We won’t make electric cars in South Africa for a decade — Volkswagen

Volkswagen won’t produce electric vehicles (EVs) in South Africa for at least another ten years.

That is according to feedback from Volkswagen Group Africa spokesperson Andile Dlamini in a recent interview with the Sunday Times.

Dlamini echoed recent comments from Volkswagen Africa operations managing director Martina Biene, in the company’s announcement of a R4-billion investment at its Kariega Plant in the Eastern Cape.

“As most global vehicle markets transition to EVs, African markets like South Africa will continue manufacturing and selling vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICEs) for the foreseeable future, owing to customer demand for ICEs and slow introduction of electric vehicles in these markets,” Biene said.

Volkswagen’s latest investment will go towards scaling up its manufacturing capabilities to produce an SUV for the African continent.

The company’s locally manufactured Polo and Polo Vivo models have been among South Africa’s best-selling models for several years.

Some of these are also exported to foreign markets like Europe, where new ICE vehicle sales will be banned from 2035.

As alluded by its name change to VW Group Africa from VW Group South Africa and its intention to export the new SUV to other African countries, it appears VW is more focused on growing its market share across the continent rather than rushing into EVs to keep up with more developed countries’ demand for the newer technology.

Entrance to the Volkswagen factory in Kariega, Eastern Cape

VW’s stance on EV production comes shortly after finance minister Enoch Godongwana announced a major incentive for carmakers to start producing EVs locally during his Budget Speech.

Starting in April 2026, producers will be able to claim an allowance to the value of 150% of qualifying investments in EV production capabilities.

The government will, therefore, allow manufacturers to deduct the full amount of their investment plus half again from their corporate taxes.

The government has also reallocated an additional R964 million to support the industry’s transition to EV production over the next three years.

This comes after numerous calls from the industry over the past few years, with fears mounting that a failure to transition timeously would lead to lost sales in exports to countries where new petrol and diesel car sales will be blocked.

Among these advocates was the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa), which represents all of the major vehicle makers in South Africa.

According to Naamsa CEO Mikel Mabasa, several major carmakers are in discussions with their global head offices on producing EVs in South Africa, following the announcement of the incentive.

Naamsa has also called on the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition to expand the incentives to hybrid EV manufacturing.

BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota are already assembling hybrids at their local plants, although only the latter sells its closed-loop hybrid models in South Africa, while the two German giants’ plug-in units are strictly for export.

Ford will also start manufacturing a plug-in hybrid version of the Ranger towards the end of 2024, although it remains to be confirmed whether it will be sold locally.

Electric VWs already on South African roads

The delay in local production does not mean that Volkswagen EVs won’t become a more common sight on South African roads in the next few years.

The brand has plenty of demand for petrol models that are imported from overseas factories — including the T-Cross, T-Roc, and Tiguan.

Biene said VW’s “journey to electrification” in South Africa will begin with a fleet of its ID.4 SUV, to be made available for testing by selected customers, journalists, and businesses in the second half of 2024.

TopAuto recently spotted at least one ID.4 already being tested in the country — a sporty GTX variant.

VW ID.4 GTX spotted on the N14 in Gauteng. Credit: TopAuto/Albert du Toit

A MyBroadband reader also noticed a VW ID electric car charging at a public station in Pretoria East in 2023, although they did not confirm the exact model.

The company’s first EV in South Africa was actually the e-Golf, which was simply a regular Golf converted into an electric model rather than being built fully electric from the ground up, like the ID. series.

Six units landed locally in 2020 but were used primarily for transporting customers who had their cars serviced at VW dealerships.

In addition, Volkswagen and DHL have also been testing a fleet of four ID.Buzz electric vans in the country.

An industry source told MyBroadband that Amazon would likely use these for deliveries after the e-commerce giant launches its local marketplace.

Two of the VW ID. Buzz electric vans already in South Africa

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We won’t make electric cars in South Africa for a decade — Volkswagen