Volkswagen of America Inc. has slashed the price of its slow-moving EuroVan by 16 percent as it sets its sites on the U.S. light-truck market.
The 2001 EuroVan, scheduled to go on sale in March, will have a suggested retail price of $26,790, which includes a $590 destination charge. That is down from the $31,890 suggested retail price of the 2000 EuroVan GLS model.
VW knew it had to do something drastic with the EuroVan to jumpstart anemic sales in the United States. The automaker's comeback here has been accomplished without help from light trucks. The company sold only 2,714 EuroVans in the United States during 2000.
'Space is its biggest attribute,' said Gerd Klauss, president of Volkswagen of America. 'It doesn't have the dual sliding doors, but boy, if you want space, the EuroVan has it. But these days nobody pays $33,000 for a minivan. They pay around $25,000.'
Dealers have long felt they could sell more EuroVans if the minivan had more power and was priced more realistically for the U.S. market.
The 2001 model not only will feature the lower price, but also a 44 percent improvement in horsepower. The EuroVan's 2.8-liter six-cylinder engine has been modified to generate 201 hp, up from 140 hp in the 2000 model. The 2001 EuroVan also will become the first VW model to get ESP, the electronic stabilization program used extensively by Audi.
VW wants to sell 5,000 EuroVans this year and 10,000 during 2002.
Al Gossett, owner of Gossett Motor Cars in Memphis, Tenn., and chairman of the Volkswagen Dealer Advisory Council, said dealers expect to sell about 3,500 EuroVans in 2000. As advertising cranks up, he said, dealers will have a shot at meeting the sales target of 10,000 in 2002.
'The vehicle is now priced right,' Gossett said. With the added content and lower price, the only remaining task is to get the message out, he said.
The EuroVan price cut precedes the arrival of the VW sport-utility, code-named Colorado, expected in the fall of 2002 as a 2003 model.
'Before the SUV comes, we decided to enrich the portfolio first with what we have,' Klauss said. 'And then who knows what we do with (the Microbus concept, which was unveiled in Detroit in January) and all of its possible derivatives.'
Dealers are screaming, 'We want the Microbus now, now, now,' Gossett said. 'If they price it right, we could sell 70,000 to 80,000.'