VWSA celebrates 60

Sixty years ago today, the first Volkswagen Beetle was produced in Uitenhage, South Africa. The date 31 August 1951 is a significant date both for Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) and the many South Africans who have either owned one of its cars or been employed at the company.

Since then, VWSA has produced over 2.8 million vehicles, been awarded numerous export orders by its parent company, won a number of local and international awards and currently produces South Africa’s two top-selling passenger vehicles.

Volkswagen Group South Africa MD David Powels said the company has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1946 with the establishment of South African Motor Assemblers and Distributors (SAMAD), which produced 12 Studebakers a day, to the world class factory it is today – producing an average of 600 vehicles daily.

Powels said the original management, in the form of SAMAD’s first MD, Melville Steele Brooks and chairman Baron Klaus von Oertzen, could not have predicted how Volkswagen would grow from a small Company with big dreams, and prosper over the next 60 years – not only building Volkswagens and Audis, but also Austins, Volvo’s and Jeeps.

Since its introduction in 1951 until the end of production in 1979, 290 000 of the iconic Beetles were sold in South Africa. For 11 of those 28 years, it was the top selling vehicle in the country. Another proudly South African car, the Golf 1, was launched in 1979, and until the end of its life cycle in 2009, 517 384 A1 Golfs had rolled of the production line in Uitenhage. These humble cars became giants in the motoring world, and would define generations of South Africans.

Volkswagen’s advertising campaigns over the years also speak volumes. Who could forget the famous “Red, Yellow, Blue Citi Golf” TV campaigns, or the aerial views of thousands of its staff and another of VW vehicles – sprawled out in the shape of the company logo – in the “People’s Cars” television ads, or of the father proudly handing over the keys to his beloved Beetle to his son?

Not only has it been producing “People’s Cars” for six decades, but VWSA also has a proud history of putting people first – from having trained and qualified the country’s first Black artisans in the 1980’s to providing continuous training to its staff, suppliers and dealers today.

Over the years, the Volkswagen Brand has won six consecutive rally championships, three Dakar rallies, put the first Black rally champion on the podium and won the South African Car of the Year award two years in a row.

“Once only producing for the local automotive market, the Company has since grown to become a significant exporter to Volkswagen markets around the world. VWSA’s uncompromising approach to quality has seen it become integrated into the Volkswagen global supplier network – producing cars to the same exacting standards as the other 60 Volkswagen facilities around the world. To-date we have exported more than half a million vehicles to the rest of the world since our first major order to China in 1992,” said Powels.

The Company is an integral part of the global presence of the Volkswagen Group – a Group which today employs nearly 370 000 people worldwide in 60 production plants and who produce about 28 000 vehicles or are involved in vehicle-related services each day. “VWSA is the largest German investment in South Africa. Over the years we have grown into a strong, proud Company and remain a trusted Brand with a humble heart,” said Powels.

Currently in South Africa, a 5 000-strong workforce produces about 600 Polo Vivo’s and Polo’s – the country’s two top selling passenger vehicles – daily. These two vehicles have helped position VWSA as the market leader for four months of 2011.

“The Volkswagen Group has been in South Africa for 60 years, and has evolved and changed with the times. We now have to maintain our momentum, and look forward to the next 60 years,” said Powels.

Powels says VWSA’s vision for the future “is to become the country’s best-selling and most profitable car company, for the Uitenhage-based manufacturer to produce South Africa’s best quality cars, which in turn will result in the country’s most satisfied customers. For its 5 000 employees, the Company would like to see them continue upskilling themselves and be the most delighted workforce in the country”.

source: iAfrica

VWSA pumps R500m into a new press shop

Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA) has started construction of a new R500 million press shop in its Uitenhage assembly plant. The investment is in addition to the R4.5 billion the car maker has invested in South Africa over the past four years.

David Powels, VWSA’s group managing director, said the investment would enable further local content gains and improvements to overall competitiveness when it was fully operational from the middle of next year.

“Construction of the new press shop was a strategic investment. Its installed capacity will cover the forecast total production requirements for the manufacture of larger sheet metal components,” he said at a sod turning for the new press shop last week. He said the project would create 50 new construction crew jobs. The new building will consist of an 8 429m2 main production hall, to house the state-of-the-art six-stage press line and its required services.

The main contractor for the project is Group Five Coastal with main sub-contractors Esorfranki Africa responsible for piling and Scott Steel for structural fabrication. BKS is the consulting engineer and Germany’s IC-L the pit design sub-consultant .

Powel said a lot of thought had gone into the effect the building would have on the environment and the new press shop would be VWSA’s most “ecofriendly” building.

Hubert Waltl, a member of the VW brand board of management and chairman of VWSA, stressed VW’s commitment to South Africa had never been stronger.

“The R4bn investment by VWSA in its plant included R40 million in increased automation in its press shop; R780m in its body shop; R400m in its engine plant; R400m in its final assembly plant; R40m in its wheel and tyre assembly plant; R100m in renovating its logistics facilities; R25m in training academies; R80m in other production support areas; and massive but undisclosed investment in its quality measurement facilities.”

A number of suppliers have collectively invested about R600m in South Africa, which has contributed significantly towards VWSA dramatically improving its local content levels. These include Rehau, Benteler, Flextech, Faurecia and Grupo Antolin.

source: IOL, Roy Cokayne

VWSA’s Polo production milestone

Volkswagen South Africa marked the production of its 400 000th Polo at its factory at Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape last month, with demand for the car being boosted by an earlier export order destined for Europe. Launched in South Africa in 1996, the second-generation Polo is top of the Ao hatch segment for the year to date, with a 19.8% market share.

“In addition, over the past two years, the Polo brand has claimed the title of South Africa’s most popular passenger car with sales far outnumbering its nearest rivals,” VW South Africa said in a statement last week.

