Volkswagen’s moves in Africa may point to its future — especially with ridesharing

Volkswagen ID 2 concept
Volkswagen may be persona non grata here in the U.S., stuck with hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and unsure of when it can begin selling diesel vehicles again, but that’s certainly not stopping the German automaker from looking elsewhere when it comes to expansion efforts. And now, it looks like its sites are set on Africa. In fact, the car company has plans to produce cars in both Kenya and Rwanda, and even kick off a ridesharing service in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. Given that transportation giants like Uber have yet to penetrate much of the African market, this could be a smart move for Volkswagen as it attempts to diversify its offerings.

Indeed, Uber already faces growing competition in developing nations — Didi Chuxing managed to kick Uber out of China, and now, Volkswagen may have a foothold in Rwanda ahead of the San Francisco-based ridesharing service. While Uber has a presence in Kenya, it hasn’t been there long (it only launched in early 2015), and is already encountering local competition.

On Thursday, the manufacturer noted that it had signed a memorandum of understanding in Kigali agreeing to a new business venture. “Volkswagen wants to strengthen its presence in emerging markets. That is why Africa ranks high on our agenda,” said Volkswagen brand chief Herbert Diess.

This isn’t the first time Volkswagen has dipped a toe into ridesharing. Back in May, it made a $300 million investment in Gett, another black car service that differentiates itself from Uber by promising lower prices (or at the very least, declining to apply any “surge” pricing models to customers). And in Rwanda, the German carmaker plans on using electric vehicles to help catapult the country into the future of mobility.

Furthermore, Volkswagen’s agreement includes a Rwandan vehicle production facility, helping to further its manufacturing operations in the continent, where vehicle sales are expected to increase 40 percent by 2021. “There will be an investigation phase which will go on from January until April and May until we have the final business model together and if all looks good we will move ahead and we will see the first cars being assembled by the end of year,” VW’s South Africa Chief Executive Thomas Schaefer said in a news conference in Kigali late on Wednesday.

So even if you see fewer and fewer VW’s on the roads in the U.S., you need only to look to Africa to see where the real progress is being made.

News

World’s fastest electric race car to display at Petersen Museum

The Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak race car smashed the all-time record at the hill climb for which it was named. The all-electric VW record-holder will be on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles until February 1, 2019.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Cars

Volkswagen may be planning a tougher challenge for its all-electric I.D. R

The Volkswagen I.D. R electric race car may head to the Nürburgring in 2019 for a lap-record attempt, according to a new report. Volkswagen will reportedly aim to set the quickest lap time ever by an electric car.
Cars

Did that car just wink at you? Daimler previews car-to-pedestrian signals

Eager to show off progress with autonomous cars and perhaps do some consumer softening as well, Daimler and Bosch previewed car-to-pedestrian communications. A sensor-loaded Mercedes S appears to wink to acknowledge a pedestrian's presence.
Cars

Aston Martin bets classic car owners will choose volts over carburetors

Aston Martin has converted one of its most sought-after classic models to run on electricity instead of gasoline. The roadster uses electric components sourced from the upcoming Rapide E sedan.
Cars

600-hp, $155K Polestar 1 is the alluring Volvo coupe you’ve been waiting for

Volvo's return to the coupe segment just took an interesting turn: the model will join the Polestar lineup, and it will get a 600-hp plug-in hybrid powertrain. The Polestar 1 will be built in China starting in 2019.
Mobile

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.
Cars

The Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake is the sexiest wagon ever

Aston Martin has revealed new photos of the limited-production Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake. The Vanquish Zagato line now includes the Shooting Brake, Coupe, Volante, and Speedster, each with bespoke styling.
Cars

Nissan and Italdesign’s GT-R50 concept will become a $1.1 million reality

The Nissan GT-R50 is a customized sports car built to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of both the GT-R and design firm Italdesign. Underneath the sleek bodywork sits a 710-horsepower engine fortified with race car components.
Cars

Ford’s new Shelby GT500 Mustang will have 3D-printed brake parts

Ford's new $45 million Advanced Manufacturing Center will focus on emerging technologies, including 3D printing. One of the staff's first jobs is to print parts for the 700-horsepower Shelby GT500 Mustang.
Product Review

Audi built an electric SUV for buyers who want gasoline-free to mean stress-free

We finally got to spend time behind the wheel of the electric 2019 Audi E-Tron bustling cities and arid desert of the United Arab Emirates to see how it compares with Jaguar and Tesla's competitors.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

This freewheeling Army truck-turned-tiny home is a labor of love

Most tiny homes are models of efficiency but one British metal worker has redefined the idea, converting an old Army truck into a mobile tiny home that comes with a bed, a sofa, a shower, and a beer garden.
Cars

Take a friend stargazing at 202 mph in the 2019 McLaren 720S Spider

McLaren has introduced the 2019 720S Spider. As its name implies, it's a convertible variant of the 720S coupe. The company promises the Spider retains the coupe's dynamism and agility thanks in part to the widespread use of carbon fiber.