Uitenhage plant marks 65 years of producing people’s cars in Eastern Cape
With an enormous floor space covering 518 912m² and after producing a whopping 3.4 million vehicles over a span of 65 years, the Uitenhage manufacturing plant of Volkswagen SA celebrated its milestone achievements yesterday.
The original plant, established in 1946 as the South African Motor Assemblers and Distributors, assembled 12 Studebakers a day.
In 1951, the first Volkswagen rolled off the company’s Uitenhage assembly line and last year VWSA exported more than 66 000 Polos.
The Uitenhage plant has since been named No 1 among the German automotive giant’s 13 global production facilities.
The VWSA plant as it stands, with its own press plant, body shop, paint shop, engine plant, final assembly and logistics facility, has grown to a daily capacity of 600 cars, including its top-selling passenger models – the Polo and Polo Vivo – for local and international markets.
Group communications general manager Matt Gennrich said VWSA was the largest employer in the region with 4 026 employees, and contributed R2.06-billion in the form of salaries, wages and benefits.
“Our contribution to Nelson Mandela Bay in terms of services, rates and taxes equates to R127-million,” he said.
“We also do business with more than 1 200 suppliers.”
Gennrich said VWSA used both the ports of Ngqura (Coega) and Port Elizabeth for export and import, and had invested R4.5-million in the local economy last year alone.
Through these and other investments and contributions, the company has stimulated growth in the local economy, even through trying times in the automotive industry.
VWSA regularly secures multimillion- rand manufacturing deals for export, helping to sustain
Nelson Mandela Bay’s title as South Africa’s vehicle manufacturing hub.
VWSA also donates significantly to the local community and has invested a substantial amount of money and effort in creating sustainable services to its workers and the people of Nelson Mandela Bay.
The R30-million People Pavilion on the outskirts of Uitenhage is a sports, recreation, rehabilitation
and community facility for the benefit of all VWSA employees and their families.
“The People Pavilion aims to create a sense of belonging and engagement for Volkswagen’s
employees in Uitenhage,” Gennrich said.
The centre includes a fully equipped gym, and an indoor multi-purpose sports hall is also
available for employees and the community to hire.
There is also a licensed bar and clubhouse terrace, which overlooks the main sporting field.
VWSA is further invested in community upliftment and corporate social responsibility.
In 2012, VWSA opened the R20-million VWSA Love Life Youth Centre in KwaNobuhle.
The centre is aimed at offering young people a safe haven “where they can play sport and mingle with their peers and adults, thereby developing long-term supportive relationships”, Gennrich said.
In February 2011, VWSA in partnership with community stakeholders opened the Ikhwezi Lomso Pre-Primary in KwaLanga.
The Top Employer Institute has named VWSA as the country’s top employer five times.
Volkswagen Group South Africa chairman and managing director Thomas Schaefer said: “Our company
vision is to provide sustainable mobility with German engineering and a South African heart.
At the centre of this company [are] the exceptional people who build and sell our vehicles.
“Without them, we would not have made it to where we are today, 65 years later.”