Stefan Schaller, chairman, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles
What impact is the global credit crunch having on van sales?
Unfortunately the UK is one of the countries that have been affected the most by the crisis. We still expect to improve our market share in Britain and achieve over 30,000 sales this year — in fact we expect to achieve record registrations — but many of those sales were made between January and August. Worldwide what we’re seeing is light and shade. While the UK, Spain and the Netherlands have been hit, we’re seeing positive developments in, for example, Russia and Turkey. So we can balance the positive against the negative.
You unveiled your new, purpose-built, Toyota Hilux-, Mitsubishi L200-rivalling 4x2 and 4x4 pick-up at the Hanover Commercial Vehicle Show. When will it go on sale in Britain?
In mid-2010 and it will set a benchmark in terms of fuel consumption of less than 8 litres/100km (35.3mpg). We’ll be selling it both as a basic workhorse and as a high specification model in the way that we do with Transporter.
So can we expect to see a Sportline pick-up?
What are you up to so far as alternative fuels are concerned?
We’ve developed versions of Caddy and Transporter that will run on compressed natural gas and we’ve also come up with BlueMotion versions of certain models — Crafter for example — designed to keep down fuel consumption and emissions. We’ll be using the same concept on the new pick-up.
How about hybrids?
I think a better way is to go straight to pure electric and that’s something we’re definitely thinking about. Our customers treat cost of ownership as a priority and hybrid technology is too expensive for our needs. The fact that electric vans typically have a range of no more than 100km (62 miles) and that it takes sometime to recharge their batteries isn’t necessarily a hindrance. If you’re on city centre delivery work it’s unlikely that you’ll do more than 100km a day and you can charge up the batteries overnight.
Is the rising cost of raw materials forcing you to put your prices up?
So far we’ve been able to counteract it by using our engineering knowledge to take costs out of our vehicles, and of course all of our competitors are in the same boat. However, we may have to implement limited price increases in the near future. Anybody who cuts prices to gain sales won’t make a profit out of doing so in the current climate.