BERLIN - Volkswagen's shared platform strategy faces its biggest test yet with the simultaneous launch of the Golf and Bora station wagons. The two cars differ only in front-end design, equipment and engine options.
Some VW dealers have criticized the plan to offer two cars which are so close. But VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech last week defended the strategy.
'We want to increase our station wagon sales in this segment,
and we are sure that we will sell more cars with two models together than with the Golf station wagon on its own,' Piech said. 'We want to outperform the growth in the station wagon segment in general.'
The Golf is positioned below the Bora. Golf station wagon prices in Germany start at DM 29,500 (euro 15,074, $15,989).
'If we want to know what the market is asking for, we ask people who know what they are talking about,' said Piech. 'We ask our top dealers. And they are happy with our model strategy.'
Some dealers have complained that the VW group, including Audi, Seat and Skoda, is launching too many niche models off common platforms. But Piech said he would stick with his strategy.
'The Volkswagen group will launch one new model per month,' Piech said, 'and we will continue to do so until our top dealers tell us to stop. It is more difficult to produce lots of new models than to sit back and launch nothing, I can assure you. We can stop any time, as soon as our best dealers say 1/8no more.''
The Golf station wagon will be available with three gasoline engines (1.4-, 1.6-, and 2.0-liter) and four diesel engines (1.9-liter SDI and TDI engines producing between 68hp and 115hp).
While the Golf's core target market is seen as families and company car drivers, VW wants the sportier Bora to appeal to lifestyle-oriented customers.
With more chrome, stainless steel and different interior trims, the Bora range comes with VW's more powerful engines. It starts
at DM34,400 for the 1.6-liter, rising to DM41,680 for the 2.3-liter VR5 version.
Bora station wagons are DM2,600 more expensive than the equivalent Golf models, and DM1,900 above the Bora sedan.
Piech wants to produce 100,000 Golf and Bora station wagons this year in Wolfsburg, although this figure will rise to 150,000 next year.
'We can provide whatever model mix customers want - we are completely flexible,' Piech said.
He said the Golf range could be extended with the introduction of a VR5 version at a later date.
Around 50 percent of the production volume will be sold in Germany, according to Robert Buchelhofer, head of sales and marketing. VW expects 80 percent of customers to choose a Golf, and 20 percent to buy the Bora.
VW sold 62,822 units of the previous Golf station wagon in 1998, and 104,286 units worldwide in 1997.
As with the rest of the Golf and Bora ranges, separate advertising campaigns will be devised.
'We believe it makes more sense to offer a specific second model for a different type of customer than to extend the Golf range with better equipment,' Piech said.
'Thanks to the platform strategy it does not cost us anything at all, and for the better equipment we ask a premium price.'