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Auto blogFri, 14 Mar 2014 18:31:00 EST
It's a good time to be in the luxury car business. In Volkswagen Group's financial report for the 2013 fiscal year, it is revealed that that Porsche enjoyed an operating margin of 18 percent. That means the Stuttgart brand made on average about $23,200 per car sold, according to BusinessWeek. Bentley wasn't far behind, and Audi (which was combined with Lamborghini) posted a 10.1 percent margin. This compares to only around 2.9 percent for the Volkswagen brand.
"Luxury brands are on fire," said Dave Sullivan, an industry analyst at AutoPacific. He said that the average profit margin is between six and eight percent. Brands like Porsche and Bentley have the benefit of competing in rarefied markets. Buyers looking at one their vehicles have fewer models to shop against and don't care as much about price. They can also charge more for options, which further boosts income, according to BusinessWeek.
In a way, we should be more impressed by the continued success from Audi. Its models generally have direct competitors in every segment from the other premium automakers. Plus, their buyers aren't the captains of industry who are shopping for a Bentley. Still, the Four Rings is leading rivals in sales so far this year.
In 2007, the European Union mandated fleet average CO2 emissions of 158.7 g/km. For 2015, that figure will drop to 130 g/km, and the target for 2020 is an ambitions 95 g/km. Thanks to some German politicking, that target will be phased in from 2020 to 2024, but it will still apply to 80 percent of passenger cars in that first year. In US miles per gallon, that's the equivalent of going from about 35 mpg to 42 mpg to 57 mpg. The current Volkswagen Golf is rated from 85 g/km of CO2 to 190 g/km depending on model - and zero for the e-Golf, so for the next-generation MkVIII hatch due in 2019, to meet the goal, Volkswagen engineers will need to introduce a bunch of new tricks. According to a report in Autocar, VW be mining its hyper-efficient XL1 for some of them.
Predictions for the next Golf include a variable-compression engine, an electric flywheel and an electric turbo, along with taking greater advantage of coasting. Volkswagen could be getting help from Audi with the electric turbo and variable-compression engine and electric turbo, with Audi already having shown off the former and brand technical boss Ulrich Hackenberg confirming the VW Group is working on the latter. It's possible the flywheel system could also have the mark of The Four Rings: Autocar mentions a British system that Volvo is testing, but the R18 e-tron Quattro racer has been using one for years.
The need for such features is because the company won't be able to net enough future gains from just aerodynamic improvements and advanced materials. As price will be a factor (the regulations are expected to "add hundreds of euros to the cost of building a car"), adding much more aluminum or carbon fiber is an unlikely option. We're told the next generation won't be longer or wider than the current car, and being Europe's most popular model, VW doesn't want to make a big bet on futuristic aero, but the report says the MkVIII will "likely" have "the most aerodynamic treatment yet seen on a production vehicle," the area where lessons learned from the XL1 will truly be seen.
Volkswagen's product portfolio may be as extensive these days as any other carmaker in the business. But if you still think of the original Beetle as synonymous with the brand, that's probably because a) you're old and b) the Beetle was the company's only product until the mid-50s.
Sixty years ago Wilhelm Karmann (founder of the eponymous coachbuilder) was in Paris for the auto salon and met up with Luigi Segre and his team from Carrozzeria Ghia who showed him what was essentially a "Beetle in a sports coat." A month later they showed it to Volkswagen chief Heinrich Nordhoff who, setting aside his conservative tastes, approved it for production. And so the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia was born, giving the German marque a second product line. It still used Beetle mechanicals and was built at the same Karmann factory in Onsabrück that was already assembling the Beetle Cabriolet.
It took another couple of years to put the design into production, but from 1955 to 1974, Volkswagen and Karmann built 362,601 coupes and 80,881 of the subsequent convertible that arrived in 1957. Today the Onsabrück factory is part of the VW Group, handling production of the Golf Cabriolet, XL1 and Porsche Boxster and Cayman, and with that original Karmann Ghia prototype as part of its factory collection.