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VW shoots for 2011

New volks home: Volkswagen Group Australia's new headquarters in Chullora, NSW. Digital image: headquarters image courtesy of CIP Pty Ltd and Mark Walker Digital).

Volkswagen to add new models, dealers, staff as German giant reveals 2011 expansion

Volkswagen logo23 Nov 2010

By MARTON PETTENDY

VOLKSWAGEN Group Australia (VGA) will relocate to a larger new Sydney headquarters and expand both its staff and national dealer network by 25 per cent to support the release of at least one new model every month next year.

The German giant’s ambitious new expansion plan, revealed exclusively to GoAuto this week, follows the Volkswagen Group’s announcement last Friday that it will invest €51.6 billion ($A71.2b) in its automotive division over the next five years.

To be located in the western Sydney suburb of Chullora, Volkswagen’s new Australian HQ will consolidate three separate VGA facilities in Australia’s largest city, including the current head office and training centre at Botany, and its distribution warehouse in Alexandria.

The VGA parts centre will remain at Homebush and although the company has not revealed the cost of relocating its other business functions to its new leased premises at Chullora, the wholly owned Volkswagen AG subsidiary expects the multi-million-dollar move to bring significant improvements in efficiency and productivity.

 center imageFrom top: Volkswagen Group Australia managing director Anke Koeckler with the new Polo GTI, Volkswagen Caddy, Volkswagen Amarok, Volkswagen Touareg, Volkswagen Passat, Volkswagen Eos, Volkswagen Jetta.

Volkswagen’s commercial vehicle division as well as its financial services arm, Skoda Group Australia and Bentley’s local operations will make the move to Chullora alongside Volkswagen’s passenger car business, but at this stage there is no plan for the HQs of Volkswagen’s other brands – including Melbourne-based Porsche Cars Australia and the independent Lamborghini distributor – to relocate.

Nor will it include VW’s prestige brand Audi, also run through an independent distributor which last year opened its own new $50 million Australian headquarters and flagship dealership, dubbed the Lighthouse, in Sydney.

While the new VGA HQ is currently under construction and will be completed by the end of 2011, the company will from next week seek an additional 30 staff for immediate employment at both Chullora and Homebush, bringing VGA’s total headcount to about 140.

“We are really on track for good results in the future,” said VGA managing director Anke Koeckler. “We have introduced many new products and have many more to come, so we have developed a new strategic thinking in terms of future growth.

“Apart from a lot of new products coming from Volkswagen Group Australia in 2011, there will be growth in two other main areas.

“On the one side we will invest in both staff and facilities and that means we have right now 110 people and we would like to add 30 people in order to make sure that we have also the room for growth for the future.

“As you probably know right now we have four locations and we are looking right now to employ them in both the new head office and at our parts centre in Homebush.

“We decided in August and right now we are starting to have actually a new head office in the western part of Sydney at Chullora. It will be the new headquarters for Volkswagen Group Australia, which is great news for Volkswagen, for Sydney and for our customers.

“Our biggest aim is to consolidate our four separate locations, including the parts centre, the workshop and our learning centre for technical and non-tech training, all together at head office, in order to have more efficient and more productive systems in place by the end of next year.”

The first of 13 new VGA models to come over the next 14 months will be launched this week in the new Polo GTI, while Volkswagen’s new Caddy will go on sale early next month.

Including models from its Czech-based sister brand Skoda, Volkswagen – which exceeded its Australian annual sales record of 30,087, set in 2009, after just 10 months of this year – will introduce 13 new models in 2011, starting with the all-new Amarok dual-cab with which it will compete in the booming utility segment for the first time.

Also confirmed for local release in the first half of next year are redesigned Touareg SUV and mid-size Passat (sedan and wagon) models plus the frugal new Golf BlueMotion, followed in the second half by the facelifted Eos coupe-convertible, new Jetta sedan, all-new Golf Cabriolet and further Amarok derivatives, likely to include single-cab and automatic variants.

Meantime, Skoda will kick off the year with an automatic version of its Octavia Scout crossover, and also plans to launch the Yeti compact SUV and Fabia light car by year’s end.

“A lot of products are coming and to be honest I don’t know where to start,” said Ms Koeckler. “We are starting this week with the Polo GTI on Friday and this year we will conclude in the beginning of December with the Caddy.

