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Auto blogSun, 29 Dec 2013 18:31:00 EST
How does Audi plan to reach two million units in annual sales and pay for the 11 new models it's adding to its lineup - an expansion that may include models named SQ2, Q9 and F-Tron? By increasing its investment to 22 billion euros ($30.3 billion US) between now and 2018. That figure represents an increase of about 500 million euros over the previously planned outlay, according to a report by Automotive News, and that could be due to Audi wishing to goad the momentum that pushed it to 1.5 million annual sales two years ahead of schedule.
It's also about staving off the challenges from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Now that BMW has been able to turn some of its attention away from its "i" series of Megacity cars, it will reportedly spend more than planned in 2014 as it continues the rollout of ten all-new vehicles and 15 new-generation vehicles through the end of next year. Mercedes, having been dropped to third in the sales race, is preparing to add 13 new cars over the next six years.
Audi's money is going into technology, into product like the next-generation TT and the Q1 and production expansions and upgrades all over the world. The expenditure represents just under a fourth of Volkswagen's 84.2 billion-euro ($115.7 US) outlay devoted to taking the number-one global automaker title away from General Motors and Toyota by 2018.
As of the end of November, Volkswagen had sold 70,000 more cars than General Motors in China in 2013, making it appear inevitable that VW will outsell GM there. The feat would return the German brand to the top of chart in China for the first time in nine years, but even the second-place getter won't be complaining too loudly: both automakers sold more than three million vehicles in a market pegged to hit 16 million sales this year.
Volkswagen said it could have sold more cars if it had had more production capacity in China. The arrival of a new-to-China Audi A4, a China-built A3 sedan, the VW Bora and Skoda Octavia, as well as an $18.2-billion-euro investment in the country to construct new factories, means VW should see its numbers grow in 2014. GM's lineup is expanding next year, too, adding four Chevrolet nameplates and two vehicles to its Baojun brand as it tries to get to five million in sales by 2015.
Among other automakers, Ford benefited from good product and woes for Japanese automakers over a territorial dispute with China, outselling Toyota by almost 32,000 units through the end of November. The Ford Focus is China's best-selling vehicle so far this year.
Volkswagen Group of America has lit oil-burning fireworks to celebrate the sales of more than 100,000 TDI Clean Diesel vehicles in the US between its VW and Audi brands this year. According to VW, that means it is responsible for more than 75 percent of diesel-engined cars and SUVs sold here - perhaps not surprising when the two brands offer a total of 12 diesel models.
What might be surprising is that the number of diesels isn't far off the estimated sales of 90,000 battery electric vehicles and PHEVs, with 15,000 of those accounted for by the Tesla Model S, another 12,000 or so being the Toyota Prius PHEV.
VW's keen to play up the ease of making diesel part of your life, stressing that it doesn't need any change to the refueling infrastructure and that "this is a technology delivering real answers to society's concerns about fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions without compromises."
Volkswagen is no stranger to special editions, but its Touareg SUV has remained largely unspecial in terms of exclusive trims or unique packages. That's changed with the announcement of the Touareg X, a 1,000-unit run based on the V6 TDI Lux trim - mid-range diesel model, between the navigation-equipped TDI Sport and the TDI R-Line.
The already special Touareg gets 19-inch "Moab" wheels, LED taillights (to go along with its LED DRLs) and "Touareg X" badging, while all 1,000 units will be painted Moonlight Blue Pearl. Tweaks in the cabin are equally light, with a black-on-black-on-black color scheme dominating - black Vienna leather, a black headliner and piano black trim. Aluminum bits make an appearance in the form of the door sills and pedals, although that's about it.
Other than those few aesthetic tweaks, the Touareg X is equipped largely like the Touareg Lux on which it's based. That means navigation, a panoramic sunroof, power seats, LED running lights, dual-zone air conditioning and heated power seats, among other tech pieces. Pricing starts at $56,170, making for a slight bump of $1,195 over the standard Touareg Lux.
Volkswagen is staging a massive, worldwide recall that's already grown from 1.68 million to 2.64 million vehicles and covers three different issues across a number of vehicles. We already reported on 61,000 Tiguans getting recalled over lighting issues - that was just in the US. Globally, however, VW will be recalling 800,000 Tiguans, according to Automotive News, with the focus on CUVs built between 2008 and 2011. The issue with the Tiguan relates to a simple fuse swap, so this is rather unremarkable, aside from the sheer number of vehicles being fixed. The real, troubling issues relate to gearboxes and pickups.
239,000 Amarok pickups (pictured right) are being recalled over fuel leaks, while 1.6 million vehicles are being recalled to swap the synthetic oil in dual-clutch transmissions with mineral oil. Now, the transmission issue is one for the global Volkswagen Group to address, not just the VW brand - vehicles from Audi, Škoda and Seat use the same seven-speed DSG and are covered under the recall, as well.
Why the switch from synthetic to mineral oil? Apparently, using the synthetic oil in a DSG and then subjecting it to stop-and-go conditions or heavy loads in a hot and humid climate can lead to electronic malfunctions, according to a Volkswagen press release. The switch, from the sounds of it, is largely a preventative measure.
