Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA) plans to build a new electric SUV-style vehicle at its Kariega plant in the Eastern Cape.

This was revealed in a recent interview by the community newspaper UD Express with newly appointed Volkswagen South Africa group chair and managing director, Martina Biene.

The move is seemingly motivated by Europe’s plan to stop the sale of all fossil-fuel-based cars by 2035, which spells trouble for the South African plant’s exports to Europe.

In addition to manufacturing engines, the plant currently builds the highly popular Polo and Polo Vivo models and is the world’s only factory for the Polo GTI.

As of 2021, it had manufactured 58,770 engines and over 129,119 vehicles.

Biene said the plant needed to shift its export market to cater towards other African markets.

As it stands, VW plans to continue making the Polo and Polo Vivo beyond 2025, while starting to manufacture a brand-new electric model.

“We are looking at a third product, an electric vehicle that is currently not produced anywhere in the world, and it is our task also to take it to the next loved brand level,” Biene said.

“It will have an SUV kind of body style to suit the South African and African markets, and it will be very much shaped for the Asian and Latin American markets as well.”

Locally-manufactured VW Polos and other cars being prepared for export out of the Gqberha harbour. Editorial credit: MD_Photography / Shutterstock.com

Biene also told UD Express that certain factors would need to be addressed before the new car can be built, including VWSA having stable grid power and getting battery cells closer to the manufacturer.

Biene said South Africa and the rest of the continent had a great opportunity to generate power from various sources and that Volkswagen was likely to get involved in this industry.

“Solar, wind, as well as hydro power could be super big,” said Beine.

Although VW is the second-biggest car brand in South Africa by sales and has launched several EVs in other markets, it has not yet introduced any of them locally.

Last year, the carmaker announced it would test a fleet of its ID.4 electric SUVs in the country as part of the second phase of its electric mobility strategy.

In the first phase, it provided six e-Golfs to dealerships and motoring media to test over two years.

A limited number of ID.3 electric hatchbacks have also been brought into the country for experiential events.

All of the other popular German brands — BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and VW-owned Audi — now sell several electric models in the country.

However, these all cost well over R1 million, not the price point at which VW’s best-selling models compete locally.

The company likely aims to sell a car that can capture a more significant chunk of market share, like the Polo does, than the luxurious models currently on offer.

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