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Jul 31, 2012

VWSA shifts Amarok sourcing to Germany, mulls taxi, half-ton bakkie entries

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Volkswagen Group South Africa’s (VWSA’s) commercial vehicle (CV) division aims to increase its light commercial vehicle market share to 8% in the short term, up from the current 6%, says division GM Jaco Steenekamp.

The target for the medium term is 10%, he adds.

Steenekamp says the CV division will achieve this growth through “adding additional derivatives to almost all of its ranges”. There will be new Caddy, Crafter, T5 Transporter and Amarok derivatives.

When the VWSA CV division was established in 2008, sales reached 3 922 units for the year. It first included VW trucks, but these units are now being supplied by MAN Truck & Bus South Africa, following global corporate activity.

In 2011, VWSA CV sales numbered 9 497 units, with the target for this year 10 989 units, a 12.7% jump.

Steenekamp attributes recent stellar growth to the introduction of the Amarok, VW’s first entry into the one-ton bakkie market. However, the Crafter, used as a large panel van or long-distance taxi, has also made a contribution, especially since it now features the same two-litre fuel-efficient engine as the Amarok, says Steenekamp.

One of this year’s newcomers will be the BlueMotion Crafter derivative, which will arrive in October. BlueMotion Technologies, as an umbrella brand, includes all the products, basic technologies and innovations, such as low rolling-resistance tyres, that improve fuel economy and reduce emissions in the Volkswagen range of vehicles.

On the Crafter, it cuts fuel consumption by 8%, says Steenekamp, which should please especially taxi operators.

Another new addition to the VWSA CV family will be the long-awaited eight-speed automatic Amarok bakkie, set for launch in the first quarter of next year.

Other good news is that South Africa will source its double-cab Amaroks from Germany come 2013, and no longer Argentina.

With Germany starting up Amarok production, it means VWSA will see Amaroks shipped to South Africa three times a month, and not only once a month, as is currently the case.

This will reduce the current long lead times for local customers, says Steenekamp.

“We were number two in double-cabs in South Africa last year, and now we are number four. This was largely supply-driven, and we would like to get back to number two.”

New segments of the market the VWSA CV division could be tapping into in the future are the half-ton bakkie and short-distance taxi segments.

There are currently two players in the half-ton bakkie market – General Motors and Nissan.

“This is clearly a growing market and we are extensively investigating this segment,” says Steenekamp.

The same is true for the city taxi market. While the Crafter offers larger capacity, with more than 20 seats, this segment of the market seeks something in the 16-seater range.

VWSA is currently also mulling the commercial introduction of a compressed natural gas (CNG) version of the half-ton Caddy panel van, adds Steenekamp.

Two CNG Caddys have already been placed with two different fleet owners.

Steenekamp says the CNG Caddy is cheaper to run than petrol competitors. It does, however, carry a “slightly higher” price tag.

The CNG Caddy also has a petrol rescue tank, in case the driver runs out of gas.

There are currently two commercial CNG fuel stations in Johannesburg.

Steenekamp also notes that the VWSA CV and rural passenger car dealer network will be expanded by seven to eight dealers over the next two years.

Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter

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