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Oz on the Up!

Family size: The Volkswagen Space Up! is one of a range of VW New Small Family cars that is set to go into production is two years.

New pint-sized VW model family to be aimed at a global city-car audience

18 May 2009


VOLKSWAGEN’S forthcoming New Small Family (NSF) of micro-cars, which has been previewed by the series of Up! concept vehicles, has joined the growing list of sub-light-sized models that might be sold in Australia.

Suzuki will be the first brand to dip its corporate toe in the mini-car vehicle segment for the first time in Australia, but a number of major brands will be closely watching the sales performance of the Japanese’s brand’s Indian-built Alto, which goes on sale here at a target starting price of around $13,000 from August.

They include Toyota, which is considering importing the four-seater iQ city-car, Holden, whose GM sister brand Chevrolet has already launched the new Spark hatch overseas, Ford, which has its second-generation Ka waiting in the wings, and Hyundai, which could import the i10 if the Alto proves popular.

Now Volkswagen appears to be the latest global automotive giant that is ready to rain on Suzuki’s pioneering sub-light parade, with confirmation that it too could import a production version of the Up! concept if the business case stacks up.

“We will consider any member of the New Small Family that could be positioned competitively in Australia,” said Volkswagen Group Australia media relations manager Karl Gehling this week.

3 center imageFrom top: Space Up! and Up! concepts (bottom).

Appearing together for the first time at the Bologna motor show in December 2007, the Up! model family has so far publicly comprised the four-seater Up! two-door “city specialist” (which debuted at Frankfurt that year), the four-door Space Up! “microvan with maximum variability” (Tokyo) and the Space Up! Blue, a zero-emissions fuel cell-powered electric vehicle concept that made its debut at the Los Angeles show.

Speaking at this week’s global launch of the fifth-generation Polo, which hits Australia in early 2010, VW Group product communications manager Christian Haacke confirmed the NSF is under intensive development ahead of a launch within two years.

“We are working on it, definitely,” he told GoAuto in Sardinia. “Of course, it will broaden the Volkswagen family.” Mr Haacke said that, contrary to recent speculation, the NSF model range would not be a sub-brand within the Volkswagen Group (the honour of becoming VW’s 10th brand is now almost certain to go to Porsche), but an all-new model line-up to be positioned below the bigger new Polo.

“It will not be a sub-brand but a sub-model … and since the Polo has turned into such a grown-up product we will need something to extend the range at the bottom.” He added the NSF program will produce vehicles for brands apart from Volkswagen – including Skoda and Seat – which would be sold globally.

“It not only covers the aspect that we will have a wide variety of derivatives like two-door, four-door and others, and also for different brands of the VW group, but also on all five continents.

“We’re aiming at a financially attractive product for the consumers.” Volkswagen last month inaugurated a factory in India that will produce a new Polo-based model for emerging markets, but on April 22 – 20 months after the first Up! concept debuted at Frankfurt – the German giant also confirmed it will produce the first fruit of the NSF project in Slovakia.

Representing a €308 million ($A555m) investment, Volkswagen said it would build three-door and five-door models based on the Up! concept at its Bratislava plant from early 2011.

“Our team at Volkswagen in Slovakia is ideally prepared to provide the flexibility required for the production of the New Small Family,” said Volkswagen AG chairman, professor Martin Winterkorn, late last month.

Volkswagen said in its production announcement that the decision would safeguard around 1500 jobs at Bratislava, which already produces vehicles for four VW brands.

Read more:

VW mini is on the way Up!

LA auto show: VW Up! goes Blue

First look: New low-cost VW aims to be ‘Smarter’

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