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Australian climate redesignation opens door for full-fat Golf R, other hot VW models

24 Jul 2019


VOLKSWAGEN Group Australia (VGA) has revealed that both of its brands and one other will benefit from its German headquarters to reclassify the climate Down Under as ‘moderately hot’ instead of ‘hot and dusty’.


Speaking to GoAuto this week in Queenstown, New Zealand, VGA product marketing manager Jeff Shafer confirmed that “there has been a reclassification” for the Volkswagen and Skoda brands in Australia alongside Audi – which has a different local distributor – after “years” of negotiations with Volkswagen Group.


“The good news is – combined within the Group – we’ve been lobbying quite strongly to have head office take another look at our market and understand where people live and the conditions in which they drive. And that hard work has paid off,” he said.


“In terms of practical effects, it’s still way’s off in the sense that you can’t just snap your fingers and bring stuff in. It opens some doors, but there’s still some hurdles we’ve got to jump through.”


Although VGA’s efforts have benefited Audi Australia, Mr Shafer clarified that “it wasn’t a coordinated effort between the two”.


He also explained that VGA used “every opportunity” when it met with Volkswagen Group, whether at home or abroad, to educate it about Australia’s unique climate.


“I can remember using Australian Bureau of Statistics heat maps of Australia and average temperature by region,” Mr Shafer said.


“And then we did stuff like plot our dealer network and population across that so you could see that in north-west Australia, it gets very hot but there’s no dealers there, very little roads there and there’s not kilometres driven there.


“It wasn’t just one side of the business; it was our colleagues on the aftersales that had to also support that.”


Before Skoda’s 500Nm Kodiaq RS large SUV that will now become available to order late this year, Volkswagen’s Golf R hot hatch was the poster child for VGA’s push to have Australia’s climate designation changed.


As reported, local Golf R examples currently run with a 213kW 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, although buyers in Europe gain access to a more potent 228kW tune. The same is true of Audi’s mechanically related S3.


Asked if the spicier Golf R will now head Down Under thanks to the reclassification, Mr Shafer indicated it is unlikely to happen in this generation, with the new model due locally in early 2021.


“With any change to an engine, then there’s obviously new homologation that you’ve got to conduct and that’s a big bottleneck at the moment from a Group perspective, so when we look at a model that’s starting to enter its runout phase, it doesn’t really make sense to bring that forward,” he said.


“But the good news is in the future, we can go into Mark 8 (Golf R) without that as one of the issues we face from a technical standpoint.”


Mr Shafer added that while the Golf R’s European-specification engine is desired, there are other key roadblocks that could complicate matters, although it is much closer to happening than before.


“We do have to make sure that we have the engine that will meet our requirements in other ways,” he said. “The WLTP and NEDC split can also affect things, but I’m pretty confident that we’ll be seeing output for Australia that’s matching what’s in Europe.


“The more that things can be made common … the easier it is for us to get stuff. (Climate) was an internal barrier, but we’ve been able to overcome that. Now there are still some external barriers, but it does make it that much easier.”


As reported, Europe’s recent changeover from testing standards, from NEDC to WLTP, has required significant investments from car-makers to get their vehicles homologated, with Volkswagen Group one of the hardest hit.


In most cases, VGA was forced to prioritise the certification of its highest-volume variants, with their low-selling counterparts either becoming unavailable for a period of time (Tiguan 110TSI) or being discontinued indefinitely (manual Golf performance range).


Asked what other engines are now on VGA’s radar, having been unavailable to it before, Mr Shafer reiterated that the redesignation “gives us one less blocker if you will” but would not confirm what else is in the pipeline.


“Again, the more we can get a sense of opportunities, we will do them, but it will be a little while before we probably see any practical implementation, just because it takes a while to do the negotiations, and then get that through the technical side and if there’s therefore additional engineering work to homologate the engines,” he said.


Asked if new engines for models other than Golf will also not be introduced until a generational change takes place, Mr Shafer said: “I don’t think we can generalise, but more likely than not, that’s the case.


“We would be looking at whatever the next milestone is, where you might already be going through the process to change engines at that facelift or generation and therefore it’s much easier to introduce those engines at that time.”

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