VW Nutzfahrzeuge starts price offensive to speed up turnaround

Hanover, Germany. To attract a wider range of customers, Volkswagen AG's Nutzfahrzeuge commercial vehicles brand (VWN) will launch a range of low-cost models.

VWN brand director Bernd Wiedemann told Automobilwoche, "We want to attract customers who were not part of our target group, more than ever."

The VW group's management board wants to quickly improve business at VWN. After it lost 134 million euros over six months, VW boss Bernd Pischetsrieder called the subsidiary's situation a disaster and demanded that things be put right.

VWN has added a Caravelle van, which is based on the T5 commercial truck series. The price for the minibus with between five and seven seats will start at 29,383 euros. It should attract target groups such as hotel chains for which the more upmarket T5 multivan is too expensive (starting at 33,344 euros) and the Shuttle van (starting at 28,002 euros) is too austerely equipped.

The new version of the Caddy city van will also soon be available in a cheaper version. Since that version is not fitted with the expensive sliding door system, it weighs less, which means it can be equipped with less expensive tires. It costs 11,945 euros, which is 500 euros less than the previous basic model.

"This is an important incentive not only for very price conscious small businesses," said Wiedemann.

After many potential buyers complained about the high basic price of the California mobile home (starting at 39,620 euros) VWN decided to introduce a basic model called Tramper at the end of 2005. The target price is less than 30,000 euros.

Folker Weissgerber ,VW's head of production , plays a key role in turning things around at VWN. That, he says, "has total priority for us."

In his role as promoter of VW's "ForMotion" austerity program Weissgerber is responsible for the commercial vehicle business. He sent pilot series experts and paint experts from the Wolfsburg, Emden and Mosel VW plants to the VWN main plant in Hanover to act as technical advisers.

In addition, advisers from Porsche Consulting are looking at ways to optimize assembly processes.

Said Wiedemann, "We hope to manage a turnaround in 2005."

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