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VW Group homes in on 60,000 sales

For our next trick: The Volkswagen Up city car is set to help propel VW sales to yet another sales milestone this year.

It’s all Up for Volkswagen and Skoda as the German importer’s sales soar 30 per cent

Volkswagen logo28 Aug 2012

AUSTRALIA’S fastest-growing mainstream automotive company has predicted a record 60,000 sales across its Volkswagen and Skoda brands this year – up 30 per cent on last year.

And with an all-new generation of its top-selling Golf, the ground-breaking Up city car and the latest Beetle all waiting in the wings, Volkswagen Group Australia is not expecting its sales battlewagon to stall any time soon.

“I have to say, it could not be better,” VGA managing director Anke Koeckler told journalists in Melbourne today when announcing equipment upgrades for the VW flagship Touareg SUV and mid-size Passat sedan and wagon.

“When we started the year with you, we could not expect again such a big … huge step forward.

“We are very happy so far, and hopefully we can keep the track.

“I think there is probably actually nothing to stop us this year, only the economy coming down.

“However, the Australian economy is doing quite well, and what is happening in Europe might not have an affect here this year.”

With the Volkswagen brand currently ranked eighth in the Australian sales charts, the Sydney-based importer has special status in the German giant’s global empire, singled out as a growth market with extra bargaining power with the factory on both price and production volumes.

To the end of July, Volkswagen brand sales are up 29.2 per cent, to 30,930 – more than what the company sold in an entire year three years ago.

Skoda sales are up a dramatic 90 per cent, to 2224 vehicles so far this year, on top of 111 per cent growth in 2011.

 center imageFrom top: Volkswagen Australia managing director Anke Koeckler Volkswagen Passat Alltrack Golf.

Volkswagen-branded vehicles have secured almost five per cent of Australian vehicle sales this year – up 0.7 percentage points – while Skoda now has 0.4 per cent share (up 0.15).

VGA is only weeks away from launching its latest ground-up light-car model, the Up, fresh from collecting the 2012 European Car of the Year trophy.

The first shipment of Up three- and five-door hatchbacks have already landed in Australia and, according to Ms Koeckler, are “looking gorgeous”.

At least one of the cars is running around Sydney as VW staff familiarise themselves with the new model that will sit below Polo in the range.

Although VGA is not ready to talk specifics, the Up – powered by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine – is expected to land locally with a sub-$16,000 price tag, at least for the three-door.

The Up – VW’s 20th nameplate in its burgeoning Australian range – will be followed into showrooms by the Passat Alltrack crossover wagon in November.

Such is the new-model activity in the VW realm that the company has chosen to delay the all-new Beetle from its scheduled launch date in December until it can get clear air in February.

Ms Koeckler said it would have launched with restricted stocks if it had gone ahead with the pre-Christmas launch anyway, so it suited the company to wait.

“But the Beetle is not about volume, it is about the brand,” she said, saying it was the iconic car of the VW range.

Again built on the Golf platform, the Beetle will be imported from Mexico, which is the only VW site building the new ‘Bug’.

The Beetle will be the warm-up act for VW’s biggest launch of all – the seventh-generation Golf hatch that is about to revealed in Berlin next week ahead of a public debut at the Paris motor show on September 27.

The Australian debut has been confirmed for the second quarter of 2013, with special variants such as the GTI, Golf R and wagon to follow.

The new Golf will be built on the Volkswagen Group’s new MQB flexible small-car platform that will underpin a wide variety of vehicles across various marques in Europe’s biggest automotive conglomerate.

Starting with the new Audi A3, the platform will also extend to the Skoda range, eventually carrying four million vehicles a year by 2018.

Bigger in most dimensions than the current Golf, the new generation nevertheless will be substantially lighter and also lower, shaving fuel consumption.

Ms Koeckler said production for Europe would start later this year, with Australian stocks due to arrive in the third quarter of 2013.

The current Golf, which has been on the market locally since late 2009, is one of the few VW models to slip this year, down 10 per cent as it enters its twilight year.

Managing director of VGA for three years, Ms Koeckler usually avoids making public sales predictions for her company, instead famously running a competition among motoring journalists to predict VW’s annual tally, rather than making her own.

Today, however, she said she would make an exception and tip that VGA’s combined VW and Skoda sales should approach 60,000 in 2012.

“In 2009, we were still selling 30,000, and probably this year we might actually kick in almost double of 2009,” she said. “And that’s just happened in three years.”

Ms Koeckler said VGA was in a “healthy position” with vehicle supplies, despite the dramatic growth this year.

She said that, despite the pace, she was mindful that the company should not grow too fast, lest it cause problems.

“It is always a bit of a tricky situation to forecast the whole potential (for sales),” she said.

“As I have said before, I am better off one car short than one car plus.”

In recent years, VW has endured stock shortages of specific models in Australia, with long waiting lists for popular models such as the Polo GTI.

Ms Koeckler said that vehicle was now in stock in most dealerships, although a buyer might still have to wait for a specific variant.

Official VFACTS figures show Polo sales are only line-ball with 2011’s performance to the end of July.

Ms Koeckler said the Amarok ute had been a major success for VW, especially with the arrival of automatic and single-cab variants from the factory in Argentina, driving increased showroom traffic this month.

VW’s commercial vehicle division – treated in VGA as a separate brand to the passenger car/SUV operation – shifted 5181 vehicles in the first seven months of the year, up 81 per cent on the same period last year.

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