Having kept a lid on its product plans for 2024 until now, Volkswagen officially disclosed its range offensive for the year at its inaugural Indaba held at its plant in Kariega, formerly Uitenhage, in the Eastern Cape on Tuesday (7 February).
An event that culminated in the brand’s official renaming from Volkswagen South Africa to Volkswagen Group Africa as part of its expansion plan into the continent, the initial product roll-out involved five passenger vehicles and two commercials.
Taking custody of Polo
Besides the renaming, the event saw the confirmation of Kariega as the sole facility entrusted with manufacturing the Polo from June for export markets, excluding China, once assembly in Europe ends.
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Set to be replaced by the all-electric ID.2all on the Old Continent, the Polo, whose exports to nearly 70 countries made it the most exported vehicle from South Africa last year with an offset of 101 577 units, will continue to be made until at least 2029 alongside the current generation Polo Vivo.
In a move that will add an additional 10 000 units to Kariega’s roster, Polo production will again take place in right-and-left-hand drive, while a new generation Vivo is unlikely to materialise soon in spite of Volkswagen admitting it had looked into the possibility before deciding against it.
Both models’ expended longevity will likely come with a series of eventual updates, although at present, the exact nature and confirmation remain unknown and purely speculative.
About that mystery model..
Excluding the Polo and Polo Vivo, the secretive third model remains on the cards for 2026 or 2027, based on the current MQB A0 platform and powered by a selection of unknown combustion engines.
Only known as an SUV-type vehicle, Volkswagen South Africa Managing Director, Martina Biene, did, however, provide a further hint by announcing the newcomer as being smaller than a T-Cross and in-line to provide the base of another model, potentially a half-ton bakkie.
Despite alluding to the later in an interview at the beginning of last year, Biene remained mum on commenting further, though expectations are that the ageing Saveiro is unlikely to be the vehicle in question as a result of it being a left-hand-drive South American market exclusive.
Earlier this month, Volkswagen Brazil announced an investment of $9-billion (R34.2-billion) into its operations for the unveiling of 16 new or updated models, one being the long delayed Tarok that is expected to replace Saveiro that received its third restyling last year since its debut in 2009.
While reported last year as being set for production in Argentina, the move to Brazil remains shrouded in mystery as to whether the Tarok will again be restricted to South America or become the world model it was billed as when presented in its current concept form in 2018.
Challenges yes, but we are staying
Announcing its commitment to the local market after former Volkswagen South Africa boss, now Passenger Car Brand CEO, Thomas Schafer’s comments about the local industry’s challenges last year, Biene said it had secured a R130-million investment over the next two years for the running of back-up generators capable of producing a combined 16 megawatts as a way of preventing a total shutdown during stages five and six load shedding.
Hitting back at speculation of Volkswagen departing the local market, Biene remarked that it has no plans to do so as it has received the backing of Wolfsburg, “who value what South Africa” does for Volkswagen.
New for 2024
Providing a first glimpse of the refreshed Polo GTI as well as the updated Taigo—whose dashboard is made in Kariega and then shipped to the Pamplona Plant in Spain for installation in all right-hand-drive market-bound models—following a tour of its quality control area, the official product announcement also involved three versions not present in the metal.
These being the refreshed Polo Sedan, confirmation of a petrol variant of the Amarok, and the pending arrival of the new Crafter van.
While announced as becoming a reality last year, the adjustment to the Polo Sedan will include the removal of the manual gearbox in favour of a six-speed Tiptronic, and replacing of the normally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine on all but the entry-level model, with a 1.0 TSI.
Used in South America and India, where the Virtus name is applied, the unit will develop 85kW/175Nm and become available in mid-range life and top-spec styles. An exact date of reveal or pricing wasn’t disclosed.
Of the two commercial models, the debut of the petrol Amarok will see it join the Toyota Hilux as the only locally made and sold bakkie to have a petrol engine option.
An option that has attracted significant market share in Australia, the petrol utilises alliance partner Ford’s 2.3 EcoBoost used in the North American Ranger, but with outputs retuned from 200kW/420Nm to 222kW/452Nm.
As with the Polo Sedan, a date of reveal or pricing relative to the diesel models wasn’t revealed.
Shown in the flesh at the event, the all-new Tiguan will set the ball in motion by debuting within the coming weeks as a first quarter unveiling, as has been penned in.
Revealed last year, the first all-new generation on local soil in eight years will be a combustion engine affair only, as both hybrid powerplants available in Europe, the mild-hybrid eTSI and plug-in hybrid eHybrid, have been ruled out due to South Africa’s less than adequate fuel quality.
Confirmed though are the Matrix I.Q. LED headlights, the new 12.3-inch Digital Cockpit instrument cluster, and both the 12.9-inch and 15-inch infotainment systems.
Fresh-faced T-Cross and Touareg
Arriving in the second quarter of the year, the facelift T-Cross will be joined by the updated Touareg, which was supposed to have arrived at the end of last year.
The latter remaining a diesel affair powered by the stalwart 190kW/600Nm 3.0 TDI V6, the T-Cross will continue to be petrol-powered and likely remain available in South Africa after 2025, when sales in Europe cease in favour of the already-teased ID.2all SUV due in 2026.
Nuances for the T-Cross include the Matrix I.Q. LED headlights, an eight-inch or 9.2-inch infotainment system, the Digital Pro Cockpit and three colours; Kings Red derived from the Golf GTI, Clear Blue Metallic and Grape Yellow.
For the Touareg, the Innovision Cockpit has been updated, the type-A USB ports replaced by type-C inputs, and a faster wireless charging pad outputting 45 watts added.
Finally, the first half of the year will see the long-awaited unveiling of the all-electric ID.4, but only on a trial basis and, for now, not available to the general public.
While shown in the pre-facelift flagship GTX specification with 220 kW, the examples destined for South Africa will be the mid-range Pro variant powered by the 77-kWh battery pack and in single-motor configuration.
This means it will be rear-wheel-drive and produce 150kW/310Nm, whereas the all-wheel-drive dual-motor kicks out 210kW/545Nm. Top speed is limited to 160 km/h, with 0-100 km/h taking 8.5 seconds.
No word about Golf
Meanwhile, plans to bring the Facelift Golf 8.5 in GTI and R guises are not known, with a confirmation for the still-to-be-revealed also being up in the air.
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