Volkswagen R performance variants are now so important to the car maker that the R division is involved from the start of a standard model’s product development.
Speaking to Autocar in Peterborough at the customer handover of the 200,000th Volkswagen R car, division boss Jost Capito said Volkswagen’s executives have been “pushing” him for more input into each new model because they’re aware of the positive impact a halo variant can have on overall sales.
“R has become so successful – we’ve sold nearly 100,000 Golf Rs alone – that we are thinking about this version of a car as soon as the process begins,” he said. “If we did it differently, if we had to adjust cars at a more advanced stage of development to make the R model, we wouldn’t be able to create the fast and well-rounded cars we do.”
However, despite R having built up a high brand value since the first model, the R32 version of the Mk4 Golf, arrived in 2003, Capito does not believe it would be right for his division to split from its parent brand, as Seat’s Cupra arm has. He explained that “an R will always be a Volkswagen” because instead of offering something completely different, it “builds on the strengths of the base car”.
“For us, it’s about enhancing the car, both in performance and its design,” he said.
This philosophy is already having an impact on Volkswagen’s first electric models, which will appear under the ID name, starting with a hatchback next year. Capito said R engineers have had input to the ID project, helping them to learn about the unique challenges a performance EV presents.