“I am happy to welcome back the Volkswagen Group, currently the largest car manufacturer in the world, back to Kenya,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi, where he witnessed the signing of the agreement between Kenya and Volkswagen on 7th September.
Volkswagen South Africa signed the deal with Kenya to assemble vehicles in Thika town, making a comeback nearly 40 years after exiting the Kenyan market. The German automaker would use the Kenya Vehicle Manufacturers (KVM) facility in Thika to assemble its popular models beginning with the Volkswagen Vivo. The automaker used to operate in Kenya in the1960s until 1977 and used to assemble Volkswagen models including vans, microbuses and the famous Kombi.
The Volkswagen South Africa CEO Thomas Schafer said the company was attracted by Kenya’s potential and would use the Thika plant to export vehicles to the wider East Africa region. “We will start operations immediately,” he said.
The country’s first fully-assembled Vivo is expected to roll out of the Thika plant by December 2016. President Uhuru Kenyatta said the plant would later start assembling a variety of makes. This is expected to drastically reduce the price of Volkswagen cars in the region.
The Polo Vivo is essentially a prolonged lifecycle model built on the previous generation Polo platform. The project, set to be “jointly realized” with car dealer DT Dobie, will be Volkswagen’s third production facility in Africa. It will join the South African factory in Uitenhage and a production facility in Nigeria. VW says the Kenyan plant has the goal of putting together 5 000 units of the Polo Vivo per year from 2017.
“This compact model is the best-selling car in the Sub-Saharan region therefore it is the ideal entry model for the promising Kenyan market. With this move, we are strengthening the brand’s overall position in Africa and taking an important step towards expanding our commitment in the region,” Schaefer added.