We've received multiple reports that Volkswagen will be bringing a diesel-electric concept to the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, set to take place later this month. The car, called the Twin-Up!, is based on the Up! city car, with some sources claiming this is a thinly veiled concept that will eventually enter production.
According to Automotive News Europe, the Twin-Up! will reportedly return 214 miles per gallon on the US cycle by combining an 800-cc, two-cylinder diesel and an electric motor. It will also boast plug-in capabilities, and will be able to cover 30 miles on electric power alone.
Autocar has a more complete picture of the Twin-Up!'s powertrain, though, claiming it's a modified version of the hybrid system found in the Volkswagen XL1. The Twin-Up! will get a more potent, 47-horsepower electric motor to the XL1's 27-hp unit, but will retain that car's 47-hp turbodiesel. The battery pack will also grow, from 5.5 kilowatt hours to 8.6 kWh. Both of these increases are necessary due to the increased weight of the Twin-Up! - it's some 900 pounds heavier than an XL1.
Audi drivers, listen up. If you bought or leased a 2002-06 model-year A4 or A6 with a factory-installed Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that failed, you may be entitled to reimbursement under a recently settled class-action lawsuit with corporate parent Volkswagen.
According to Automotive News, the settlement covers about 64,000 vehicles and alleges that "manufacturing and design problems caused the transmissions to fail and left owners stuck with repair costs." While the suit also argues Audi was aware of these issues (going so far as to hide that knowledge from consumers), the settlement stops short of acknowledging any wrongdoing by the German automaker.
Audi drivers are eligible for a cash reimbursement if their CVT repairs occurred within 10 years or 100,000 miles of the date they bought or leased the vehicle before June 19, 2013. To be eligible for compensation, drivers must submit a claim form (found here) with supporting documents by November 18.
Volkswagen's R lineup currently consists of the Golf R in North America, and the too-cool-for-school Scirocco R in Europe. It hasn't exactly been a secret as to which VW would next get the R treatment; the German manufacturer reportedly confirmed that a hotter Beetle would be coming to the US. That announcement, in August 2011, was followed up by a production-ready Beetle R Concept at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show.
After some wait, we're finally seeing spy shots of the Beetle R in Germany. The mule shown in the images here is wearing the R-Line bodykit, which adds sportier front and rear fascias, side skirts, dual exhausts and a not-so-subtle spoiler. Topped off with Volkswagen's traditional, five-spoke R wheels, we'd be just fine with the Beetle R coming to market as is.
Our spy photographer, though, seems to think that the production R will get even sportier sheetmetal, which we take to mean the more assertive look shown on the Frankfurt show car. Larger intakes on the front fascia, a bigger rear spoiler and vertical vents on the rear bumper could all be upcoming. Whether a production model will include the concept's polished wheels (R cars haven't traditionally embraced that look), vented hood and the quad-tipped exhausts remains to be seen.
Volkswagen built a stonking, narrow-angle V6 in the 1980s and 1990s that was found in three different generations of the Golf (their performance iterations, obviously), three generations of the Passat, the New Beetle, the Corrado and the Touareg, among other VWs, a spate of Audis, Seats, a Skoda, and even the Porsche Cayenne. It was a sad day when it was announced that it'd be put out to pasture.
Rejoice, though, fans of the venerable VR6, because Volkswagen has a new, modern variant in the works that, according to AutoWeek, features direct injection and can easily be fitted with forced induction. In fact, AW mentions Volkswagen insiders that claim this unit will spawn a production version of the twin-turbo V6 shown on the Design Vision GTI from this year's Wörthersee festival. That unit produced an epic 503 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque.
Don't expect a production unit with that level of power (although it would make a hardy RS4 powerplant), though. In reality, AutoWeek is suspecting anywhere from 340 to 450 horsepower from the new mill. When it arrives at an undisclosed date in the future, it'll likely be found in the Passat and Passat CC as well as the production version of the CrossBlue.
The United Auto Workers is in hot water with some of the very workers it is trying to unionize at Volkswagen's Chattanooga assembly plant. According to The Tennessean, eight Volkswagen factory workers have filed complaints against the UAW with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming the union "misled or coerced" them into formally asking for union representation.
The UAW has instituted a major push at the Chattanooga plant to represent the 2,500 hourly laborers that build the VW Passat by using what's called a card-check process. The tactic is opposed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense foundation, the group representing the workers. The card-check process demands that a company recognize a union that obtains the signatures of more than half its workforce, according to The Tennessean. This tactic is in contrast to the more traditional route, which sees employees vote on union representation.
The workers filing the complaint claim that the UAW told them the cards merely called for a secret ballot, rather than an outright demand for union representation. Workers also allege that the UAW has made it overly difficult to reclaim their signed cards, some of which were signed so long ago that they have been rendered invalid. Although the cards can force a company's hand, federal law still allows the company to ask for a secret ballot before yielding to unionized workers.