Volkswagen to unveil ‘Made-in-Rwanda’ cars next month

Thomas Schafer, the chief executive of Volkswagen South Africa, addresses the media as RDB chief executive Clare Akamanzi looks on, during a past news briefing.File.

Volkswagen Mobility Solutions Rwanda has said that the launch of the first car from the firm has been pushed to end of June from the previously announced May.

This, the firm says, is due to some unforeseen challenges.

Speaking to The New Times on the sidelines of the ongoing Transform Africa Summit, Thomas Schafer, the chief executive of Volkswagen South Africa said that they have their sights on June 27.

He said that the delay is partly a result of aspects such as a break that was taken during the 24th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi as well as some challenges in taking on the location of their plant.

This being the first time such an investment and set-up is being made in Rwanda, he said that there were some unforeseen challenges in clearance at customs which have since been addressed.

“We initially thought that we could make it by the end of May, however because of the Genocide commemoration, as well as a few issues with the building, there were some delays. The main thing is that since this is so new, there are challenges that could not have been foreseen. For instance, how do you get certain equipment through customs?” Schafer said.

The firm has since set up a management team, which is led by Michaella Rugwizangoga as the chief executive officer.

“It’s all good, everyone is trying to help us but everything took longer than was expected. At the moment we have a management team and are set to start the process of hiring other staff,” he added.

In the process of importation of the equipment to set up the plant, he said that the firm benefits from some tax exemptions.

Beyond setting up an assembly plant and service centre, the firm will, for the first time, globally, roll out a mobility solution service which could change car ownership and use across the world.

The first service will be community car sharing which will have about 150 vehicles and is set to be launched in the second quarter of 2018.

The community car sharing will be offered to a closed community like a company or ministry, or embassy where by people can book the car by using an application, use the car and return it afterwards.

The second aspect of the mobility solution involves a ride hailing service with about 150 vehicles planned in the medium term.

The ride hailing service will operate on a similar model such as Uber with the difference being that the cars will be owned by the carmaker.

Towards the end of 2018 or early 2019, the firm will also roll out a public car sharing model with about 250 cars, followed by a shuttle service and later a peer-to-peer car sharing where car owners can give their cars for use and earn money in the process.

The first phase of the investment will see the German carmaker spend up to $20 million (about Rwf17b) in investment to have a production capacity of 5000 cars annually, according to the firm’s business plan.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

 

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