Volkswagen will build a bus and truck assembly line in South Africa in the second half of 2005. The new plant will be in Port Elizabeth, near the VW car plant, and will be the third such VW factory world-wide.

The company has built trucks and buses in Brazil since 1981 and in August started truck production in Mexico.

According to Volkswagen, the South African plant initially will produce three bus models. Right-hand drive development will be carried out by VW Brazil which will also supply assembly kits from its Resende plant.

The South African-made models are expected to help VW take a 10% share of the local bus market in three years. The company also plans to make the country a base for exports of RHD buses and trucks to African and Asian markets. It already ships SA-built Golf hatchbacks to RHD markets such as the UK.

The new assembly line will begin making buses but Volkswagen has plans also to produce trucks in South Africa.

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Volkswagen started truck and bus production in Brazil after buying Chrysler’s local truck division in 1980. In 1996 the company opened a new plant in Resende city, Rio de Janeiro state. The factory works on a ‘modular consortium’ system, where seven suppliers build component modules and assemble the vehicles in the VW-owned plant.

The factory now exports vehicles to over 30 countries and supplies the new Mexican Puebla assembly line with knockdown kits.

Rogério Louro