Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) is planning to launch its first fully electric vehicle (EV) to the local market in 2021. The group is currently in talks with the German head office to bring the VW ID.3 EVs to South Africa after their European launch in 2020. The ID.3 will cost roughly R560 000 and have a range of 420 kilometres.

ID is the name assigned to all of Volkswagen’s electric cars and stands for ‘intelligent design’. The ID.3 is a five-door hatchback and VW is aiming to manufacture around 330 000 per year. Over the next 10 years, VW is expecting to launch 70 new EVs in total.

“It is Volkswagen’s intention to provide electric mobility to millions, and not just millionaires,” says VWSA sales and marketing director Mike Glendinning. He adds that South Africa will follow suit in moving away from internal combustion engines and into EVs, just as Europe is currently doing.

Factors affecting the successful launch of EVs in South Africa

The successful introduction of EVs in South Africa depends on several key factors. Firstly, government support will be required in the form of incentives and a reduction of import tariffs on eco-friendly vehicles. This will help to bring the costs of EVs down and make them more affordable for local buyers.

Secondly, widespread charging infrastructure will be needed. Charging ports should be installed at petrol stations and shopping malls across the country. This will make recharging EVs easier and more accessible. Another factor is the sales and manufacturing support for EVs.

“We, as VWSA, are currently working on a comprehensive electric mobility strategy and the purpose is to lay a strong foundation for the introduction of battery electric vehicles in our key brands,” says Glendinning.

“Initially this will be more of a strategic investment in our brands. We are cognisant that the initial volumes will be low and probably driven by early adopters, but as global volume and scale increase, so too will affordability, leading to higher volumes,” he explains.

VWSA to bring in test EVs

In order to kickstart its awareness campaign of EVs, VWSA will bring in six e-Golfs at the end of 2019. These electrified versions of the popular Golf model will be available for test drives and training. They will also be used to generate media stories to pique consumer interest in EVs.

 In 2020, VWSA will import some test ID.3 vehicles to continue its awareness campaign. These cars will be used to engage with customers and to start building a list of orders for the launch of the ID.3 in 2021.

“It is a myth to believe that we in South Africa can just carry on while the rest of the world is going electric, and we will remain traditional,” says VWSA managing director Thomas Schäfer. “We will face a time where traditional vehicles get more and more expensive and EVs get cheaper. This could change overnight,” he suggests.

VWSA engaging with South African government

Schäfer says that VWSA has been in talks with the South African Minister of Trade & Industry, Ebrahim Patel. They have made suggestions about how to make EVs more accessible to South Africans. “So, my feeling, after these engagements, is that there is much bigger interest to go along with us and to decide on the electrification of South Africa in the automotive space,” explains Schäfer.

“We are highly dependent – 70% of production – on exports. What if the rest of the world goes away from traditional engines, and we are still producing vehicles with traditional engines? Our exports are in danger,” he warns. Schäfer believes that it is imperative for South Africa to jump on the bandwagon and start investing in EVs.

“South Africa needs a strong EV strategy for the next ten years – how do we phase in, phase out, get some government support, at the same time get the localisation right,” states Schäfer. He believes that South Africa has the ability to manufacture the batteries used in EVs, as lithium and manganese are freely available in the country already.

Volkswagen is a direct customer of Formex Industries – the parts we manufacture are used in the production of VW vehicles at their facility in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape. Moving towards EV sales and production presents exciting new opportunities for South African automotive parts manufacturers and suppliers.

Image credit: Matti Blume


Formex Industries is a metal forming and assembly company that supplies a variety of complex products to the local automotive industry and the export market. The company is based in the Nelson Mandela Bay metropole, South Africa’s foremost region for automotive manufacturing and export.

Formex specialises in producing components for the catalytic converter industry, as well as metal components and assemblies for the various vehicles. Formex aims to become one of the foremost suppliers for the South African automotive industry by 2035, aligning itself with the South African Automotive Masterplan (SAAM) which takes effect in 2020.

Formex is a Level 2 B-BBEE supplier with over 80% black ownership, of which more than 40% are black women. The company is owned by Deneb Investments Limited – a subsidiary of Hosken Consolidated Investments Limited (HCI) – one of South Africa’s biggest true B-BBEE companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

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