ID.4 test fleet in South Africa and Rwanda this year as it gears up for the electrification journey. 

Since 2011, the German marque has invested R10.28 billion in the Kariega plant to enhance production facilities, manufacturing equipment, local-content tooling and train employees.

With the increase in demand for  SUVs and crossovers locally, VW hopes the changes to the plant will ensure the future of the Kariega plant beyond 2028, when the Polo is likely to be discontinued.