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SA-built Volkswagen Polo ‘will carry on’ in Europe
SA-built Volkswagen Polo ‘will carry on’ in Europe

SA-built Volkswagen Polo ‘will carry on’ in Europe

May 14, 2024
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9 May 2024

Volkswagen PoloVolkswagenCar NewsGeneral CarHatchbackShare:

polo purple dyna

Volkswagen’s CEO confirms that the SA-built Volkswagen Polo hatchback is no longer facing the axe in Europe, saying it could survive “until the end of this decade”…

In November 2022, Thomas Schäfer, CEO of the Volkswagen brand, said there would be “no point carrying on” with small combustion-engined cars like the Polo – a hatchback built in South Africa – in Europe in light of the proposed Euro 7 emissions regulations. However, these rules have since been relaxed, which could allow the petrol-powered Polo to “carry on” in Europe until 2030, according to Schäfer.

A year-and-a-half ago, VW’s global CEO suggested it would be too costly to re-engineer small petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles to meet the then-looming European regulations, with the German firm poised to replace such models with small electric cars instead. But Schäfer has now told Autocar that the new rules – which are set to come into effect at the start of September 2024 – are “not as crazy [as] it was posited initially”.

kariega 2m
At the end of 2022, VW’s Kariega plant built its 2-millionth Polo-badged model (including Vivo).

“EU7 has been done in a reasonable way; it adds costs to the vehicle but not too crazily,” Schäfer said, before suggesting the Kariega-built model could thus survive on the Old Continent “until the end of this decade”. He furthermore told the British publication “we will keep [the Polo] fresh”, adding that the hatchback “runs well” and represents “a good entry into the brand”.

However, Schäfer cautioned that “General Safety Regulation 2, [which mandates] interior cameras and a couple of things you need to add to the platform”, had the potential to bump up costs “tremendously”. As a reminder, the current-generation Polo was revealed in 2017, before receiving a mid-cycle update in 2021. Based on the VW CEO’s latest comments, the hatchback could be in line for a 2nd facelift at some point.

Of course, this is significant news for South Africa, since Volkswagen’s Kariega facility is set to become the sole producer of the Polo hatchback worldwide from July 2024. Considering Europe is the factory’s main export market, the Polo’s apparent stay of execution on that continent will surely allow VW Group Africa’s plant in the Eastern Cape to retain significant production volumes.

2023 vw factory 2
Kariega plans to add a 3rd model to its production line from 2027.

Schäfer’s comments come less than a month after Volkswagen announced a fresh R4-billion investment in the Kariega facility, which is set to start producing a new small SUV from 2027. The mystery model – which is being developed in Brazil, based on the ubiquitous MQB-A0 platform, and could also spawn a new small bakkie – will be manufactured on the same production line as the Polo hatch and Polo Vivo.

This as-yet-unrevealed model will be sold in South Africa as well as shipped to other African markets, seemingly allowing VW’s local division to reduce its reliance on exports to Europe. However, with sales of the Polo hatch now potentially continuing on the Old Continent until 2030, Kariega is likely facing a busy few years.

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