Volkswagen said it was with its brand's regionalisation strategy having established the Sub-Saharan Africa region to develop and strengthen the market.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the area of the African continent south of the Sahara comprised of 49 African states with a population of 920m. This new fourth region North America, South America and China for VW and "is the next logical step in the brand's strategy to position itself in focus areas".

The region will be headed by Thomas Schäfer, chairman and managing director of Volkswagen Group South Africa. More organisational details will be announced later.

Schäfer said: "Africa is still one of the blank spots on the Volkswagen map. There is, however, enormous potential in the region to meet the mobility needs of a burgeoning middle class. We will drive forward the development of these new markets in cooperation with various African governments – and gradually strengthen and expand the new region."

VW has three operations in the region: it has built cars in South Africa since 1951, vehicle assembly began in Nigeria in 2015, and assembly in Kenya started in December 2016. In addition, Volkswagen plans to launch an integrated mobility concept in Rwanda at the end of this year. The concept provides for app-based mobility solutions such as car sharing and ride hailing. For this purpose, an environmentally compatible local vehicle production facility is to be established in the capital city Kigali to cover vehicle demand for the integrated mobility concept.

Thomas Schäfer will head the new Sub-Saharan Africa region. He started with Volkswagen in 2012 as head of foreign plants. Previously, he held senior management posts at Daimler in South Africa (local build) and Malaysia (KD assembly). He's headed the South Africa unit since 2015.