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New VW bosses plot future model mania

Rrrr: Passat R36 will make its local debut at October's Sydney motor show.

Reshuffled Volkswagen Group management to decide on two-year new model rollout

13 Feb 2007

FRESH from announcing a two-fold increase in income for 2006 following booming sales from its Audi and Skoda brands, Volkswagen’s new global management team will this month sign off on key new models to be launched over the next two years.

Having sold more than 21,000 vehicles for the first time since the 1960s, the Australian arm of Europe’s largest car-maker is also expected to officially announce the local reintroduction of Volkswagen’s Czech-based family brand Skoda on Thursday, as revealed exclusively by GoAuto last September.

Appointed by Volkswagen Group chairman Ferdinand Piech to replace Bernd Pischetsrieder as Volkswagen AG chief executive officer from this year, former head of Audi, Martin Winterkorn, is on record as saying he intends to fill "lucrative market niches" with all-new models as excess production capacity is reduced in a bid to increase profit.

As announced on February 20, Volkswagen Group’s net 2006 income more than doubled thanks to strong sales of the budget Skoda brand’s new Roomster MPV in Europe and its Audi luxury subsidiary’s new Q7 SUV in the US, where Audi posted its first profit in five years. Globally, Audi has posted record profits for five years while the VW brand has lost money.

The Volkswagen Group’s net 2006 earnings were 2.75 billion euro – up from 1.12 billion euro in 2005 – following a 12 per cent increase in sales to 104.9 billion euro and a healthy tax gain.

The VW Group’s worldwide sales rose 9.4 per cent last year to 5.7 million vehicles, including 550,000 Skodas and 905,000 Audis – representing the 13th consecutive annual sales record for VW’s luxury car division.

With an ageing model line-up and a lack of new models this year, Volkswagen will rely on Audi’s new TT coupe and roadster and Skoda’s redesigned Fabia small hatch, which emerged in production guise at last week’s Geneva motor show and is expected to headline the VW budget brand’s revival Down Under, to further increase revenue in 2007.

Apart from a number of new VW model variants due here this year, it appears everything is now open for discussion by Volkswagen AG’s new Supervisory Board (equivalent to a board of directors).

"The Volkswagen brand is far from tapping its full potential," Mr Winterkorn told employees in a letter following his appointment.

Aside from completing a reorganisation that will eliminate 20,000 factory jobs – or 20 per cent of the VW brand’s West Garman workforce – Mr Winterkorn’s new management team is this month expected to decide the future of a number of all-new Volkswagen-branded models developed by axed VW brand boss Wolfgang Bernhard and originally slated for launch in 2008.

3 center image Left: Golf GT TSI was launched at the 2005 Frankfurt motor show and is due here in May. They include a compact SUV (shown as the Beduin), a sports hatch (Scirocco concept) and a mini people-mover co-developed with DaimlerChrysler, but this month’s management meeting could also decide the fate of everything from the Phaeton limousine to a facelift for the Golf V hatch.

Volkswagen Group Australia has abandoned plans to introduce the facelifted version of VW’s controversial Phaeton this year, but remains determined to make available its replacement – if it’s approved by Mr Winterkorn.

While he is close to VW chairman Piech, who masterminded the unsuccessful Volkswagen flagship, it’s believed VGA failed in its bid to price-position the facelifted model against the likes of 5 Series and E-class, rather than similarly sized rivals like S-class and 7 Series.

Similarly, it seems a much-touted four-door Passat "coupe" to rival the Mercedes-Benz CLS lies in the hands of Mr Winterkorn.

Asked about its potential, VGA general manager marketing Peter Dierks told GoAuto the Passat coupe could be nobbled to protect sister models from Audi.

"I don’t know. Of course there are rumours. We have seen a version of the car and it looks sensational. But its closeness to other models could be an issue." Mr Dierks said the Golf hatch facelift and the Golf Variant, also revealed at Geneva, will also be seen by VGA officials at this month’s management meeting.

"We’re just discussing the Golf Variant now – a comprehensive analysis is underway. The segment itself would offer reasonable (sales) volume, but at the price it would be sold...

"We’ll go to Europe in March to see the products for the next years and make a final decision then," he said.

In the short-term, VGA will introduce the Golf GT variant in May, powered by a 125kW/240Nm supercharged and turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine dubbed the TSI Twincharger. It will be positioned between Golf’s Sportline and GTI variants, priced at about $36,000.

VGA says the much publicised stock shortages, which last year saw some disgruntled customers wait up to nine months for delivery, of the latter are now resolved - so much so that a three-door bodystyle quietly joined the Golf GTI range in October and will be the subject of Golf’s first advertising campaign to boost awareness from the second half of 2007.

Finally, while there won’t be GTI or R-badged versions of this month’s all-new Eos coupe-convertible, VGA will this year launch two new R-badged performance flagships, for its Touareg SUV and Passat ranges.

Latest betting is for the yet-to-appear Touareg R50 to employ a more powerful, cleaner-burning version of the 4.9-litre V10 TDI turbo-diesel that powers the facelifted MY2007 Touareg flagship ($121,990).

Expect the circa-$65,000 Passat R36 sedan and wagon’s 225kW 3.6-litre direct-injection FSI V6, mated to a six-speed DSG transmission and all-wheel drive, to power next year’s facelifted Golf R36, too.

What’s coming from Volkswagen:

Eos coupe-convertible – March
Golf GT variant – May
Touareg R50 variant – October
Passat R36 sedan/wagon variants – October

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