BRUSSELS - Volkswagen Group is 30 percent of the way towards its goal of transforming itself, said Chairman Ferdinand Piech.
VW is making money and slimming down. However, only 10 percent of its sales are using the four new platforms on which the group's future is based, said Piech. The platform strategy is behind VW's product-based recovery and expansion.
Within the next three years, VW Group plans to expand its range from today's 38 vehicles to 51 different passenger cars, Piech said. One will be the new VW Beetle, which will be sold around the world.
'A large diversity of products makes it possible to respond better to individual customer wishes. It is an important factor for opening up niche segments and new markets,' said Piech. 'It also serves to extend the product range upwards and downwards.'
The use of a common platform means standardized parts for under-the-skin components such as engines, fuel tank, running gear, steering, seat frames or the floor pan, said Piech. A platform is then individualized for each make.
Piech said that the new VW Passat and Audi A4, which share the same platform, show the strategy is working. The A4 came in 1995 while the new Passat arrived last fall. Orders for the A4 dropped less than expected when the Passat arrived, Piech said. In 1996, orders for the two cars combined were 50,000 units higher than a year earlier. 'We are capturing new additional customers,' said Piech.
The strategy is also saving costs.
The current Golf and the old Passat had five different exterior mirrors. The new Passat and the replacement Golf due this year share the same exterior mirror. The cost savings for the exterior mirror was 25 percent for the Golf and 45 percent for the Passat, he said.
Production times are also down. The old Polo took 24 hours to build while today's car takes 15 hours and the Seat Arosa is made in only 11 hours.