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VW Australia open to more Up variants

Hot Up: On the agenda for future expansion of the Volkswagen Up range is the sporty GT variant.

Simple Up launch line-up not necessarily the shape of things to come from VW Oz

24 Sep 2012

VOLKSWAGEN Group Australia is not averse to introducing more variants of its Up micro car in future, expanding on the simple range launched here last week.

Speaking at the recent Australian Up media launch, Volkswagen Group Australia managing director Anke Koeckler revealed that it is “not our general thinking right now that we want to have only the one model”.

The Up is available overseas with a choice of two engines and a number of specification grades, whereas the Australian range comprises a single specification across three- and five-door bodystyles, a handful of options and only the more powerful 55kW/95Nm engine matched exclusively to a manual gearbox.

“For the Up right now we have one level but we never know what is happening in the future,” said Ms Koeckler, who described the single specification as “the best fit to start launching the Up here”.

She hinted that expansion of the Up range could go beyond different engine and trim combinations by referring to the Up-based concepts Volkswagen unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show a year ago, including the SUV-like Cross Up, electric e-Up, sporty Up GT and even a beach buggy.

“The product life-cycle will be starting on October 6 when we go on sale (in Australia) but we have different alternatives we presented at last year’s Frankfurt motor show,” said Ms Koeckler.

3 center imageFrom top: Volkswagen Group Australia's Anke Koeckler Volkswagen Buggy Up and e-Up.

“There is an eUp, there is an Up GT, there is an Up buggy and probably a lot of other ideas the coming from the engineers and it is for us once a year to look into and then decide whether to bring another option.”

However it is early days for the Up and the emerging sub-light segment it occupies – or as VW would have it, defines – so the company was reticent to over-complicate things initially, for customers and dealers alike.

“With a segment of 10,000 or 12,000 we don’t want to bring too many complexities into the segment,” said Ms Koeckler. “Let’s bring the car and then look at the further potential.”

Volkswagen is not expecting the Up to be a “huge volume booster overnight” but Ms Koeckler believes the company is well positioned as “one of the first movers” in the sub-light segment that she predicts will grow “significantly” in the next three years in terms of sales and choice.

“Others are coming and joining us. In the fourth quarter there is a new (competitor) car coming and next year I expect some other brands coming in with some alternatives.

“I know that other European and also Korean (brands) are looking into this segment and are looking to how we succeed with the Volkswagen Up because it is always a challenge to bring those cars into the market if you want to meet all your requirements (of safety, fuel efficiency and affordability).”

Forthcoming additions to this price-sensitive segment include the new Mitsubishi Mirage (expected in January 2013) and Skoda Citigo (likely here by mid 2013), while Kia Australia is keen to bring the pint-sized Picanto here if it can make a sound business case.

Describing the Up as a benchmark car in the sub-light segment, Ms Koeckler predicted an acceleration in the downsizing trend among buyers due to the increase in choice, quality and capability of smaller vehicles.

She said launching the Up was “a huge opportunity to target this changing mindset”.

“There is a significant downsizing effect and if you also take into account behaviours and attitudes... large cars are losing importance and other cars like light and sub-light are gaining much more importance.

“We can make a difference from my point of view and we can help the downsizing trend in the Australian market.”

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