The vehicle that was assembled in a record three months will retail at Sh1.65 million, inclusive of VAT.
DT Dobie CEO Zakak Khan said the new Volkswagen Vivo demystifies the thinking that locally assembled vehicles are limited in options with its wide range of standard features, including a state-of-the-art alloy wheels and CD players.
To maintenance-conscious buyers, the vehicle comes with a 2,750-a-month service in its three-year warranty.
German vehicle maker Volkswagen on Wednesday unveiled its first locally assembled passenger vehicle, dubbed Polo Vivo, during the official opening of its production line at the Kenya Vehicle Manufacturing plant in Thika.
The group will in its initial phase produce up to 1,000 units per year, a number that will gradually be scaled up to 5,000 units.
President Uhuru Kenyatta presided over the launch and thanked the VW group for its decision to re-invest in the country.
He termed the re-opening of the production line as the beginning of the country’s industrialisation journey that had stalled in the early 1990s due to influx in cheap imported goods, including cars.
Volkswagens engagement with Africa dates back to 1951 when the first beetle rolled off the production line in South Africa.
The South African plant has since then produced and sold more than 3.5 million cars.
In Kenya, the group assembled the microbus and Combi vehicles at the Thika Vehicle Manufacturing plant whose annual production had risen to 4,600 vehicles by 1990.
The investment providing direct employment to about 600 Kenyans.
But the vehicle manufacturing industry collapsed after the local market was flooded with second-hand vehicles, mainly from Japan.
However, the plant remained with a reduced annual production of less than 150 vehicles annually.
Mr Kenyatta promised total support to the group that sources some of its materials such as catalytic converters, wheels and wiring harnesses from South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt.
“I want to assure VW that we will reciprocate their trust by continuing with the progressive policies and laws which have made Kenya an attractive destination for foreign investment,” he said.
Volkswagen brand CEO Herbert Diess said the group intends to strengthen its presence in emerging markets, especially Africa, by adopting successful business models suitable to local needs and circumstances.
Dr Diess noted that Kenya’s growing economy offers great business opportunities, excellent training education system with an excellent market potential of about 350,000 passenger cars per year.
Similar projects will be rolled out in Nigeria and Rwanda.
“In Kenya, we shall start with assembling the Apolo Vivo, the most successful passenger car in sub-Saharan Africa. It is robust, affordable and has a superb service inclusive of a comprehensive manufacturer’s warranty,” he said.
The president noted that Germany and VW group’s decision to offer training to its local employees and community will go a long way in helping the youth build capacity for the entire automotive sector.
“Many of our youth have the basic education but lack the technical skills needed to realise the country’s industrialisation policy. As of now, we are giving priority to expanding our vocational and training institutions to bridge the gap towards helping the country realise its industrialisation dream,” said the president.
German ambassador Michael Derus said the opening of the German-based Volkswagen production line marks a milestone in the beginning of deep bilateral relations between Germany and Kenya.
Derus announced that Nairobi will host the next German Africa Business Summit from February 8 to 10.