Volkswagen envisions manufacturing EVs in SA

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 18 Jul 2023
The Volkswagen ID.4 will come to SA soon.
The Volkswagen ID.4 will come to SA soon.

Volkswagen is strengthening its e-mobility strategy in SA and the rest of the African continent, as the shift towards electrification increasingly gains momentum globally.

This was the word from Volkswagen Passenger Cars Brand CEO Thomas Schäfer, who was a guest speaker at the Exporters Eastern Cape’s AGM last week.

Schäfer, who is a member of the Volkswagen AG board of management and head of the Brand Group Core, is former MD of Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA).

He addressed the Exporters Eastern Cape meeting virtually, speaking on the topic of VW’s Accelerate strategy, which has helped it continue to make rapid progress with the transformation to e-mobility.

The strategy is premised on electrification, software-defined products, new business models and autonomous driving – the four key forces driving the future development of vehicles, according to the vehicle manufacturer.

Volkswagen Group is preparing for the South African launch of its electric vehicle (EV) range. In 2020, it introduced its electric mobility pilot project in SA. This saw six fully-electric e-Golfs being tested in an effort to gain consumer insights into the varying experiences of driving and living with an EV in SA.

“Our mission is to make e-mobility accessible to everyone. What matters now is that we fully leverage Africa’s potential. There’s still a lot to do in Africa to create an open market that is self-sustaining and less dependent on outside resources, but we can make it happen.”

As part of the Accelerate strategy, VW will increase the share of its all-electric deliveries in Europe to over 70% by 2030 – double the previous planning target of 35%. In the US and China, the brand is targeting an EV share of over 50% in the same period. To achieve this, VW will bring out at least one new battery EV model every year, it says.

With VW’s new European e-models, such as the ID.7, which will offer a range of up to 700km per charge, the future of EVs may be closer than we expect in SA, Schäfer added.

Volkswagen previously said it will introduce a test fleet of ID.4s in SA, as the second phase of its electric mobility strategy in the country.

“And these vehicles are also becoming more affordable, with VW working on an electric car for under €25 000 (about R500 000),” noted Schäfer.

A firm believer in Africa and SA’s EV potential, Schäfer said industrial courage, political will and a trusting basis of cooperation are needed to move the local industry forward.

The challenges limiting the progression of SA’s EV industry include high prices, the lack of a wider selection of vehicle models with more extensive driving range, insufficient charging infrastructure and high import levies, according to AutoTrader.

Also speaking at the event, VWSA MD Martina Biene noted that while VWSA will most likely still be producing combustion engines along with the e-models in 10 years’ time in SA, the company will continue to drive its e-mobility campaign and continue to advocate for policy development on the continent.

Volkswagen is investing around €18 billion in e-mobility, hybridisation and digitalisation between 2023 and 2027.

To manage these investments, the company says it aims to achieve a sustainable operating margin of at least 6% by 2023.