Rwanda looks to electric power

Rwanda has become the first country on the African continent to get electrically powered Volkswagen cars, this launched as a pilot project in partnership with Siemens to test the feasibility of electric mobility in an African country.

During the pilot phase, four e-Golfs and one charging station will be introduced in the capital of Rwanda, Kigali. Volkswagen has signed a joint development agreement with Siemens to provide the charging infrastructure for the electric cars.

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L-R: Sabine Dall’Omo, CEO of Siemens for South and Eastern Africa; Soraya Hakuziyaremye, Rwanda Minister of Trade and Industry; Edouard Ngirente, Prime Minister of the Republic of Rwanda; Thomas Schaefer, Head of Volkswagen Sub Saharan Africa and Managing Director of Volkswagen South Africa; and Michaella Rugwizangoga, CEO of Volkswagen Mobility Solutions Rwanda.

The electric mobility project was developed within the Moving Rwanda initiative, a cooperation between Volkswagen, Siemens, SAP and Inros Lackner and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. GIZ supported the e-mobility project by bringing together relevant partners from the private and public sector and by advising on the development benefits of the project.

The Moving Rwanda Initiative was established as the result of Volkswagen’s initial investment in Rwanda, which saw the launch of Africa’s first Integrated Mobility Solutions business in June 2018.

Volkswagen Mobility Solutions Rwanda offers mobility solutions services such as ride-hailing and corporate car sharing. The services are offered on the Move App, an innovative IT mobility solution which was developed by a local IT start-up company, Awesomity Lab.

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The services are offered using a fleet of vehicles assembled at Volkswagen Rwanda’s assembly facility in Kigali. By the end of 2019, Volkswagen Mobility Solutions Rwanda will have a fleet of more than 200 vehicles consisting of Polo, Amarok, Teramont and Passat.

Move App has about 27 000 registered users. Over 59 500 rides have been completed in the ride-hailing service since the beginning of 2019.

“The success of our mobility solutions business has shown us Rwanda has the potential to leapfrog the internal combustion engines into electric cars,” says Thomas Schäfer. “Rwanda has a young and progressive population that appreciates individual and modern mobility. Together with our development partner Siemens and with the support from the Government of Rwanda, Volkswagen wants to make the e-Golf pilot project in Rwanda a blueprint for electric mobility in Africa.”

Sabine Dall’Omo, CEO for Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa added: “Our partnership with Volkswagen on this project solidifies our commitment not only to Rwanda but to the East Africa region.  By contributing towards shaping the African market for intelligent, adaptive infrastructure, while addressing skills challenges in this sector, Siemens is helping to build a more sustainable future for the people of Rwanda.”

The pilot e-Golfs will be added into the Volkswagen Mobility Solutions Rwanda fleet to provide customised mobility service and the plan is to increase the number of the electric cars to 50 units and 15 charging stations, depending on the outcomes of the pilot project.

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The drivers and technicians who will be working with the electric cars have received specialised training in preparation for launch of the pilot project.

“Africa’s youth need sustainable jobs and better prospects for a future in their home countries. Therefore, German development cooperation supports innovative ideas for vocational education and environmentally friendly mobility concepts for African cities. In this respect, initiatives such as Moving Rwanda are yet another step towards implementing the Marshall Plan with Africa,” says Dr. Gerd Müller, German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Schäfer commented: “The integrated mobility solutions business in Rwanda is our lighthouse project. In the past year, our operations in Kigali have provided us with valuable lessons and business intelligence which we plan to utilise in our growth strategy into other African markets like Ghana and Ethiopia.”

The pilot project, which will form part of Volkswagen’s operations in Rwanda, was officially announced by Thomas Schäfer, CEO of Volkswagen Group South Africa and responsible for the Sub-Sahara Africa Region, in the presence of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Rwanda, Right Honourable Dr. Edouard Ngirente.

