VW Group boss Winterkorn orders rethink on Wolfsburg's biggest models
1 February 2007

Volkswagen is sending four of its most important new models back to the drawing board as part of new chairman Martin Winterkorn’s fresh management regime, and the forthcoming Passat coupe, pictured, is the first victim of the changes. The new coupe, which was to be unveiled at a gala presentation in Berlin on 15 February, has been placed on hold following a detailed product evaluation ordered by Winterkorn. The Scirocco and Tiguan — both of which have already been revealed in concept form and which were due to go on sale within the next 12 months — are being reworked, as well as next year’s new sixth-generation Golf.Winterkorn is said to be disappointed with the Tiguan, while VW’s new head of vehicle development Ulrich Hackenberg said he has already identified several areas where the next Golf can be improved. All of the cars delayed were conceived during the reign of Wolfgang Bernhard, whose last official day as boss of the VW brand was yesterday.New VW Group boss Winterkorn wants to replace the different front-end treatments on the new cars with a more uniform appearance, and as a result, VW’s head of design Murat Günak, responsible for the Scirocco, has been replaced by Audi’s design chief Walter de’Silva.

A Bernd offering

The Passat coupé, along with the Scirocco and Tiguan, was conceived as part of a multi-million Euro niche model offensive created under former chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder. The cars were meant to lessen VW’s financial dependence on traditional volume models such as the Golf, while pushing it into new market segments and exposing it to new customers.The Passat Coupé was originally going to be revealed to the public as a concept at the Geneva motor show in March, with the production version to be unveiled at the Los Angeles motor show in November. “We were all set to present the CC (Volkswagen’s internal codename for the new car, denoting C-segment Coupé), but its future is now up in the air,” said a high-ranking insider. With Winterkorn determined to make his mark at Volkswagen after steering sister company Audi to record sales and profits in recent years, it remains unclear whether the Passat coupé will ever see the light of day. However, with development and preparations to produce the car at Volkswagen’s Emden plant in Germany already underway, cancelling it at this late stage could prove costly.

Which way now?

Winterkorn says he has a clear vision for Volkswagen. “We’re in the process of evaluating the entire business,” he said. “It will take some time before we can move forward with decisions on new products.” Since taking over at VW, Winterkorn has surrounded himself with familiar faces from Audi, including Ulrich Hackenberg (vehicle development), Walter de’Silva (design), Wolfgang Hatz (engine development), Matthias Müller (product planning) and Jochem Heizmann (production).

Greg Kable

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