BMW has traditionally been the the number one searched brand in South Africa. South Africans love BMWs. The legendary BMW E30 325, popularly known locally as the “Gusheshe,” is a prime example of this strong relationship. It is extremely popular in the spinning and burnout community. Spinning is a street sport popular in South Africa’s cities where contestants drive cars in circles and perform stunts, sometimes at risky speeds.
BMWs strong brand in South Africa also dominates electric vehicle sales in a small but growing market. The BMW i3 is the all time top-selling electric car in South Africa, and the BMW i8 is the all time top-selling plug-in hybrid vehicle in South Africa. BMW South Africa has been really good with promoting EVs in South Africa. Since 2015, when BMW brought in the first generation 60 Ah BMW i3, it consistently updated the i3 offering and added new models of the i3, the 90 Ah and 120 Ah versions. BMW South Africa also introduced plug-in hybrids of several models, including the BMW X5 xDrive45e which comes with a 24 kWh battery pack, giving an all-electric range of about 80 km.
BMW South Africa has also introduced the Mini Cooper SE. The Mini brand has always been a popular brand in South Africa and there is hope that this new all electric version will take its place in the hearts of staunch Mini fans in South Africa. The Mini Cooper is currently the cheapest EV you can buy in South Africa. It starts at R642,000 ($42,000). BMW has continued to offer all the latest electric models as and when they become available on the international market. BMW South Africa now offers the all new BMW i4, the iX, the iX3, and of course the new flagship electric 7 series, the i7. The new iX1 is also on the way.
Autotrader’s Car Industry Mid-Year Report January 2022 – June 2022 has just been released, and shows that for the first 6 months of 2022, Volkswagen jumped from 3rd place a year ago to top the most searched brand list in South Africa. AutoTrader’s report says “Volkswagen generated 15.6% of all car Brand Searches, up from 11.9% in the first half of 2021. BMW had the 2nd most searches (14.98%), up from 12.7% in 2021. And Toyota, which was the 4th most searched Brand, is now 3rd, ahead of Mercedes-Benz who was 2nd in 2021 and is now 4th. Toyota generated 13.8% of all car Brand Searches.”
The top 5 most searched variants included the VW Golf GTI, the Polo GTI, the Golf R, the Polo 1.0 TSI, and the Mercedes-AMG C Class C63. All ICE vehicles! VW does not yet offer any electric cars in South Africa, which is a real shame. The ID. 4 & 5 would probably attract some serious attention in this small but growing market. Interest in electric vehicles is growing in South Africa. AutoTrader’s report says that there has been a 27% increase year-on-year of car shoppers utilizing the fuel-type filter. This could be due to the skyrocketing petrol and diesel prices driving people to pay more attention to vehicle engine capacity and the type of fuel that will power their next vehicle. The report says that in the past, fuel-type was a secondary search filter, with it predominantly being used when car shoppers were considering pickup trucks. An important point to note is that in 2022, hybrid and electric fuel type searches increased by 129% and 100% respectively.
VW has a small fleet of ID.3s in South Africa for some tests, pilots, and use by media, as well as for use as courtesy vehicles at some VW dealerships. VW will also add some ID.4s to this fleet. The transition to electric mobility around the world is happening much faster than previously thought, with sales records being broken all the time in several markets around Europe, Asia, and North America.
South Africa desperately needs to catch up. We need as many EV models as we can get into this market. Established players such as VW, which already have an existing footprint, could help by bringing in its existing line up of EVs sooner rather than later. South Africans have always loved VW. When I was at university, the dream for a lot of college students was to go to college, get a job, and buy a VW Golf GTI. I hope in the near future that dream could be: go to college, get a job, and buy a VW ID.3/2/1 GTX!
The Golf GTI is still on the most searched list. Many car buyers are loyal to specific brands. Having several options of electric vehicle models to choose from their favorite brand could have an impact on the growth of electric vehicle sales.
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