Today is a historic day for Volkswagen South Africa, marking 70 years since the first vehicle bearing the German rolled off the assembly line at what was then the Studebaker factory.
In the early 1960s Studebaker became Volkswagen, set up by managers from Ford PE, including Noel Phillips, who went on to develop VW-USA for the German company.
Exactly seven decades later, Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) celebrates the story of VWSA, a company that is currently a market leader and the largest private employer in Nelson Mandela Bay with more than 4 000 employees, has included many achievements and milestones along the way.
Aside from the vehicles imported for the local market, the plant in Kariega (formerly Uitenhage) has manufactured many iconic vehicles, including the Volkswagen Beetle, the Type 2 Kombi, various Audi models, the Golf (including Citi Golf), the Polo range and the Polo Vivo. The plant also began manufacturing the latest facelift of the Volkswagen Polo this month.
The plant has manufactured more than 4-million vehicles, having reached that mark in November 2020 with a Volkswagen Polo. VWSA has been the sole manufacturer of all new right-hand-drive Polo hatchbacks since 2010, and is the exclusive manufacturer of the flagship Polo GTI.
VWSA also achieved a record production year in 2019, when the plant manufactured 161 954 vehicles in a single year. Another milestone achievement came in 2020, when the Volkswagen brand in South Africa achieved a local market share of 21,6% – the highest in the history of VWSA, and the highest market share for Volkswagen worldwide last year.
The Sub-Saharan Africa region is a crucial part of the VWSA story. This region officially became a part of VWSA in March 2017, only three months after Volkswagen opened its vehicle assembly facility in Kenya. Since then, the brand has established assembly facilities in Rwanda (in 2018) and Ghana (in 2020).
Outside of the plant, VWSA is committed to the communities of Nelson Mandela Bay and other parts of the country. The Volkswagen Community Trust, which was established in 1989, has invested R268-million to date to empower communities in the fields of education and youth development.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the company has offered its support to local communities. This has included the establishment of a temporary Covid-19 field hospital, assisting the National Health Laboratory Service to upgrade and optimise its Gqeberha branch, and various donations in support of nonprofit organisations and schools since March 2020.
“To reflect on a history that spans seven decades of hard work and excellence is an immense task,” says Dr Robert Cisek, VWSA Chairman and Managing Director. “Though I have only been part of the VWSA story for just over a year, I have been incredibly proud to be associated with this organisation – and we have seven decades of exceptional employees to thank for the reputation we are honoured to have today. I would like to congratulate every member of the VWSA family on their part in this milestone.”