Toyota, Ford and VW all have several new models and engines that are already driving happily on the roads of other countries around the world, but these options will not be coming to South Africa anytime soon.
The three carmakers, who all have a major stake in the country with their own manufacturing plants, all recently produced separate statements regarding their concerns and future plans for the tip of Africa, and they all have one thing in common – South Africa’s fuel quality is so poor that they cannot bring in several of their newest models.
Fueling the nation’s decline
The global car industry is currently making the transition to lower-emission transport through various means, including plug-in hybrids, battery-electrics, and more fuel-efficient combustion engine cars.
In order to achieve this goal, automakers are now building vehicles with engines that require higher-quality fuel which produces less greenhouse gases when burned, and this is another aspect of the global motoring scene that South Africa is now falling behind on.
One example that was recently brought to light by Ford involves its Puma crossover, which is about to get a mid-life update in foreign markets with a new mild-hybrid (MHEV) ST model.
The Puma went on sale locally last year, but the Blue Oval’s local division recently told CARmag that it cannot bring the ST to our shores because our fuel quality is so poor.
The stated reason for this is that the hybrid engine has been designed to meet the European Union’s Stage 6.2 MHEV emissions standard, which has strict requirements for the amount of pollutants being produced like nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and sulphur dioxide – a standard that South Africa’s fuel does not meet.
Another problem is that the country’s official fuel requirements are not always met – something that was brought to light by the recent diesel scandal.
In January it was discovered that at least 70 filling stations around the nation have been diluting their diesel with paraffin in an effort to skim profits when the cheaper mixture is sold at the fuel retail price of diesel.
Paraffin is not meant for cars and can severely damage the engine when used, so the scandal naturally led to shock and outrage from consumers and manufacturers alike.
Toyota weighed in on the issue, telling media at its recent State of the Motoring Industry address that it is concerned about the country’s inability to control fuel quality given that the carmaker is pushing for more advanced engines using lower sulphur grades.
The Japanese company is using Euro 6 and 7 engines in the EU, but is still bringing Euro 3 engines for South Africa, and this issue is going to make it harder to bring in new diesel engines for popular models like the Hilux if the gap in fuel quality is not addressed.
Finally, Volkswagen has expressed similar sentiments about our fuel, citing it as the reason for the lack of hybrids in its local catalogue.
In markets like the UK, buyers have access to PHEV versions of several products like the Golf, Tiguan, Passat, Touareg, and Arteon, but none of these can operate using here with our petrol.
The automaker highlighted this issue at its recent Indaba event where it revealed its model plans for the next year, but has been warning about the country’s fuel quality for years.
In a 2023 interview with cars.co.za, VW said “the fuel quality in South Africa currently does not work with the engines we use for hybrid technology in Wolfsburg.”