Volkswagen may build a new half-ton bakkie in South Africa
Compact workhorse will be based on the new compact SUV to be built locally
Volkswagen has not yet named the new small SUV it will build in South Africa but has revealed the car may also spawn a compact bakkie.
Mzansi will be without a half-ton workhorse for the first time in decades after Nissan’s decision to discontinue the popular NP200 later this year, and speculation has been rife as to what might fill its place. The Volkswagen Saveiro was touted as a possibility but the compact bakkie is built in Brazil in left-hand drive only and is off-limits to South Africa.
The new as yet unnamed compact SUV to be built at Volkswagen’s Kariega plant in the Eastern Cape will be a small crossover built on the Volkswagen MQB-27 platform that underpins the Polo. It will be positioned below the imported T-Cross.
The vehicle gives the opportunity of a bakkie later on, Martina Biene, MD of Volkswagen South Africa, said at the company’s indaba media event in Kariega this week. Full details are expected to be announced in the coming weeks after it was earlier announced the vehicle will be added as a third model line at the factory alongside the Polo and Polo Vivo from 2026 or 2027.
VW previously sold a half-tonner called the Caddy in South Africa. It was based on the MkI Golf and was produced in Uitenhage (now Kariega) from 1981 until 2007.
Biene said Volkswagen also plans to boost production of Polos and Polo Vivos to 150,000 units at the Kariega plant this year for the local and export markets, an increase of about 10,000 units over 2023. It will be made possible by the easing of the semiconductor shortage that afflicted the global automotive industry, and the installation of diesel generators to keep the local plant running during load-shedding. The company spent R130m over the past two years on generators and diesel which allowed VW to build 8,000 more cars last year compared to 2022.
Volkswagen is committed to staying in South Africa and providing direct employment to 3,900 people despite concerns that the country’s regulatory, energy and logistics crises pose a threat to local production facilities.
In November the brand’s international passenger car CEO Thomas Schaefer said South Africa must fix its political and infrastructural issues or risk losing major foreign automotive investments.
While his comments served as a wake-up call to government, they did not portend the imminent demise of Volkswagen’s 80-year old Kariega car factory, nor the loss of nearly 50,000 jobs in the brand’s total supply chain, said Volkswagen.
The company, which is renaming itself Volkswagen Group Africa, will become the sole global manufacturer of the Polo hatch which is South Africa’s most exported car, with 101,557 units shipped overseas last year. More than 70% of Polos built locally are exported and the car will continue to be produced until about 2029.
VW also announced several new imported models would be launched in South Africa this year, including the all-new Tiguan midsize SUV, facelifted Golf GTI and Touareg, upgraded T-Cross, and new engine derivatives of the Polo sedan and Amarok bakkie. The ID.4 compact crossover will also be launched as the brand’s first electric car in the country.
There will be no hybrid VW models offered due to the low quality of South Africa’s fuel, the company said.
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