BERLIN (Reuters) -- Environmental activists from Greenpeace picketed the flashy premiere of Volkswagen's latest Golf hatchback in Berlin's New National Gallery on Tuesday, accusing the German carmaker of doing too little to reduce fuel consumption, which tarnishes the most important model launch in the group's calendar.
The seventh-generation of VW's best seller, which will retain its predecessor's base price of 16,975 euros ($21,300), is the only model the company builds on four continents and a key part of its strategy to overtake Toyota as the world's largest carmaker.
Greenpeace's German transportation expert, Wolfgang Lohbeck, said VW had a unique responsibility since the Golf sets the standard for the compact class.
"The Golf is the car that distinguishes the segment it's in for the next 10 years worldwide and all carmakers benchmark themselves against it," he told Reuters, as he led a group of protesters he numbered at about 50.
Lohbeck said VW had the expertise to roll out a car in which the basic version offers better fuel economy than the 4.9 liters of fuel per 100km promised by the new Golf. He urged VW to set 3.0 liters per 100km as its target for the car.
"It's lame, it's disappointing," he complained, referring to the actual consumption figure of the new car. "It doesn't really matter that Volkswagen may roll out an electric version of the Golf next year, since it won't comprise the bulk of the volumes -- what's important is the basic petrol version."
Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn dismissed the protest held by a "small band" of demonstrators, arguing the car was the "right answer for rising fuel prices" thanks to model derivatives like the upcoming Golf Blue Motion, which consumes just 3.2 litres of diesel per 100km.