In 2021, VW South Africa (VWSA) said that the ID.4 electric crossover would go on sale in the country before the end of 2022, in line with the manufacturer’s electric roadmap.
The year came and went, and no new VW electric vehicles (EV) entered our showrooms.
In January 2023, we reached out to VW to ask why its EVs are not yet on local roads and what its new roadmap now looks like. The company said it is “still busy with the finalisation of [its] EV strategy” and could therefore not provide comment on the specifics.
However, in September 2022, VW did confirm to TopAuto that it does “not have EVs coming to South Africa next year” – i.e. the year we are in now.
As such, fans of the brand with their eye on an ID. EV will have to wait until at least 2024 before they can get their hands on one, possibly later.
Why the wait?
VW did not reveal why it’s been such a long wait to launch its EVs, but judging from other VW vehicles whose introductions were postponed for a lengthy time, we could take a few semi-educated guesses.
If it was only up to VW, the manufacturer would probably have sold EVs in South Africa well over a year ago and not looked back as the ID. cars would likely have been among the most affordable in the segment.
However, as we’ve come to realise in the age of Covid-19, the world of vehicle production is highly interconnected and one hiccup in a small part of the supply chain could have a ripple effect that throws everything out of equilibrium.
In 2020 it was no mere hiccup, it was a global shortage of semiconductors, the mass shutdown of factories, and shipping issues of which the world has rarely seen before.
The aftermath of these events is still being felt through the industry today, even causing tried-and-trusted models like the iconic Golf 8 R to be delayed for well over 12 months, and they undoubtedly also had an impact on the EV timeline as these autos are more semiconductor-intensive than their internal-combustion (ICE) counterparts.
VW Golf 8 R
Moreover, manufacturers tend to make plans for a specific country far in advance and then adapt that plan as market conditions in that market play out.
In South Africa, in particular, the lust for EVs in 2023 is not where it was expected to be at this point, owing to factors such as substantial starting prices, limited selection, lacking infrastructure, and, to a lesser degree, the energy crisis known as load-shedding.
New-energy autos and their related components are also taxed 7% higher in the country than ICEs.
Surely, the combination of these factors has negatively impacted the attractiveness for manufacturers to bring somewhat-experimental products to our roads before being certain that they will succeed.
TopAuto poll from January 2023
Last year, VWSA’s new managing director and group chair, Martina Biene, said the company needs a “critical base” of customers to justify bringing a new model into a specific region, which constitutes between 50,000 to 60,000 projected sales per annum.
Considering the immensely-popular Polo reported 15,697 sales throughout 2022, this making it one of the best-selling vehicles in the country, it’s highly unlikely that an all-new EV would have surpassed three times that.
As with every other EV maker, VW’s ID. cars have also seen their fair share of issues with things such as the batteries and software, and the manufacturer could be ironing out these creases on home soil before shipping the vehicles to far-away international markets such as South Africa where performing recalls could be much trickier and more expensive.
What could be coming?
VW has been thinning out its hatchback offerings in South Africa in recent years in reaction to car buyers’ propensity to choose crossovers and SUVs, therefore, a likely culprit for an EV launch remains the ID.4 as its body shape fits the bill of what is currently the hottest segment in the country.
Complementing this claim is the fact that the company had initially planned to introduce the ID.3 electric hatchback, but confirmed in 2021 that it “will no longer be bringing the ID.3, but the ID.4.”
Another likely candidate for a domestic introduction could be an electric Tiguan, given the popularity and familiarity of the badge in South Africa.
We have personally seen prototype Tiguans with “Elektrofahrzeug” stickers on the doors – which translates from German to “electric vehicle” – being tested on Gauteng roads, with the ID. variant expected to see the light of day in 2026, in line with VW’s plan to introduce ten new electric cars to the global market by this time.
Considering the current petrol model underwent a facelift in mid-2021, it hints at the possibility that the battery-electric variant could form part of the next-generation Tiguan family when it is introduced.
VW Tiguan R
While hatchbacks have lost some of their shine in recent years, they still have a huge market share and are not going away any time soon, especially in the budget category.
As such, VW could be considering launching the new ID. 2all in our market, too, which was recently unveiled as a concept vehicle.
The electric hatch is “as spacious as a Golf, as affordable as a Polo,” said VW, and it’s scheduled to start production in 2025 at a starting price of “less than 25,000 Euros” – roughly R490,000 at today’s exchange rates – which makes it cheaper than the current-generation Polo GTI.
VW ID. Buzz
In November 2022, Mark Handley head of VWSA commercial vehicles said his department is also looking at potentially getting into the electric arena after the Amarok’s introduction.
He said the recently-unveiled ID. Buzz battery-powered minivan is one of the vehicles that are in the commercial department’s crosshairs but, unfortunately, there is “no timeline for the ID. Buzz in South Africa, yet.”
It must be noted that VWSA has not yet confirmed any details of its domestic EV strategy and the above information remains speculative until the official announcements are made in due course.
Keyword: VW electric cars in South Africa – The latest