Q&A: VW commercial vehicle chief optimistic for 2004

Hannover. Volkswagen Nutzfahrzeuge (VWN), VW's commercial vehicles division, is aiming to totally renew its model range by 2006. Bernd Wiedemann, VWN head, talked to Automobilwoche about the division's priorities, its planned product offensive and his forecast for the next year.

Q: Despite the difficult Brazilian market, VW Commercial Vehicles has recently made enormous progress in the country. How do you explain that?

A: The Brazilian market is currently very buoyant. Many of our competitors are trying to beat each other with special sales offers. But we don't want to be part of that. From the very beginning, VW's aim was to offer robust trucks and buses at competitive prices. This strategy is now paying off. On top of that the Consorcio Modular system has given us production flexibility.

Q: Why don't you have any plans to export VW products made in the Brazilian plant of Resende to Europe?

A: The technological conversion would not really be a problem but the North European markets are not really demand-orientated. Most sellers have trouble surviving. We are currently not planning to go in that direction.

Q: Yet VW Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder talks of the necessity of having a wide range of commercial vehicles. Are you intending to start a joint venture with MAN or become even more involved with Scania?

A: I do not want to comment on such speculation. Let me just say this: we are in no way under pressure to act.

Q: The new T5 series is of great importance to the VWN plants in Hannover and Posen. Are you happy with the production start-up?

A: Of course there is always room for improvement. However, dealers and customers' positive reaction gives us hope that we will outdo the success of the T4 predecessor.

Q: And what about the new VW city van?

A: The project is going according to plan. The commercial van will be launched at the beginning of 2004. By using Golf V and Touran modules we can make use of the advantages of a VW large-scale production for the first time. The van's share of identical components lies at more than 50 percent.

Q: Will it be called "Caddy" again?

A: We have not yet made a decision regarding a name for the new van.

Q: What are your expectations for 2003 - and what are your hopes for 2004?

A: Even if the IAA creates more interest for our products, it will only have an effect on orders in the last quarter. Therefore we are already focusing more on next year. We are really optimistic for 2004.