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VW Australia future-proofs new HQ

And more to come: VW Group Australia's new Sydney head office has hidden empty office space and foundations for another storey.

Hidden expansion groundwork in new Volkwagen head office points to big ambitions

Volkswagen logo25 Jan 2012

VOLKSWAGEN Group Australia’s ambitions to continue its run as Australia’s fastest-growing mainstream motor company have been revealed in its new $40 million-plus national headquarters at Chullora, in Sydney’s west.

But the extent of the planning for growth is hidden behind the shiny two-storey façade of the building that houses the headquarters for Volkswagen cars, Volkswagen commercial vehicles, Skoda, Bentley and VW Financial Services.

Out of sight of visitors in the recently completed building is a dormant office area, sealed behind a temporary wall that can be quickly torn down to extend space for an enlarged operation, while under the building, foundations to support another storey are already in place.

In the huge parts warehouse at the rear of the complex, only 60 per cent of the racks are full – carrying 47,000 parts lines – with the remainder awaiting parts for future models, not just from VW, Skoda and Bentley but also Audi, the luxury arm of Volkswagen Group that is run separately in Australia.

Approval for the new building was given in 2007 by VW chiefs in Wolfsburg, Germany, in line with their identification of Australia as one of 22 markets around the world ripe for significant growth by VW and its subsidiaries such as Skoda.

As VW Group Australia managing director Anke Koeckler told journalists on a tour of the new HQ this week: “We are ready for some big things to come.”

 center imageLeft: Volkswagen Group Australia managing director Anke Koeckler.

The state-of-the-art facility replaces three separate premises spread across Sydney, including the previous Botany head office that Ms Koeckler said was bursting at the seams.

“Our success here in Australia has resulted in an increased need for staff, space, technology and equipment – necessities that our previous offices and warehouse could not adequately provide,” she said.

“At Botany we simply ran out of space. We have been growing at a rapid pace in recent years and we have been increasing our staff number, while also growing our dealer network and parts and accessories business.

“In 2011 alone we expanded our product range with 13 models and 2012 is also going to be a busy year.

“We believe we have the right products for the Australian market to continue our growth plans.

“This new office at Chullora provides our staff and dealers with the best facilities to ensure our customers are receiving the best service possible.” Sales of Volkswagen Group vehicles in Australia have grown almost five fold in a decade, from 10,133 units in 2001 to 48,242 last year, while staffing has soared from 40 to 150, with a further 20 to 30 people to be added in 2012.

Sales of Volkswagen-badged vehicles last year leapt ahead of both Honda and Subaru to take eighth place on sales leadership ladder, rising 17.7 per cent – the biggest jump of any top 10 performer, against a market fall of 2.6 per cent.

VW passenger car sales grew 13 per cent, while VW commercial vehicle volumes soared 45 per cent, thanks mainly to the arrival of the company’s Amarok ute.

While coming off a smaller base, Skoda sales soared even more, up 112 per cent to 3501 units, mainly in the last few months of the year with the arrival of the Yeti compact SUV and Fabia light car.

Ms Koeckler declines to put a figure on a VW sales target for 2012, but concedes the company will find it difficult to match the growth rate of recent years and might fall to about half of the 2011 growth figure – still a significant rise in a market that many pundits expect to flat line.

“We probably can’t keep this speed up, but we will try our hardest to keep this momentum,” she said.

Ms Koeckler told GoAuto that sustainable growth was the company’s goal rather that quick growth.

VW’s next big lift in volume is expected to come at the end of this year with the arrival of the all-new entry-level Up mini car range, sitting below the current range starter, the Polo.

While VW Group is expanding its range and head office facilities, it is also growing its dealer network, adding 10 VW and 12 Skoda dealers in 2011, taking the combined network to 125 dealers – with more to come.

The new Chullora facility includes a huge technical training centre and workshop covering 4720 square metres, accommodating more than 250 people.

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