UNDER THE BONNET
A drive down
From the old
and Kombi that South
Africans know so
well, to today’s high-
and luxurious Passat,
Volkswagen of South
Africa has come a
long way in 55 years
By Wendy Pos
olkswagen of South Africa celebrated for an interesting trip down memory lane. A this meeting a contract was signed. However,
its 55-year anniversary as the 800 000th glimpse into Volkswagen’s history revealed that no permits were available for importing the
Golf, a white GTI, rolled off the there was every reason to celebrate. first semi knocked-down Volkswagens to
assembly line. And celebrate they did, inviting The then Managing Director of Volkswagen South Africa. Undeterred, Baron von Oertzen
120 guests, from business and government of South Africa, Andreas Tostmann, shared approached the Government, who said permits
sectors, to share in a weekend of pure nostalgia. some of Volkswagen’s highlights along the would be granted only if foreign exchange could
Taken back in time, guests had the opportunity way. “It all began in the early fifties with be generated. The Baron went to Europe and
to get behind the wheel of a 1958 Volkswagen the construction of the Uitenhage factory, sold a substantial shipment of South African
Beetle, a third generation Kombi, the last which was set up to produce Volkswagen’s wine in Germany, thereby earning the foreign
produced in South Africa, or a 1979 Passat 160 first vehicles; the Studebakers and the exchange needed to secure the first Volkswagen
SE. Taking part in a mock rally, the old cars Volkswagen Beetle. import permit.”
wound through the breathtaking vineyards of “Production of the Beetle materialised after It now became clear why Volkswagen’s
the Stellenbosch wine route in what appeared a meeting took place in Uitenhage between anniversary was being celebrated in the
more like a leisurely afternoon drive. the local Managing Director Mel Brookes, Cape winelands.
The magic of yesteryear continued as guests his German counterpart Dr Heinrich Nordhoff, On the following day of the celebratory
attended a formal dinner at the Manor House of and Baron Klaus von Oertzen, Volkswagen weekend, guests took part in a second rally,
the Groote Schuur residence of the State President Germany’s representative in South Africa. At but at a rather less sedate pace. The scenic
Lunch guests enjoyed a view of the Victoria &
The breathtaking vineyards of the Stellenbosch Wine Route were enjoyed by the vintage car drivers Vintage cars await their drivers
splendours of the Franschoek Valley were seen of products at better prices. Imported vehicles 128 000 vehicles and 6 500 employees in
from a slightly more exhilarating perspective include the Caddy, Sharan, Touran, New Beetle, 2006, the growth of the company has been
from behind the wheel of the latest Touareg, Eos, Passat, Caravelle/Kombi and Touareg. substantial. With a range of cars that fits every
Passat, Jetta, Golf GTI or Polo. From manufacturing 2 000 cars per annum pocket, the future looks good for the producer
Apart from the fact that Volkswagen’s share and employing 320 people in the 1950s, to of world-class quality cars.
of the market has doubled since the 1980s, and
one in every five cars sold in South Africa is a • 1951 The first Beetle rolled off the production line.
Volkswagen, Volkswagen has the most extensive • 1955 The Volkswagen Kombi was launched, a vehicle that was destined to become part of
passenger car line-up in the country. This is the South African way of life for the next 34 years.
largely due to the fact that the company does a • Mid 1960s Volkswagen stopped production of Studebakers and embarked upon an
fair amount of exporting of both fully assembled R8-million expansion programme, including the country’s largest Press Shop.
vehicles and vehicle components. As a result • 1974 The first water-cooled front-engine Volkswagen, the Passat, was launched. In the same
Volkswagen of South Africa earns export credits year, the 250 000th locally-produced Volkswagen Beetle rolled off the assembly line.
which allow them to import vehicles from the • 1975 A record 50 000 Volkswagens and Audis were sold by the company.
• 1978 The ubiquitous Beetle sadly bowed out of South Africa and was replaced by the Golf 1
Volkswagen Group in other parts of the world. This
– still one of South Africa’s most popular cars in the form of the evergreen Citi.
makes manufacturing more efficient and allows
• 2006 The Citi celebrated its 21st birthday.
Volkswagen of South Africa to offer a wider range