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Volkswagen Opens A Production Line In Thika And Unveils Their Sh1.65m VW Polo Vivo.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Volkswagen’s CEO Dr. Herbert Diess inspects the new VW Polo Vivo at KVM Thika.

German auto giant Volkswagen on Wednesday opened a new production line at the Kenya Vehicle Manufacturing (KVM) in Thika, promising thousands of jobs (both indirect and direct) to unemployed youth. 

The new plant was officially opened by His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta and Volkswagen’s CEO Dr. Herbert Diess.

While unveiling KVM’s first locally assembled passenger vehicle in four decades, the VW Polo Vivo that will retail at Sh1.65 million inclusive of value-added tax, the president urged Kenyans to buy products made, assembled and value added in the country.

Uhuru welcomed the decision by Volkswagen Group to invest in Kenya, saying it resonates well with his administration’s policy to industrialise the economy.

“Today is a great day for some of us because it is the beginning once again of Kenya’s industrialisation journey, I want to thank the Volkswagen group for their decision to once again invest in Kenya and this goes well with my own government’s stated policy to industrialise our economy in order to build Kenya. We have adopted this policy because we know that industrialisation is the surest way to the destination we seek to achieve – that of a prosperous Kenya,” he said.

Uhuru said the opening signifies the start of the journey to industrialise the economy, under ‘Kenya Industrialisation Transformation Programme’.

“I assure the Volkswagen Group of our support to seeing this project succeed. This is just the start. We will do more in the shortest possible time,” he said.

The President said the plant will create jobs. He urged the national and county governments to buy vehicles from the facility to increase its sales.

“I expect to see a lot of VW government vehicles. I hope the county governments will also buy Volkswagen cars,” Uhuru said.

He affirmed his administration’s commitment to nurture a vibrant automotive sector that will create jobs for the youth and accelerate the economy.

“This we plan to achieve through supportive and progressive policies and laws and regulations that will see a rapid shift from this initial investment to a full and scaled-up assembly,” Uhuru said.

He praised the German government, the Volkswagen Group and other German businesses that have pledged to provide training not only for people working at the plant, but also to build capacity for the entire automotive sector.

Diess told the launch ceremony that apart from creating jobs his company also plans to industrialise the Kenyan economy. 

“We stand to provide great jobs, leading technologies and strategic investment, but it is more than just a plant. Volkswagen is well known for fostering sustainable development in creating new perspectives we have been taking the lead in areas such as job creation, fair working conditions, training and education and the development of small and medium-sized enterprises. The same will apply to our operations here in Thika, Kenya.” 

He said that the company will make possible direct employment to about 600 Kenyans and thousands of others indirectly. The Volkswagen group said that it had this year sourced products valued at 1.3 billion Euros in Africa “that makes Volkswagen a strong and reliable partner of the African continent”. 

Diess said that Volkswagen wants to contribute to a broader economic development process in Kenya promising that the company will source materials locally and from other African states. 

“We thank you Mr. President for your support that has seen this project – which was only a dream a few months ago – become a reality in less than a year,” he said.

Diess promised that they will produce high quality and affordable vehicles for the Kenyan and East African markets.

John Mwangi from the Union of Kenya Metal Workers Thika Branch told Anadolu Agency that the new facility will create new jobs for metal workers in the area. 

“This is a blessing for our youth, the new facility has promised to hire from Thika so we are sure that many who lack employment will be recruited into the new team. The company closed in 1990 but now it is back when we most need it.” 

At the ceremony of the unveiling of the new plant, Volkswagen said it would produce 1000 cars per year later to be scaled up to 5000 units. The company, however, failed to mention how it plans to reduce vehicle pollution in Kenya and the East African market especially after a recent UN report warned of deteriorating air quality in Africa due to an influx of motor vehicles. 

Other speakers were Trade CS Adan Mohamed, Kiambu Governor William Kabogo, Volkswagen South Africa managing director Thomas Schäfer and DT Dobie CEO Zarak Khan.

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