Golf launch faces challenging deadlines

Wolfsburg. The fifth generation Golf is scheduled to be in dealer showrooms from October 17, but delays caused by strikes in Eastern Germany have put the target date into question. VW is relying on the Golf to pull it out of a sales trough.

Production is set to begin in early September in the Wolfsburg, Mosel and Brussels plants. The aim is to manufacture 130,000 units by the end of 2003. "This will be the fastest start-up we have ever had," a spokesperson for Wolfsburg and Mosel said.

However, the "very ambitious" schedule can not be confirmed yet due to delays caused by the strikes in the former East Germany. "We had a backlog in the production of the pilot lot, which is very important for tests and fine tuning," a manager said.

For the first time all sectors will work closely together during the countdown for the Golf. The "Golf core team" includes those responsible for design engineering, production, quality and sales, under the direction of project manager Werner Neubauer.

There are no spectacular changes to the look of the Golf. The differences from its predecessor are all within the guidelines set by VW boss Bernd Pischetsrieder: "A Golf must always look like a Golf." The main external changes are a larger emblem, a stronger-looking front, a sportier look and a slight similarity to the upmarket Phaeton, a strategy VW calls "sovereign dynamics."

The Golf has grown again. With a length of 4.2 meters the new model is 50 centimeters longer than the Golf I from 1974. The wheel base is 6.7 centimeters wider than the current model and the trunk has 17 liters more loading volume. Both five-door and three-door versions will be available from the start.

The number of technical highlights is limited. Like the Audi A3 the new Golf will have electromechanical power steering and multi-link rear suspension. But it will not have electronic shock absorber controls, which the new Opel Astra will boast when it goes on sale in April.

Four engines will be available to begin with: two direct injection gasoline engines with 75hp and 115hp respectively and two TDI engines (105hp/140hp). All comply with the Euro-4 norm. Later there will also be a SDI diesel engine with 75hp and three more gasoline engines with 90, 102 and 150hp. VW did not want to give out any details about prices, but said they would only rise marginally.

At a later date the Golf will have optional four-wheel drive. Diesel particle filters are not planned for the time being.

Further versions of the Golf are already planned. In 2004 the new Variant, which will have a significantly higher roof, will be launched. The Golf convertible will be available from spring 2006, for the first time with a metal folding hardtop. Group boss Pischetsrieder has not yet made a decision regarding the planned compact SUV based on the Golf platform.

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