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Happy Birthday, Volkswagen Group SA
Its MD, David Powels, said the company has come a long way since its beginnings in 1946 with the establishment of South African Motor Assemblers and Distributors (SAMAD), which produced 12 Studebakers a day, to the world class factory it is today, producing an average of 600 vehicles daily.
Powels said the original management, Melville Steele Brooks first MD and chairman Baron Klaus von Oertzen, could not have predicted how it would grow from a small company, with big dreams and prosper over the next 60 years - not only building Volkswagen and Audi, but also Austin, Volvo and Jeep.
Since its introduction in 1951, until the end of production in 1979, 290 000 of the iconic Beetles were sold in South Africa. For 11 of those 28 years, it was the top selling vehicle in the country. Another proudly South African car, the Golf 1, was launched in 1979 and, until the end of its life cycle at the end of 2009, 517 384 A1 Golfs had rolled of the production line in Uitenhage. These cars became giants in the motoring world and would define generations of South Africans.
Its advertising campaigns over the years also speak volumes. Who could forget the famous "Red, Yellow, Blue Citi Golf" TV campaigns or the aerial views of thousands of its staff and another of VW vehicles sprawled out in the shape of the company logo - in the 'People's Cars' television ads or of the father proudly handing over the keys of his beloved Beetle to his son?
Local pride, international success
Over the years, the brand has won six consecutive rally championships, three Dakar rallies, put the first Black rally champion on the podium and won the South African Car of the Year award two years in a row.
"Once only producing for the local automotive market, the company has since grown to become a significant exporter to Volkswagen markets around the world. The company's uncompromising approach to quality has seen it become integrated into the Volkswagen global supplier network - producing cars to the same exacting standards as the other 60 Volkswagen facilities around the world. To-date we have exported more than half a million vehicles to the rest of the world since our first major order to China in 1992," said Powels.
Not only has it been producing 'People's Cars' for six decades, but it also has a proud history of putting people first - from having trained and qualified the country's first Black artisans in the 80s to providing continuous training to its staff, suppliers and dealers today.
The company is an integral part of the global presence of the group, which today employs nearly 370 000 people worldwide in 60 production plants, who produce about 28 000 vehicles or are involved in vehicle-related services each day. "VW SA is the largest German investment in South Africa. Over the years we have grown into a strong, proud company and remain a trusted brand with a humble heart," said Powels.
Currently in South Africa, a 5000-strong workforce daily produces about 600 Polo Vivo and Polo, the country's two top selling passenger vehicles. These two vehicles have helped position it as the market leader for four months of 2011.
"The Volkswagen Group has been in South Africa for 60 years, and has evolved and changed with the times. We now have to maintain our momentum and look forward to the next 60 years," concluded Powels.