What’s your secret for making your brands work together?
It takes discipline. You have to try your hardest, every day, to build the best cars. You must give the creators of these cars the clearest direction. Each brand needs a design strategy that cannot be confused with any other. Bentley is Bentley. Lamborghini is Lamborghini. We’re not like other car groups, who let their brands mix together.
If you keep increasing sales, won’t you damage the exclusivity of your premium brands?
We don’t see a problem. Apart from the last couple of years, markets have been expanding rapidly to create demand for these cars. We think they will again. Six years ago Lamborghini was making 500 cars a year. More recently it has been 2500, yet the brand is doing well. When we took over Bentley, people said 2500 cars was enough, but we have made up to 10,000 and the brand is healthier than ever.
What about Porsche? There have been rumours that under VW the model range might be “rationalised”…
The Porsche model range is firmly based on the 911, Boxster, Cayenne and Cayman, and it will stay that way. As a matter of fact, we are also investigating opportunities for a smaller sports car and a smaller SUV - but I cannot say more at the moment.
How likely are these Porsche models to be launched?
Let’s just say we do not usually waste our effort…
Your group seems intent on building every conceivable kind of car. Are there many new opportunities left?
Yes, but most of those that remain are at the bottom of the range. Cars like the VW Up, which you have seen in concept form several times, provide us with a brand new opportunity.
Surely it’s hard to make money from small cars?
It can be, but it’s not impossible. We have proved it. You have to sell in the right numbers, and bear down very hard on costs.
We hear there is to be a new Beetle…
Yes, it is progressing well and you will see it next year. It will be easily recognisable from its highly innovative profile, of course, but this time it will be a very sporty car. We have decided to trade cabin height for more length, so it looks much sleeker.
Does Bugatti have a future beyond the Veyron?
Certainly it does. But in any case there are still things we can do with the Veyron to keep it going - some improvements, some refinements. It is true we are also discussing plans for new models, but we won’t firm up on anything until we see how the economy recovers.
When the new Passat arrives later this year, will it continue to include a CC body style?
It certainly will. The Passat CC has been a great success, even outselling the standard model in the US. I think we have sold 20,000 to 25,000 cars in the US, and between 70,000 and 80,000 in total. That’s a very good performance.
You once predicted car weights would start falling around 2010 and they have done - by small amounts. If an Audi A4 weighs 1400kg now, could it ever weigh 1000kg?
It’s possible, but it would be very expensive. Cars need extra safety structure, and customers demand more equipment. If you accept that the main reason we want to cut weight is to improve efficiency, and there are other, possibly cheaper measures we can still take - further improvements to aerodynamics, reducing tyre resistance, cutting friction, improving engine design. We have not finished those yet. For the future, I think it would be more realistic to hope for an Audi A4 that weighs about 1200kg.