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Diesel stop-sale forces VW Caddy rethink

Petrol power: The new-gen Volkswagen Caddy has arrived in Australia with more of a petrol focus than the old model.

A petrol auto focus opens up new opportunities for the bestselling VW Caddy

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Volkswagen logo17 Dec 2015

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

A DELAY in diesel-engine variants is presenting fresh market opportunities for the heavily revamped Volkswagen Caddy, ushering a new-to-series 1.4-litre turbo-petrol automatic drivetrain to take on the increasingly popular Renault Kangoo.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the Caddy and T6 Transporter ranges in Sydney, Volkswagen Group Australia Commercial Vehicles director Carlos Santos revealed that the new lower entry price points possible with the TSI variants should see the small van and people-mover range grow its market next year.

“It will be interesting to see what the petrol DSG (dual-clutch transmission) does… because it is priced right, and significantly cheaper than the diesel DSG,” he said.

“So that might eventually be the best-seller. The Kangoo (with a 1.6-litre/four-speed auto combo) is their best-seller. And Renault is the one that’s taken the most market share off us. If we look at what’s happened over the last 12 months, it’s probably the strongest competitor in this space.” However, while Mr Santos is confident that the TSI DSG from $28,990 plus on-roads will yield strong results, the TDI turbo-diesel DSG – with pricing yet to be confirmed, but the outgoing TDI250 DSG started from $30,350 – will most likely remain the star performer.

“Our strength is obviously the Caddy’s quality reputation and also having a diesel auto is a huge plus for us, especially in the long-wheelbase versions,” he revealed.

With the global emissions cheating scandal dictating a stop-sale of certain Volkswagen diesels, including all corresponding Caddy variants, it is not clear as to when the new TDIs will hit the market, but Mr Santos said he thinks it will be before the end of the first quarter of 2016.

“We won’t have a diesel in the market until the first part of the year, so we’ve changed our strategy to petrol,” he said. “So what that means is that we’ve changed all our ordering, for our mix, to bring in more petrol and to also sharpen the price points.

“Because we’ve got a petrol automatic for the first time, we’re probably going to go heavy on that, and that’s the best way to bridge the gap until we reintroduce the diesel. Which we were going to do anyway. But we need to maintain as much of the market share as we can in the short term.

“And I think we will have a flash for it sometime in February, but definitely by the first quarter.”

Early next year will also see the return of the well-received Caddy TSI160 Runner – a basic single-spec 1.2-litre turbo-petrol manual which, since 2012, has worked well as a cheap special edition luring in buyers seeking an inexpensive van.

However, while it will continue to build customer numbers incrementally, Mr Santos said most Caddy buyers will still opt for the more expensive but better-specified TDI DSG models. The latter accounts for about one-third of all Caddy volume, split evenly between short- and long-wheelbase variants.

“Runners will be quite popular because of its price point, and it gets that entry level buyer in,” he said. “But that car is only about 15 per cent of the mix, while we get about 30 per cent mix with the diesel DSG.

In terms of the Caddy people-mover, Mr Santos said he is confident that the new TSI DSG’s lower opening gambit compared to the preceding TDI DSG will also attract more and varied customers to the five-seater and Maxi seven-seater variants, but he conceded it will not be huge volume.

“With the people-mover, we have a better offering as well as a more competitive price offering,” he said. “And because we don’t really have a seven-seater in the passenger vehicle range, it gives us a bit of space to play in, a bit of free air. But I don’t think it will be huge volume, but it will be worthwhile.”

Despite the diesel stop-sale directive that effectively killed the outgoing Caddy in Australia in October, the Polish-built van and people-mover range retained its sales position to the end of November, with 1695 units (down 3.7 per cent over the same time in 2014) for a 46.1 per cent market share, compared with Kangoo’s 1071 (a sizeable 68.7 per cent) that equals a 29.2 per cent share.

The latter is more than double the figures recorded by the ageing Suzuki APV (494 units), followed by the Citroen Berlingo (280), and newcomer Fiat Doblo (124).

The van accounts for about four-fifths of overall Caddy sales.

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