Approximately 70 000 Polo hatchbacks have been exported to countries in the Asia Pacific region since 2002, while the company also secured an order for an addition 6 000 units for export to Germany.

“The new generation of this successful Volkswagen marquee will arrive in South African showrooms in 2010, having just been launched into the European market,” VWSA said.

Export markets

Volkswagen South Africa said earlier this year that 40% of its total planned production volume in 2009 would be exported. Its initial export of vehicles occurred in the early 1990s with the clinching of an export deal for 12 500 left-hand drive Jettas destined for China. It then proceeded to win orders for third-generation Golf GTIs to the United Kingdom, a significant order for fourth-generation Golfs to Europe and, in 2004, started exporting Polos and new Golfs to the Asia Pacific region.

Following on its Jetta export heritage, the company secured the order to export the latest Jetta model in May last year to countries including Australia, Japan and Great Britain.

source: SAinfo reporter, South African Information website.

Herbalist jailed for 15 years over fraud

CRIMINAL activities by some foreigners were among the reasons behind xenophobic attacks which left several people dead and families displaced last year, the New Brighton Court heard.

This was the view of magistrate NK Dungane when he jailed herbalist Garry Saum Ssempija for 15 years for defrauding a Uitenhage pensioner of R540000.

The victim, Jurie Chessman Harris, had worked for VW for more than 30 years and received a substantial pension from the car manufacturer.

In sentencing Ssempija, Dungane agreed with the investigating officer, Inspector Glen van Eck, who had testified that it was not uncommon for foreigners to be involved in criminal offences and the locals who accommodated them feeling cheated.

“This may be a factor which led to the xenophobic phenomenon on foreigners. It is not the first case of a similar nature that I have dealt with,” he said.

Harris‘s woes started in April 2007 when he was introduced to “Professor” Ssempija, who promised to heal his stomach ailment.

A gardener had referred Harris to the Ugandan herbalist who operated from the Bears building in Caledon Street, Uitenhage.

During a consultation Harris mentioned his pension payout and immediately Ssempija created the impression that ancestors wanted to bless him.

In May 2007, Ssempija convinced Harris that he had spoken to the “ancestors”, who were keen to make Harris a “successful businessman”.

He told Harris the “ancestors” wanted to speak to him in person. He was then led into a dark room where a voice identified itself as the “head ancestor”. The voice instructed him to open a bank account and to hand the card and pin number to the herbalist.

He also claimed to hear the voices of “ancestors” and to have seen a big brown coffin placed in a dark room containing an alleged R2-million which could be his at a later stage.

On four occasions between May 12 and June 22, 2007, Harris withdrew R540000 from his bank account and handed it to Ssempija to be blessed.

He did not get his life savings back. The state suspects it was the work of a syndicate.

“The complainant was cheated of part with his life savings under the pretext that he would be blessed by ancestors.

“He worked hard hoping that when he retired he would have something for the remainder of his life,” Dungane said.

Source: The Herald

Jobs boom follows R1bn plan to boost local content at VWSA

UP TO 1000 motor industry jobs could be created in the next nine months in the Eastern Cape following a R1billion investment plan unveiled yesterday by Volkswagen SA and component managers for Uitenhage.

VWSA managing director David Powels said the investments were being taken to “step up to the challenge and opportunity presented by the new automotive production and development programme (APDP) by attracting several key national and international component manufacturers to set up operations in Uitenhage”.

Powels said the R1bn investment came as a result of VWSA challenging components suppliers to “significantly improve processes and productivity levels to both survive and grow in the medium term”.

As a result, five suppliers were already establishing manufacturing facilities in the Nelson Mandela Bay logistics park established by the Coega Development Corporation, adjacent to VW’s Uitenhage factory. A sixth supplier would set up operations at the entrance to the Uitenhage industrial area.

The suppliers are interior plastic components manufacturer Faurecia Interior Systems, metal pressing parts manufacturer Bloxwich Industries, side mirrors and cables manufacturer Flextech, bumper systems manufacturer Rehau Polymer, and headliner and door panels manufacturer Grupo Antolin. Nelson Mandela Bay’s Bel-Essex Engineering was also in the process of constructing a new facility directly opposite the Volkswagen plant.

Volkswagen itself announced earlier this year that it would be investing more than R3bn in its own manufacturing and related activities from this year through to the end of 2010. That investment would also create several hundred jobs, Powels said at the time.

Yesterday, Powels said: “Our company has instituted an unprecedented focus on dramatically increasing manufacturing depth and extent of the local component supplier industry.

“The new APDP presents the opportunity to revolutionise the South African supplier component industry which has a long way to travel before it can claim global competitiveness.

“In terms of cost competitiveness, there’s an approximate 20% gap to manufacturers in Western Europe. The gap widens to more than 30% when comparing domestic automotive manufacturing cost structures to those in emerging automotive power houses such as India, China and Russia. There is only one way in which the automotive manufacturing industry in SA will be able to survive in the medium to long term – by securing much higher levels of local content. This includes the need to introduce new technologies and increase the use of local materials in the domestic component manufacturing industry.”

CDC chief executive Pepi Silinga said the initiative would send a positive message to the auto industry and strengthen the position of the region in the sector. “The positive impact of these developments to the economy of the Eastern Cape will be huge. They will bring dramatic shifts in people’s lives in the metro and in the province far sooner than expected.”

The VWSA announcement comes only days after General Motors in Port Elizabeth announced that it would shed 1000 jobs by the end of year, and Ford, with operations in Port Elizabeth and Pretoria, said it would be shedding 800 jobs.

GM shed more than 400 jobs earlier this year and is now in the process of reducing its head-count by several hundred more, with more cuts planned through to the end of the year.

Source: The Herald, Avusa Group News