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VW Oz set to reject US Passat replacement

Sketchy: Volkswagen's ‘New Midsizer Model’ will be targeted at North America and is unlikely to replace the Passat in Australia.

Volkswagen's US midsizer to be launched in Detroit is not earmarked for Oz

7 Oct 2010

VOLKSWAGEN Group Australia (VGA) appears to be on the verge of rejecting the bigger ‘New Midsizer Model’ (NMS) Passat replacement built in North America, in favour of the smaller European Passat.

Speaking to the Australian media in Wolfsburg recently, VGA managing director Anke Koeckler said that, officially, the car was still under consideration.

But then she quickly cast doubt on the project, citing excessive model proliferation, and a relatively small midsized sedan market in Australia, as compelling reasons to stick with the next-generation European Passat instead of following the Americans with the larger, simpler and presumably cheaper version.

3 center imageLeft: Volkswagen NMS sketch. Below: Volkswagen MY2011 Passat.

“For Australia we have been very successful so far with the Jetta and Passat (twin strategy),” Ms Koeckler said. “So we are represented quite well in the (medium-sized) D-segment.

“So having a third model is too much in that segment – which is not going to increase, but (at best) stabilise, or even decrease (in Australia). So we have to be careful … so the new Passat is our first and main focus.

“And to launch an all-new car is having to invest in marketing, in parts etcetera, and so we have to make sure there would be considerable volume behind it. Otherwise it would not make sense (for Australia).” Further reducing the chances of the American car coming to Australia is the fact that – according to Volkswagen AG board member and product manager, Dr Ulrich Hackenberg – it has not been homologated or engineered for Australia.

“The American car is not made for Australia – not yet (anyway),” he said.

The eighth-generation ‘B8’ Passat – unveiled at this week’s Paris Motor Show and essentially a mild reskin of the previous version released in 2005 – is due in Australia in the middle of 2011 in sedan and wagon, as well as four-cylinder and V6 guises.

Before that, however, the North American International Auto Show is expected to be the launch venue for the American Passat. That is also when we will learn if it will stick with the Passat moniker.

To help keep prices competitive against its big-selling Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Hyundai Sonata/i45 rivals, Volkswagen has elected to manufacture the NMS at its new Chattanooga facility in Tennessee beginning in 2011.

The changes over the B8 are said to include different sheetmetal, rear suspension, engines and gearboxes. The physical size of the car may also be larger than the global Passat’s.

Dr Hackenberg hinted that, visually and to drive, the NMS would be a different animal to its European cousin.

“The Passat is a world car (for Volkswagen),” he said.

“But if we look at the new factory in the USA for the new car produced specifically for the USA for the American market, the NMS differs from the global Passat.

“(Yes) the NMS will share components with the global Passat. But it will have the five-cylinder engines produced in the United States. And much of the NMS technology is localised – sourced from North America … localisation will be up to 90 per cent for NMS.

“So it’s a fully new car for design (even) the dimensions are different.” Volkswagen released new sketches of the NMS on its official Facebook networking site just as the B8 Passat was being unveiled at the Paris motor show on September 30.

Earlier that month, it also announced plans to build a new engine plant in Mexico that is designed to produce up to 330,000 powerplants annually for the NMS, as well as the 2011 Jetta, Golf wagon, next-generation New Beetle due next year, and other future Volkswagen product.

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