Car sales still under pressure

The ratio of used car sales to new has crept up to 2,26:1 as continued pressure on the car market saw sales continue to decline through the third quarter of the year, despite new vehicle price increases staying under inflation for the past two years according to the latest TransUnion Vehicle Pricing Index (VPI) for Q3 2019.

New vehicle price increases have remained below inflation for the past two years – the longest consecutive period since the creation of the index in 2000. Used vehicle price increases have slowed, which is indicative the used market is also taking the strain. Despite lower price increases, the number of new vehicles financed in Q3 fell 7% compared to the same period a year ago, while the number of used vehicles financed showed a 1% increase.

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The new vehicle VPI moved to 3,3% in Q3 2019 from 3,1% in Q2, while the used vehicle index moved to 1,1% from 1%. The VPI measures the relationship between the increase in vehicle pricing for new and used vehicles from a basket of passenger vehicles, which incorporates 15 top volume manufacturers. Vehicle sales data is collated from across the industry to create the index.

Kriben Reddy, head of Auto Information Solutions for TransUnion Africa, said the sluggish market reflected ongoing low consumer and business confidence, reiterating the weak domestic demand conditions. Although interest rates fell by 25 basis points in July, which offered consumers additional spending power, many consumers have opted to delay vehicle purchasing decisions due to the ongoing economic uncertainty.

Reddy said this would inevitably have a negative effect on the local automotive industry, which is a major contributor to South Africa’s GDP. According to NAAMSA figures, the industry contributes 6,8% to GDP (4,3% manufacturing and 2,5% retail), with total automotive revenues in 2018 of R503-billion.

 

“The bad news for the industry is local market conditions are not likely to change in the foreseeable future. The industry is trending in a downward direction and unless certain structural changes take place in the economy, the picture is not going to change for the local auto industry,” says Reddy.

However, this will be partially offset by a strong export market. In 2018, the export of vehicles and automotive components reached a record R178,8-billion, equating to 14,3% of South Africa’s total exports. Vehicles and components are currently exported to a record 155 international markets, with export values doubling year-on-year to more than 25 of those markets in 2018.

The VPI report shows the used-to-new vehicle ratio increased from 2,08 in 2018 Q3 to 2,26 in 2019 Q3, which means that 2,26 used vehicles were financed for every new vehicle financed. The make-up of used vehicle sales is also shifting, with 36% of used vehicles financed under two years old, with 6% of those being ex-demo models – which indicates consumers are opting for older vehicles as pressure on disposable income increases.

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“The percentage of cars (new and used) being financed at key price points – below R200 000, R200 000-R300 000 and over R300 000 – has been fairly consistent over the last six quarters. This shows consumers’ purchasing power and their ability to purchase more expensive vehicles is not changing,” says Reddy.

“People are continuing to spend less on cars, with consumers still opting for less expensive entry level vehicles. The average loan size in this quarter is comparable to that of Q2 2013, which suggests that consumer buying power has effectively remained flat for the past six years.”

Toyota fantasy in Tokyo

Traditionally a venue for unveiling fun, futuristic and fantabulous auto designs, the recent Tokyo Motor Show was used by Toyota to unveil a raft of serious, and not so serious, visions for the transport future.

The global carmaker turned science fiction into fact with a ‘future shock’ display of next-generation vehicles and mobility devices equipped with cutting-edge technologies.

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The avant-garde display confirms Toyota’s plans to expand its impressive track record of producing cars, SUVs and ‘bakkies’ while also blazing ahead in a virtual world of artificial intelligence, robotics, electrification, automation, connectivity and sharing.

Real-world unveilings at its home motor show featured an all-new Yaris hatch including hybrid-electric power and the second-generation of Toyota’s Mirai concept – an electric fuel-cell sedan powered by hydrogen.

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Toyota also revealed an Ultra-compact BEV (battery-electric vehicle) that will be launched in Japan late next year as well as the electrified, autonomous LQ concept car that wants to bond with its owner.

