VW gets 40,000 orders for new Golf during first weekend

Customers want more engine variety

Wolfsburg. Volkswagen's launch of its most important model featured a celebrity party in Berlin and an advertising blitz in every German city. In addition, VW dealers such as the Petermax Mueller firm in Hanover, Germany, had a tram pull a new silver Golf through the town on a trailer.

The hoopla paid off.

VW received roughly 40,000 orders for the fifth generation Golf Oct. 18-19, the car's first weekend on sale in Germany. That is about two-thirds of the total number of Golfs VW plans for the German market this year, said VW sales boss Detlef Wittig.

VW plans to build 135,000 new Golfs this year for the German market; 50,000 to 60,000 of those vehicles will become demonstration and showroom cars. The remaining 60,000 to 70,000 cars will be available to German customers.

VW missed out on some Golf sales due to "stock mistakes," dealers said. A large dealer in Stuttgart, for example, only had two demonstration Golfs in its showrooms. "We would have liked to have four vehicles available for test drives, but unfortunately the promised vehicle registration documents did not arrive in time," the company's sales management said.

That means the only versions of the new Golf available for a test drive at some dealers were the 1.9-liter TDI version and the 1.4-liter gasoline model with 75hp. The new Golfs were often parked right next to well-equipped versions of the car's predecessor that featured a special sale price of 14,600 euros.

Customers are unhappy that the new Golf version with an automatic direct shift gearbox (DSG) isn't available yet. VW said it will launch the Golf TDI DSG with 140hp during the second quarter of 2004. Customers also have to wait for engine versions such as the 1.6-liter with 102hp or the FSI with 150hp.

VW told customers early on they should not expect discounts for the Golf. The new dealer contracts for the Golf allow for a profit margin of 11 percent, leaving little room for discounts.

However, a source in sales said that the dealer association allowed its members a discount of 3 percent at launch. He believes that the percentage of the discount could increase a little bit more, adding that some long time customers might get as much as 9 percent off the new Golf.

A small dealer in Ludwigsburg, Germany, fears that the strict policy on discounts will cause customers to go to the competition.

"When an interested party asks how much the discount is, and if one is not able to offer 10 percent, then the customer will go straight to Opel," the sales boss said.

VW isn't worried. Due to the high demand for the Golf, the company's workers union agreed to run additional production shifts until the end of this year. A late shift on Saturday also is planned.

The aim is to produce 600,000 Golfs annually starting in 2004.