EHRA, Germany - Volkswagen AG plans to sell 100,000 sport-utilities annually and is studying another all-American vehicle, the pickup.
The sport-utility is being developed jointly with Porsche for the 2002 model year. Internally, Volkswagen is calling it the Colorado.
Volkswagen wants to sell 100,000 sport-utilities annually, and Porsche 20,000.
Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech and his top executives discussed some product plans with automotive reporters here July 23 at the company's test track near Wolfsburg.
The Colorado will have unibody construction, rather than body on frame, and will compete in the upper end of its segment, Piech said.
A Volkswagen pickup appeals to Piech. He often uses an extended-cab pickup on the weekends to take his children bicycling.
Piech would like to see a Volkswagen pickup that would have the comfort of a luxury car but still could meet the payload demands of a work truck.
Europeans are becoming increasingly interested in pickups, he said. But Europeans would want more comfort than the harsh-riding pickups now so popular in the United States, Piech said.
'I have not yet found a pickup with a nice ride like a car from your market,' he said. 'I personally prefer this type of blue-jeans truck you can take to the opera as well as bicycling.'
Volkswagen might be able to use the sport-utility platform for a pickup, Piech said.
Volkswagen also wants to buy a heavy-truck and bus manufacturer.
'We have heavy trucks in Brazil,' he said. 'They are not very modern. They are right for the Brazilian market, but not good enough to export into North America or Europe.'
HIGH WATER MARK
With sales mounting in the United States and Canada, Volkswagen AG is paying more attention to the needs of Volkswagen of America.
Two more New Beetle models appear likely, as does a more powerful, upscale Passat.
With the New Beetle and the redesigned Passat and Jetta, Volkswagen of America has come roaring back in just five years.
Gerd Klauss, president of Volkswagen of America, and other executives are not afraid to mention 1970, Volkswagen's high water mark in the United States when it sold 569,182 vehicles.
Volkswagen of America projects that it will sell at least 280,000 cars in the United States during 1999, which would be a 28.5 percent increase from 1998, 'and honestly, there's a lot of upward potential in that figure,' Klauss said. During 1998, Volkswagen sold 217,937 cars in the United States.
'One could say we are halfway to our U.S. all-time record,' Klauss said.
Volkswagen of America has hot product right now, and not just the New Beetle. The Jetta, redesigned for the 1999 model year, had record sales in June. Its Passat sedan, redesigned for the 1998 model year, was Consumer Reports' top-ranked family sedan this year.
The company is not yet done with the Passat. A more powerful 'S' version, or Passat Plus, is in the works with an eight- or 12-cylinder engine.
'To move upmarket is one of our strategies, and that's why the Passat is really an important element in this whole range,' said Jens Neumann, a Volkswagen AG board member in charge of group strategy. 'We will be selling in North America 80,000 Passats this year. This is quite an upturn.'
Volkswagen sold 32,938 Passats in the United States alone during the first half of this year.
Also being considered is a small minivan, reminiscent of the old VW van, Piech said.
It appears likely that Volkswagen of America will get its convertible New Beetle.
The Volkswagen AG board of management met July 26 at company headquarters in Wolfsburg to evaluate designs for a New Beetle convertible. Volkswagen said it would make an announcement concerning the convertible at the Frankfurt auto show in September.
'We want the cabrio very badly to keep the New Beetle young and fresh,' Klauss said. 'A cabrio in two years would be wonderful. It's almost a must in America.'
Klauss would like 20,000 to 30,000 convertibles a year.
'We are evaluating prototypes now,' Neumann said. 'We are really driving for the New Beetle cabrio.'
The convertible most likely would be produced in Volkswagen's plant in Puebla, Mexico, where the New Beetle, Jetta and Golf Cabrio now are assembled.
Piech said the New Beetle has appealed more to Americans than Europeans and a convertible also would be directed at the United States.
Volkswagen also is developing the Rsi, a more powerful New Beetle with a V-6 engine and considerable spoiler. Piech showed journalists a prototype here with a 220-hp V-6.
Piech said the production V-6 would generate 225 hp.