It’s now well known that Volkswagen South Africa is planning to build a new Polo-based compact SUV at its local factory in Kariega, Eastern Cape.
Although this “third model” has yet to be officially confirmed, VWSA CEO Martina Biene has mentioned the project on numerous occasions in the past year, and it was a topic of discussion once again at this year’s Volkswagen Indaba in Kariega.
Biene and other insiders have also hinted that a half-tonne bakkie is under consideration for local introduction, but this would likely follow the compact SUV, which VWSA is aiming to launch around 2026 or 2027.
Now Brazilian media have possibly shed some light on both projects, following Volkswagen’s confirmation that it is investing $1.8 billion dollars (R34bn) to produce four new models in its Brazilian factories.
Among these is a new budget SUV, as well as a replacement for the ageing Saveiro half-tonne bakkie.
Engineering News reported in late 2022 that the compact SUV which VWSA plans to produce, is being developed in conjunction with the Brazilian division, although it will be a product that’s very much suited to African markets.
Which means it’s very likely that Brazil’s new entry SUV, which has yet to be revealed, will be closely related to VWSA’s third production model that will be built alongside the Polo and Polo Vivo.
According to Motor 1 Brazil, the as-yet-unnamed budget SUV will slot below the current Nivus (AKA Taigo), and is likely to measure just over four metres in length. This will make it similar in size to other budget SUVs like the Renault Kiger, Nissan Magnite and recently discontinued Suzuki Brezza.
Brazil’s president has previously referred to this Polo-based product as the country’s new “national SUV”, Motor1 reports.
The publication expects the current 1.0-litre TSI motor to provide power, but we have a sneaking suspicion that the locally produced normally aspirated petrol engines offered in the Polo Vivo could also feature. Not only to keep pricing in check, but also to help keep the Eastern Cape engine factory in business.
As for the new half-tonne bakkie, Motor 1 says it’ll be similar in size to the new Chevrolet Montana, making it somewhat larger than the current Saveiro, and Volkswagen is likely to offer both single cab and double cab configurations.
Interestingly, the Brazilian publication believes the bakkie will be closely based on the Volkswagen T-Cross, given that it will be produced in the same factory. This means it could differ significantly from the Tarok concept of 2018, which was meant to preview Brazil’s future pick-up truck. But clearly much has changed since then.
The new pick-up is still something of a long-shot for South Africa, with initial emphasis going onto the budget SUV, but we do know that it is very much under consideration, particularly given VWSA’s renewed focus on the African market.
As IOL reported on Wednesday, the company is now trading as Volkswagen Group Africa.
With Polo exports to Europe set to dry up towards the end of the decade, as the hatchback is discontinued to make way for electric models, the local division will be looking to increase exports on its own continent, on which vehicle sales are projected to triple to three million units annually by 2030.