It hasn't taken long for Wolfgang Bernhard to make his presence felt at Volkswagen. In just six weeks on the job, he is well into an aggressive cost-cutting program.
It seems like deja vu all over again. Finding ways to cut costs was one of the first things Bernhard did when he arrived at the Chrysler group, 4½ years ago. He was so good at cutting that he alienated a lot of suppliers, especially those who had profited under Chrysler Corp.'s SCORE program, which Bernhard told me nearly killed the company.
The other big thing Bernhard did in Auburn Hills was inspire development of great products. DaimlerChrysler is still reaping the benefits of the work Bernhard did alongside Chrysler group CEO Dieter Zetsche, with products such as the Chrysler 300, which has transformed the venerable Chrysler brand.
Now Bernhard is doing both in Wolfsburg, alongside VW group CEO Bernd Pischetsreider. They're paying particular attention to developing a low-cost "world car," according to Automobilwoche, our German-language sister publication.
Code named the 3-K, VW plans to produce and sell the entry-level four-door car in emerging markets beginning in 2008.
While not as sexy as a Chrysler 300 C with a Hemi engine, the 3-K could be just as significant in helping restore the "people's car" image to the VW brand.
If VW gets the entry-level vehicle and the price right, it could mean almost as much to the brand as the original Beetle.
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