VW SA wins multibillion contract

Volkswagen South Africa is to supply
the VW group with cutting-edge diesel
technology. (Image: Volkswagen Group)

Volkswagen vehicles on the assembly line
at the manufacturing plant in Uitenhage,
Eastern Cape. (Image: Volkswagen SA,
MediaClubSouthAfrica.com. For more
photos, visit the image library.)

A representation of a diesel particulate
filter for the Golf V.
(Image: Volkswagen Group)

Janine Erasmus

Eastern Cape-based car manufacturer Volkswagen South Africa is to supply the Volkswagen group worldwide with diesel particulate filters (DPFs) for a five-year period. The deal, said to be one of the biggest export contracts for a single car part, is worth R12-billion ($96.3-billion). Volkswagen will partner with exhaust systems manufacturer Eberspächer South Africa to produce the component.

The two companies will jointly invest about R55-million ($441.4-million) for equipment, as well as R26-million ($208.7-million) to establish a local supplier base, of which 80% is located in the Nelson Mandela Bay region – a hub of the South African car manufacturing industry. Bill Stevens, Volkswagen South Africa’s GM of communications, said the deal was important to the company’s strategy to localise the manufacturing of components.

In addition to the financial investment, more than 100 new jobs will be created in the region and those recruited will undergo intensive training to ensure all parts meet international standards. Training will cover adherence to and understanding of quality standards, DPF handling and inspection criteria, problem solving, teamwork and all aspects of the production process.

SA partnership sets global standards

MD of Volkswagen South Africa David Powels said the deal was a coup for the South African automotive component manufacturing industry. Furthermore, the local Volkswagen and Eberspächer plants would use the very latest DPF manufacturing technology, thereby setting the benchmark in the Volkswagen group.

Eberspächer’s manufacturing plant in Port Elizabeth focuses mainly on the production of catalytic converters and silencers for the export market. The company is also a supplier to local car manufacturers.

Production begins in November 2008. Manufactured parts will be shipped to the Kassel plant in Germany where they will undergo final minor modifications and then be distributed to Volkswagen plants elsewhere in the world.

According to Volkswagen South Africa, securing the contract proves that the South African operation is globally competitive in terms of pricing and technology in the DPF manufacturing industry.

“The DPF technology is a rapidly advancing field of expertise and as global emission standards become more stringent, we will continue to be at the forefront as a provider of innovative exhaust gas treatment solutions with our global research and development teams,” said MD of Eberspächer South Africa Henry Eksteen.

Eksteen added that this type of collaborative project would become more popular in the future, as original equipment manufacturers joined forces with specialists to bring in global business for their countries.

Volkswagen worldwide produces several models that utilise DPF technology, including the Touareg, Eos, Polo, Touran, Passat and Golf. A retrofit option is available for older engines.

‘Greener’ cars

A diesel particulate filter is a revolutionary fuel system component that removes carbon particles from exhaust gas, making the vehicle more environmentally friendly. A diesel-powered car fitted with a DPF will not trail smoke from its exhaust.

The Volkswagen DPF is a component of the cutting-edge common rail direct fuel-injection system used in new Volkswagen diesel-powered models. The device fulfils the same function as a catalytic converter by cleaning up exhaust emissions, but whereas a catalytic converter uses platinum, rhodium and palladium to convert the harmful chemical components of a car’s exhaust emission into harmless gases, the DPF targets soot particles in exhaust gas and removes them by physical filtration.

Trapped particles are then disposed of in two ways: at normal speeds particles are passively converted into carbon dioxide, or in slower traffic particles are actively converted to carbon dioxide at a high temperature. The passive method uses a catalyst, while the active method uses technology such as a fuel burner, which heats the filter to soot combustion temperatures.

A DPF requires more maintenance than a catalytic converter. The device is self-cleaning through a regeneration process that heats the filter to a temperature at which the soot is burned away. For this to happen certain driving conditions in terms of speed and engine revolutions must be met in order to raise the internal temperature of the filter, and drivers in cars fitted with a DPF are advised to adapt their normal routes and driving styles accordingly.

  • Do you have queries or comments about this article? Email Janine Erasmus at janinee@mediaclubsouthafrica.comhis e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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