Looking even deeper into the future, Toyota confirmed technological innovation is advancing rapidly by making a foray into delivery robots, ride-sharing vehicles and other devices that rely on the most advanced computer software.

Ready to shake your hand in Tokyo is the T-HR3 humanoid robot, operated by remote control. It will eventually be used to help improve the lives of patients or other people with limited mobility.

Toyota’s human support robot (HSR) can recognise its surroundings and travel autonomously or by remote control, utilising its omni-directional wheels. Adept at recognising, grasping and carrying objects, the HSR will also feature at next year’s Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, guiding guests to their seat and bringing them light meals –  leaving them free to enjoy the competition.

A raft of other innovative Toyota vehicles designed to provide ride-sharing and other services also featured in Tokyo:

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  • Toyota e-4me: autonomous vehicles that allow a single occupant to travel while enjoying hobbies and pastimes, such as a gym workout.
  • Toyota e-Palette: it looks like a transport van, but its size and electric, self-driving ability enables it to bring stores and services directly to customers.
  • Toyota Micro Palette: it will treat you like a friend and bring you water if you’re thirsty.
  • Toyota e-Racer:a sports car of the future with a virtual tailor that creates bespoke racing suits.
  • Toyota e-Chargeair: equipped with a wireless battery charger, it can charge other electric vehicles while travelling and incorporates an air purifier as well as the ability to feed excess power into the grid.
  • Toyota e-Care: a vehicle that enables you to undergo a medical exam on your way to hospital.
  • Toyota e-Trans:for moving people and goods.

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Finally, for those with a real hankering to be swept up in the mobility of the future, there is the tantalising possibility of hitching a ride on the Toyota e-broom.

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Bristling with technology, the e-broom is modelled on ‘a broom used by a witch to fly through the air’, bringing people and machines together and showing that future mobility is fun.

See-saw finally settles

The see-saw battle that has raged all season long in the Falken Polo Cup series came to a head at the weekend when Bradley Liebenberg emerged victorious over arch rival Jeffrey Kruger at the Red Star Raceway, Delmas.

Liebenberg wiped out a 4-point deficit to become the 2019 Falken Polo Cup champion to beat the defending champion Jeffrey Kruger after a season-long battle that saw both drivers lead the way at various stages of the fight.

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Kruger had the upper hand in the first few rounds, but the momentum swung heavily in Liebenberg’s favour following a great run in the middle of the season. Kruger however fought back and after Liebenberg was penalised for mistakenly using a Push-to-Pass on the opening lap of a race in Cape Town during Round 7, Kruger was the one with a slender advantage going into the final round.

The advantage however was only 4 points which made the calculations easy. Whoever beat the other one on the day would come out on top. The two title hopefuls proved once again that they were the ones to beat as their names topped the timesheets in every practice session leading up to Saturday morning’s qualifying.

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If anything, Liebenberg was slightly quicker than his rival. The youngster then managed to convert his pace into provisional pole position when he set the fastest time in the initial qualifying session. To add to the excitement of the Falken Polo Cup, the top six in qualifying each gets one flying lap to determine the final starting grid. This is when Liebenberg missed a gear and handed pole position back to his rival Kruger.

It was clear both title rivals were in a class of their own as they managed to open a slight gap at the front of the field. It didn’t take Liebenberg long to squeeze his way past Kruger and into the lead which he managed to hold onto until the checkered flag was waved. Add the points that come with setting the fastest lap of the race and we had a tie at the top of the championship points table with just one race to go.

Starting positions for the final race was determined by a numbers draw and this time luck was not on Kruger’s side. The defending champion drew number five while rival Liebenberg would start the final race from third on the grid. Kruger’s only chance was to make a move early on and it nearly paid off in the first corner, but when the dust had settled, it was Liebenberg who managed to take the race lead while Kruger fought his way up into third position behind the Polo of Arnold Neveling.

