WOLFSBURG, Germany - Volkswagen AG chairman Ferdinand Piëch often uses an extended-cab pickup at the weekend to take his children bicycling - now he would like the company to build one.
Piëch would like to see a VW pickup with all the comfort of a luxury car but still meeting the payload demands of a work truck.
Europeans are becoming increasingly interested in pickups, he said. But Europeans would want more comfort than the harsh-riding pickups now so popular in the United States.
'I have not yet found a pickup with a nice ride like a car from the US market,' he said. 'I personally prefer the type of blue-jeans truck you can take to the opera as well as bicycling.'
The VW chief said a pickup could be derived from the new sport-utility platform currently being developed with Porsche for the 2002 model year.
Internally, Volkswagen is calling this the Colorado and plans annual production of 100,000 vehicles, while Porsche will produce a further 20,000 a year.
Also being considered is a small minivan, reminiscent of the old VW van, according to Piëch - who also said VW wants to buy a heavy-truck and bus manufacturer. 'We have heavy trucks in Brazil,' he said. 'They are not very modern. They are right for the Brazilian market, but not good enough to export into North America or Europe.'
With sales mounting in the United States and Canada, VW AG is paying more attention to the needs of Volkswagen of America. Two more New Beetle models appear likely, as does a more powerful, upscale Passat.
With the New Beetle and the redesigned Passat and Jetta, Volkswagen of America has come roaring back in just five years. Its sales peak in the USA was 1970, when it sold 569,182 vehicles. Volkswagen of America projects that it will sell at least 280,000 cars in the USA during 1999, a 28.5 percent increase over the 1998 figure of 217,937.
Gerd Klauss, president of Volkswagen of America, said: 'Honestly, there's a lot of upward potential in that figure.'
As well as the New Beetle, the Jetta, redesigned for the 1999 model year in the USA, had record sales in June and the Passat was Consumer Reports' top-ranked family sedan this year. A more powerful 'S' version, or Passat Plus, is planned with an eight- or 12-cylinder engine.
'Moving upmarket is one of our strategies, and that is why the Passat is an important element in the whole range,' said Jens Neumann, Volkswagen AG board member in charge of group strategy. 'We will be selling 80,000 Passats this year in North America, quite an upturn.'
VW of America could also get its convertible New Beetle, following a management board meeting in July at company headquarters in Wolfsburg to evaluate designs. VW said it would make an announcement concerning the convertible at next month's Frankfurt auto show.
'We want the cabrio very badly to keep the New Beetle young and fresh,' Klauss said. 'A cabrio in two years would be wonderful. It's almost a must in America.' He believes the company could sell 20,000 to 30,000 convertibles a year.