Strong start for the Astra

VW dealers want further price breaks for Golf

Ruesselsheim. The new Opel Astra, which will be on sale in Germany from March 19, seems to be selling better than expected.

"The number of orders is significantly higher than the forecast. We have received more than 30,000 definite orders for the Astra, 10,000 of which come from Germany," Opel boss Carl-Peter Forster told Automobilwoche.

Opel insiders said that the automaker receives 300 orders per day in Germany alone. Orders for the whole Opel model range improved by 15 percent at the end of February in comparison to the same period in 2003.

VW received 33,670 orders for the Golf V before it went on sale on November 17 last year.

Currently 650 new Golfs are being ordered every day. Before VW offered the incentive of free air conditioning, VW only received 350 orders for the new Golf per day.

Opel dealers are pleased by the Astra's good start.

"We haven't sold that many cars before a market launch since the Calibra. The number of visitors in our showrooms has quadrupled during the last quarter," said Thomas Bieling, spokesman for the Opel dealer association.

Although VW dealers have noticed an increase in demand for the Golf since February they continue to press for further price reductions.

"Our order situation has improved significantly. We are no longer nervous about it," said Georg Flandorfer, VW sales coordinator for Germany.

Executives at VW's headquarters have started to change their views.

"Maybe we didn't listen enough to our customers and dealers," said Flandorfer.

He the price of the Golf, which, at its sales launch, was 2,000 euros higher than that of the Astra, was "courageous, maybe a little too courageous."

"VW needs to "realize that we are a high volume manufacturer competing with Opel and Fiat," added Flandorfer.

Opel has no new plans for discounting the Astra.

"We will not jeopardize the resale value through additional incentives," said sales boss Uhland Burkart.

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