This is all that Liebenberg needed as he raced off to claim double victory on the day as well as the coveted Falken Polo Cup title.

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“It was a perfect day,” said Liebenberg after the finish of Race 2. “We had an epic battle with Jeffrey all season long and to come out on top with two race victories on the day is the best possible way to finish it.”

Kruger was graceful in defeat. “We had a fantastic battle throughout the season and it all came down to the wire and the last race. We tried our best but Bradley was just to quick on the day.”

Behind the title fight, Arnold Neveling enjoyed his best day yet in the Falken Polo Cup with a third place overall, ahead of Keegan Campos and Clinton Bezuidenhout. Capetonian Dario Busi was classified sixth on the day ahead of the Shorter brothers Matt and Chris. Volkswagen Motorsport’s Jonathan Mogotsi finished the last day of a trying season in 12th.

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“The Falken Polo Cup once again lived up to its reputation as the most exciting form of racing,” commented Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “It is extremely competitive with just tenths of seconds separating nearly 20 drivers. This makes it the championship that every driver wants to win most. Well done to Bradley for doing so and also to Jeffrey for taking the fight all the way to the end,” he concluded.

 

Volkswagen grabs all the titles

To borrow from The Doors, “We want the world, and we want it now..” – such was the mindset of Volkswagen Motorsport head Mike Rowe as the team looked to clinch driver’s titles in both Global Touring Cars (GTC) and GTC2 as well as the manufacturer titles at Red Star Raceway, Delmas at the weekend.

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“Every team races to win,” said an elated Rowe. “We came to the final round with a mission to win both the GTC and GTC2 Drivers as well as Manufacturers titles. We knew that we were in a good position to reach most of our goals, but to achieve all four was fantastic.”

The overall success was a result of hard work, not only at the last event, but throughout the entire season.

The team’s GTC drivers Daniel Rowe and Keagan Masters were in the mix on almost every event, and when  the points were added before the last round, both were in with a chance to claim the title. Masters had a slender lead of just 2 points over title rivals Simon Moss and Michael van Rooyen which meant that whoever finished ahead of the other ones on the day would be crowned the champion.

A rainstorm early on raceday caused the qualifying session to be declared a wet one, so the Jettas took to the track in wet weather tyres. The times were tumbling towards the end of the session as the circuit dried out but when the flag was waved, it was Masters who put his Jetta on the front row of the grid with the second fastest time.

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More importantly, he managed to out qualify his main title rivals while Rowe’s fifth place also forced title rival Van Rooyen down to sixth. Masters was very aware of the fact he needed to stay out of trouble in both races to score points so the youngster was happy to steer clear of traffic on the opening laps of race one.

An incident between one of his title rivals (Simon Moss) and the BMW of pole setter Robert Wolk on lap 2 cleared the way for Masters to race off into the distance and to a comfortable race victory.

After the calculations were made, the new points table revealed Masters’ only title rival with one final race to go was Michael van Rooyen. The latter had to win the race – which he did – and the Volkswagen driver had to finish fourth or lower to not win the title. Masters started from the back of the reverse grid but fought his way through the field and up into third where he stayed until the checkered flag was waved.

Meanwhile teammate Rowe was leading the race until he got punted off by a competitor. Rowe recovered and went on to set the fastest lap of the race, confirming Volkswagen’s competitiveness in the process.

All eyes however were on Masters as his team welcomed him back in the pits to congratulate him on winning SA’s premier circuit racing title.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling and it hasn’t sunk in yet,” said a very happy Masters. “I am fortunate to have a wonderful team and I would like to thank them for all the hard work they put in throughout the season that allowed us to win the title.” Teammate Rowe was just as pleased. “As a team we had a very competitive season. Congratulations to Keagan who’s consistency throughout the season paid off. It’s a great team result and I’m already looking forward to next year.”

