BARCELONA, Spain - Volkswagen AG's Spanish unit, Seat SA, will enter the fleet sector for the first time with its Toledo, which was launched in Spain in November.
But it will have to set realistic goals, particularly for Britain's fleet-dominated market, conceded Kevin Rose, Seat United Kingdom managing director.
'It is an area we have never been in, and we will have to be realistic,' he said.
'We do not want to be a big player, but we want to be accepted as an alternative. We have been working for the past 12 months with fleet and leasing companies building up the awareness of the Toledo, particularly in terms of residual values.'
The move into the business sector will be led by the 2.3-liter V-6 model.
The Toledo engine range starts at 1.6 liters, and this is where the automaker sees the majority of its sales in the domestic Spanish market, as well as other European markets.
Seat will build 100,000 Toledos a year. After the car is introduced in Spain, it will be launched in Belgium, France and Germany, then in other left-hand-drive markets.
Right-hand-drive models should reach Britain and Ireland in April 1999.
Seat expects its 120 British dealers to sell 4,000 vehicles in the first year, doubling that in a full year.
Rose said he plans to add 20 dealers.
'In the United Kingdom, we have a relatively young network, and we want to help them grow and improve profitability,' he said.
'Expanding the reach of the new Toledo is key to that, as it will be across all European markets.'
VW's Skoda Auto AS subsidiary, meanwhile, is finding it tough going in Russia and Ukraine, where it has been the best-selling imported brand for a number of years.
The downturn in the economy and the improved quality that has seen Skoda prices gradually rise have brought sales almost to a complete standstill.
VW AG board member Wilfried Bockelmann said Skoda is adjusting its sales forecasts downward in the region to around 400,000 vehicles.