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Fox on Volkswagen's run

Price-leader: Malaysian-built Fox would be one of Australia's cheapest cars.

Volkswagen hopes to eventually make all its overseas products available locally

30 May 2005

VOLKSWAGEN is aiming to eventually offer its entire range of vehicles to Australian buyers.

This means the absent top and tail of VW’s existing overseas range – the recently released Fox micro hatch as well as the Phaeton limousine – may arrive here.

The Fox is an inexpensive four-seater three-door and five-door hatchback designed to tackle the bottom of the market against models such as the base Hyundai Getz 1.3-litre and the Daihatsu Charade.

It is built on the current-generation Polo platform but features bespoke styling inside and out.

Essentially, the Fox is meant to be the true ‘People’s Car’ in the way the original Beetle was to Western as well as Third World markets up until the 1970s.

Restricted supply from the Fox’s sole source – namely VW-do-Brazil – as well as the non-availability of right-hand drive and an automatic gearbox, have been barriers for its entry to Australia.

However, Volkswagen Group Australia managing director Jutta Dierks said this could change with VW’s new tie-up with Malaysian car-maker Proton (see breakout).

As for the Phaeton (pictured below), Australian management has already said it would consider the second-generation Phaeton, after ruling out the current 2002-vintage Audi A8-based limousine.

Speaking at the launch of the Golf GTI, Mrs Dierks said she was also keen to see diesels, which she describes as her "favourite subject", available across the VW range.

It is believed VW is already undertaking research on the viability of a turbo-diesel Polo.

The recently announced Polo facelift, due here in the third quarter of this year, may be in with a chance.

However, neither 1.4-litre nor 1.9-litre turbo-diesel Polo units on sale in Europe are available with an automatic gearbox – a situation that would limit its appeal here.

Currently, there are no diesel-driven light cars marketed in Australia, with the $27,990 Golf TDI 1.9 being the least expensive passenger car to offer it.

3 center imageVW Australia’s public relations chief, Matthew Wiesner, recently told GoAuto that diesel Golf sales were moving along quite strongly without the aid of an advertising push. He also added that VW was very committed to diesel engines for Australia.

VW is already pioneering the use of diesel in the Holden Barina-bashing Caddy, a two-seat micro van built on the Golf V platform in Poland.

Its 77kW 1.9-litre TDI four-cylinder engine is also slated for the Caddy Life, a seven-seater passenger car version which is undergoing final Australian Design Rule requirements.

Another spawn off the Golf platform, the Golf Plus, is also being looked at by VW Australia.

If the price is right, this taller, longer Golf variant – think of it as a wagon version with versatile seating and a more practical interior – could be a surprise starter for 2006.

Proton-built VWs likely

VOLKSWAGEN’S tie-up with Malaysian car-maker Proton has real implications for Australian buyers.

Two of its core models – the recently unveiled 2006 Passat and the Fox micro hatch – are believed to be in the process of being set up for manufacturing by Proton.

According to a Proton Cars Australia spokesman there was "every chance in the world of Proton-built Passats coming to Australia".

This is to service Volkswagen in the South East Asian market, an area VW Group Australia managing director Jutta Dierks says her company urgently needs to improve in.

"The Proton Malaysia partnership is to increase presence in the region as well as to increase delivery of cars from there worldwide," she said.

Mrs Dierks has indicated that the Fox is "under consideration" for Australia, pending the arrival of the as-yet unavailable automatic gearbox as well as a five-door variant.

If the Fox ends up being built in Malaysia, then an automatic transmission is a certainty for this region.

Conversely, it is widely speculated that VW may supply much-needed drivetrain and/or platforms for Proton to design and build cars to fill model gaps in its range.

A Passat-based mid-sized sedan would be high on Proton’s wish-list.

Currently, aside from the Gen II and Waja small cars, Proton is lumbered with an aging model line-up consisting mostly of ex-Mitsubishi models.

These include the 1983 and 1991 Mirage generations (Saga and Satria/Persona respectively) as well as the early-1990s Galant/Eterna-based Perdana.

However, the Malaysians are on the brink of light-car assault, with its SRM (five-door) and TRM (three-door) hatchbacks that will replace the Satria in Australia sometime before the end of the first quarter of next year.

The former is expected to be a sub-$15,000 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine Hyundai Getz rival, while the TRM is believed to be built on a shortened Gen.2 platform and powered by its 1.6-litre CamPro motor.

In its October 2004 statement of intent, Proton described the VW tie-up as an opportunity to "establish a long-term partnership which allows each party to exploit the strengths of the other."

Origins of VW passenger cars

Fox - Brazil
Polo hatch - South Africa
Polo Classic - China
Golf - South Africa
Bora - Germany
Bora (2006-) - Mexico
Passat - Germany
Touareg - Slovak Republic
New Beetle - Mexico
Phaeton - Germany
Caddy - Poland
Kombi - Poland
Transporter van - Germany
Transporter C/C - Poland
Multivan - Germany

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