With Volkswagen taking the overall GTC Drivers and Manufacturers title, the squad were well on their way to achieve all of their goals. Thanks to the efforts of Bradley Liebenberg and Adrian Wood, the team already clinched the GTC2 Manufacturers award at the previous round, so all that remained was for Liebenberg to convert his dominance into the GTC 2 title, something which he managed to do after finishing second in Race 1.

The win went to teammate Wood while Liebenberg bounced back to celebrate his title with a victory in the final race of the season.

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“It’s been an amazing season. We had the pace all season long and to finally be crowned champion is a fantastic feeling,” said Liebenberg.

“We came here to win,” added Mike Rowe. “Motorsport can be both cruel and unpredictable which makes all of these achievements bitter sweet. It’s a result of hard work from all involved and I would also like to thank Volkswagen for supporting motorsport. Whilst we are celebrating a great season this year, we have already started thinking about how to repeat our successes next year,” he concluded.

 

Levante confirmed for 2020

There is significant enthusiasm from car buffs in the Maserati Levante Trofeo – destined to reach local shores from the first quarter of next year.

Maserati South Africa will launch the powerful 433 kW V8 Levante Trofeo SUV that boasts a 3,8-litre Twin Turbo V8 engine that has a power-to-weight ratio of 116 kW per litre, giving it a 0-100 km/h time of 3,9 seconds and a top speed of 304 km/h.

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“Aside from being one of the most powerful Maserati models ever, the Levante Trofeo’s sporting interior offers all the comfort of a prestigious SUV. It is built to the enduring principles of a Maserati grand touring vehicle,” says Rens Rademeyer, Dealer Principal at Maserati Johannesburg.

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For instance, mentions Rademeyer, every Trofeo will have Maserati’s exclusive Pieno Fiore Italian leather as standard, and is equipped with a 1 280 Watt, 17-speaker Bowers & Wilkins premium surround sound audio system, for a concert-hall sound experience.

“The Trofeo will also have unique carbon fibre exterior details, and our customers can, as always, indulge in their creativity in the Maserati fit and finish studio to further custom design their Trofeo.”

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Specific details of the Levante Trofeo, such as the lower splitter, the side blades in the front air intakes, the side skirt inserts and the rear extractor, are made of ultralight, high-gloss carbon fibre, further underlining this model’s racing look.

The hood is also new, with two aggressive heat extractors for better cylinder head cooling. Beneath the hood, the high-gloss carbon fibre engine cover sports the Maserati Trident and a V8 inscription. The cylinder heads and intake manifolds are painted red.

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The elegant restyling was mainly focused on the lower front fascia and the rear bumper and is crowned by the 22-inch forged aluminium ‘Orione’ wheels, available in both polished and matte finishes.

The Levante Trofeo was first revealed at last year’s New York International Auto Show, where it was lauded for combining a powerful engine with perfect weight distribution and a low centre of gravity.

While this is true of all Levante models, in the Trofeo the power, weight and chassis have been refined to work perfectly with the high-power V8. This helps to ensure while it provides an exhilarating driving experience, it never compromises its long-distance comfort and active safety.

In further fine-tuning the Trofeo, Maserati engineers have added a Corsa mode with launch control and incorporated an Integrated Vehicle Control (IVC) system into the electric power steering system. The eight speed automatic gearbox is programmed to reward spirited driving.

“Interest in the Levante Trofeo has already been overwhelming. The first unit, a specially numbered Launch Edition in Blu Emozione Matte, will arrive in the first quarter of 2020, with bespoke units following soon thereafter,” says Rademeyer.

 

Gold for Toyota at MOTY Awards

For the second year in a row Toyota has walked off with the Overall Gold at the annual Southern African Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (SAVRALA) awards.

SAVRALA – whose car rental and leasing members manage more than 400 000 vehicles a year in South Africa – hold its annual industry Manufacturer of the Year (MOTY) awards as a barometer of the relationship between the industry and itself.

