Lot riding on Golf scores
VW needs the next Golf to drive for dough, writes PAUL GOVER IT LOOKS LIKE A GOLF, AND THAT’S A STRENGTH
THERE is more to the new Volkswagen Golf than a fresh face. The car called Golf 6 must also lay a new foundation for the brand as both a sales leader and the mechanical platform for the next generation of German compact models, including the Jetta, EOS and cars with Seat and Skoda badges. And it will also have to ensure Volkswagen can cut the costs and complications for its mass-market car after continuing questions about the profitability of those currently appearing in showrooms. The new Golf looks much the same as the existing car, but will be built only in Germany. VW will end today’s satellite assembly in South Africa to feed countries such as Australia. ‘‘They have changed a lot of things in designing the car. They are after the right solutions,’’ Volkswagen Group Australia boss Jutta Dierks says. But the basics are the same: a hatchback body, four-cylinder engine and a shape that instantly signals the arrival of a Golf. ‘‘It looks like a Golf, and that’s a strength. We sell millions of these cars, and have done for 30 years, so that is obviously how people expect a Golf should look,’’ Dierks says. The preview pictures of the Golf 6 were released as Volkswagen starts counting down to its first public appearance at the Paris Motor Show in October. Sales in Australia will not begin until the middle of next year. ‘‘This car is 2009 for us. And we are only halfway through 2008,’’ Dierks says. ‘‘Even though the new Golf is around the corner, we still do really good business with the current car. And it’s getting better for us every year.’’ The sixth generation of the Golf continues a story that began 34 years and more than 26 million cars after the original went on sale in the early 1970s. Volkswagen claims it is ‘‘the safest, most technically advanced and most dynamic iteration yet’’ while also promising ‘‘to set benchmarks in quality, style, safety and the reduction of emissions’’. There is also a big promise on increased value for customers. The actual shape is fairly conservative, and still clearly linked to the current Golf. ‘‘It is more accentuated than its predecessor with precisely defined lines and edges and with finely proportioned flared surfaces and recesses,’’ Volkswagen design chief Walter de Silva says. The body is claimed to be quieter with a new design of door and window seals, a new damping film that supports the windscreen and a new engine-mounting system. Inside there is more emphasis on quality, such as an Audi-style push for improved materials and a change from blue to white for the instrument lighting, The engines are a predictable combination of petrol and diesel motors (the line-up for Australia will not be set for at least six months), and come with claims of improved performance and emissions. The safety package runs to seven airbags, including one for the driver’s knees, and an anti-whiplash head restraint. Optional equipment on Golf 6 will include Volkswagen’s hi-tech Adaptive Chassis Control and the Automatic Distance Control, which monitors the area around the car and can brake the car to a stop to avoid a hazard.