Last year Lufthansa returned to Kenya after an 18 year absence and this year, Volkswagen (VW) is set to return after a 39 years. VW that used to assemble cars in Kenya in the 1960s and 1970s, left the Kenyan market in 1977.
The project which will be jointly realised with the importer DT Dobie, which took over the VW franchise from CMC Holdings, will be the third in Africa joining that in South Africa and Nigeria.
The Kenyan plant will be operated by Kenya Vehicle Manufacturers (KVM) from 2017 and located in Thika. Among the VW models to be assembled are light trucks and Vivo, a passenger car which will be the first to be put together locally. It’s projected to build up to 5,000 units of the Polo Vivo per year.
“The Volkswagen Group is excited to be here and we will start operations immediately.” Volkswagen South Africa CEO Thomas Schäfer said
Mr Schafer signed an agreement with President Uhuru Kenyatta to launch VW’s local assembly at KVM where the government has a 35 per cent stake.
Back in the 60s, VW used to assemble vans, microbuses and the famous Kombi and the Beetle. Local assembly is largely boosted by the exemption of vehicle parts headed for assembly plants from the 25 per cent import duty levied on fully-built cars, resulting in a price advantage.
In addition to vehicle assembly, it is also planned to establish a local training centre to qualify production workers and provide further training. The centre will initially focus on the needs of the Volkswagen production team. Later on it is planned to provide basic training for young people to learn general industrial skills, thereby increasing employment opportunities in the region in general.