“Then next year from January every month we will have a new product. We have so many new products to talk about next year that our people and you guys will be so busy that we have to make sure we manage it carefully.”

To support the influx of new models, VGA will grow its dealer network from a current 80 dealers to between 100 and 105 by the end of 2011 – about 75 of which will also be Volkswagen Commercial retailers – while Skoda outlets will increase from 25 to about 30 for a total of about 120 dealers.

VGA is yet to reveal the location of the additional dealers it has planned for 2011, but says it is already well represented in the major metropolitan areas and has confirmed most new dealerships will be positioned in large regional areas that will be well suited to delivering the Amarok to new rural customers.

“We have right now about 80 dealers and we are planning on expanding that to between 100 and 105 in the very near future,” said Ms Koeckler. “This is one of our main pillars. On the one side is the product and on the other side we are investing a lot in our brand and then it comes to our dealers.

“Most new dealers will be rural. We are already well established in the big cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, but for the future the (extra) 20 to 25 dealers are looking mainly at rural areas, to make sure we have the coverage there, for which we will have suitable product.”

So far this year Volkswagen has sold 31,842 vehicles in Australia – up 25.6 per cent on 2009 figures, making it the fastest growing top-10 brand behind Hyundai in 2010 – and looks on target to set a brand record of more than 35,000 sales.

Meantime, the fledgling Skoda brand has sold 1360 cars – up 45.6 per cent. The current Touareg – production of which ended in March – is the only VW Group model to experience a significant sales decline this year (down 48 per cent).

Volkswagen AG raised industry eyebrows when Europe’s largest car-maker announced plans earlier this year to become the world’s top-selling automotive manufacturer by 2018.

In Australia, Volkswagen remains the 10th biggest vehicle brand with a market share of 3.7 per cent. Ms Koeckler would not reveal the company’s short- or long-term sales or market share targets, but said VW’s global ambitions would not be echoed in Australia – at least for now.

Of course, the rest of Australia’s top 10 automotive brands also have ambitious business plans, only some of which have been made public.

As GoAuto reported last week, Toyota aims to increase its slimmer market share this year to 25 per cent in the mid-term, while Nissan aims to clinch the title of top importer currently held by Mazda, with both brands hoping to snare 10 per cent of the market by 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Eighth-placed Honda was gunning for a reversal of fortunes to return to 50,000 sales this year, while Volkswagen’s nearest rival – Subaru – has delivered 33,907 vehicles so far in 2010 (up 11.1 per cent) for a share of 3.9 per cent.

“No, I will not do that (stake Volkswagen’s claim to market leadership in Australia),” said Ms Koeckler.

“The strategy of the Volkswagen Group is to become number one worldwide by 2018. But we are also aiming to have sustainable growth in the future and in order to do that we are not aiming to jump from one year to another.

“We can improve our position without doubt and you can imagine in that November and December of course we are not stopping selling cars, so we will for sure exceed our last year figure by a considerable margin, but we are not putting a figure on it.

“Amarok is one of the main volume pillars in Australia and contains many new customers that right now don’t consider VW, so there is a big opportunity for us as a brand going forward (next year), which gives us a lot of confidence for the future.

“(But) I can’t tell you the figures because I read right now articles from my colleagues and there is the impression that the cake is always getting bigger and there is no more cake than 100 per cent.

“I can give you a conservative estimate and that is to be better than this year. To talk about figures is difficult because we’re not the only one in the market – there are so many other colleagues who all want to increase their sales and market share and it has to come from somewhere.”

Announcing his company’s multi-billion-dollar five-year investment plan – including a new US plant to come on stream in 2011 – in Wolfsburg on Friday, Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn said a further €10.6 billion ($A14.6b) would be invested by VW’s Chinese joint-venture partners.

“We want to make Volkswagen the world’s most future-proof automotive group,” he said. “The Volkswagen Group will help shape the technological turning point in key areas of the automotive industry and, to do this, will continue investing in environmentally friendly technologies, efficient drives and new models.

“We are systematically pursuing the goals of our Strategy 2018 to further increase our profitability and to make Volkswagen the world’s most future-proof automotive group. The investment program we have now resolved will play a significant role in this.

‘These investments underline Volkswagen’s goal of becoming the leading automobile manufacturer for its customers, employees and shareholders, because our investments are aimed precisely at these three groups.”

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