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 Toyota placed first in both the Rental and Leasing categories, which also secured them the position of overall winner for the second year consecutively.  Hyundai and Kia came in second and third position respectively.

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For 24 years, the MOTY awards has aimed to reward motor manufacturers for the level of service and support provided to SAVRALA members.  At least 33 of the largest Rental and Leasing companies in South Africa complete two comprehensive surveys annually, assessing 38 criteria across various areas of their business, such as communication and contact with manufacturers, support on both a manufacturer and dealer level, maintenance issues, various financial aspects and B-BBEE compliance.

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To eliminate any personal bias when these surveys are completed, companies hold panel discussions involving employees who are knowledgeable about each criterion.

This approach ensures that an objective and company-wide perspective is obtained and that the results can be used by the manufacturers to identify and address any gaps in their service delivery to the Rental and Leasing industries.

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The results clearly show the bar has been raised yet again, with the Rental score rising to its highest level since 2011.  Leasing was not part of the MOTY process in 2015 or 2016, hence it is encouraging to see more emphasis being placed on this industry since its return.

Rental Results for 2019:

Toyota improved its Rental score by 3,7% and retained its winning position.  Renault continued its upward march by moving into joint second position, one position up from third spot last year.  For the first time in MOTY history, Kia broke into the top three by sharing the second position with Renault. Hyundai completed the podium positions by taking third.

Kia also received the award for the most improved Manufacturer, having improved its Rental score by 13,6% since 2018.

The Value award is presented to the automotive member that has scored the most combined points for the Financial section, and for the second consecutive year, Toyota has taken top spot.

The Tutuka award recognises the best scoring automotive member who supplies lower and niche vehicle volumes to the car rental industry. This year, the award went to Mini.

RENTAL WINNERS
Gold Silver Bronze
2015 Volkswagen Audi Toyota
2016 Volkswagen Hyundai Toyota
2017 Volkswagen Toyota Hyundai
2018 Toyota Shared BMW and Volkswagen Renault
2019 Toyota Shared Kia and Renault Hyundai

Leasing Results for 2019:

On the leasing side, Toyota is the winner for the third consecutive year, followed by Hyundai, who came second for the third consecutive year.

Nissan made a return to the podium.  The last time Nissan was in the Top 3 was in 2013, but it has managed to claw its way back in 2019 by taking the third position in the Leasing category.

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The award for the Manufacturer who improved the most since 2018 was presented to Datsun, who improved their 2018 score by 18,8%.

The Value award for the Manufacturer scoring the best for the Financial section on the Leasing survey was awarded to Toyota, who also won this award in 2018.

LEASING WINNERS
Gold Silver Bronze
2017 Toyota Hyundai Volkswagen
2018 Toyota Hyundai Volkswagen
2019 Toyota Hyundai Nissan

Best Representative Awards for 2019:

While success is seldom the result of the efforts of one individual, it certainly requires someone to ignite the spark.  For their part in maintaining a successful relationship between supplier and customer, the awards for the Best Account Executive for Rental goes to Queen Ramaliwa from BMW and for Leasing to Faan Fourie from Toyota.  The Best Technical Representative, as voted by both the Rental and Leasing participants, was once again awarded to Ramatjitla Penyane from Toyota.

Congratulating all the winners on their achievement, SAVRALA President, Winston Guriah, lauded Manufacturers on both the Rental and Leasing side for their commitment to true partnership.

“At a time when the economy faces what seem to be insurmountable challenges, it is reassuring to know we have customer-focussed partners on whom we can depend unwaveringly. My hearty congratulations to all the deserving winners today. Your efforts inspire continuous improvements, which bodes well for all customers, not just the members of SAVRALA. We are grateful for your commitment and support,” says Guriah.

MOTY helps each manufacturer identify their strengths and work on the areas of weakness as highlighted to them by their customers.  It is clear from this year’s results that the industry is prepared to award those that are willing to take up the challenge, lift their level of commitment and align their efforts with the needs of the industry.