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Deal to produce Chrysler-based minivan for...

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Link: http://www.autoweek.com/news.cms?newsId=103068

DIANA T. KURYLKO | Automotive News
Posted Date: 8/29/05
Volkswagen and the Chrysler group were in talks about giving VW a Chrysler-produced minivan before Wolfgang Bernhard became VW brand chief in February.

But Bernhard's arrival accelerated the pace. Bernhard's rapport with his former boss, Chrysler group CEO Dieter Zetsche, brought the deal close to fruition, reviving disgruntled U.S. VW dealers' hopes for the seven-seat minivan they want.

The companies still are negotiating details of the minivan's size, engines and other mechanical components, an insider says. If details are ironed out, the automakers want to reveal plans for a minivan at the Frankfurt auto show next month.

Bernhard was Zetsche's No. 2 as COO of the Chrysler group. Zetsche takes over DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes-Benz brand on Thursday, Sept. 1, and becomes CEO of DaimlerChrysler on Jan. 1.

VW had promised its U.S. dealers a modern version of the Microbus but killed that program this year. The new plan could offer hope to dealers who have seen the VW brand's U.S. sales fall 22.2 percent from 2004 levels through the first seven months of 2005, to 118,257 units.

The VW minivan will be based on the platform used for the Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country, the source said. A production site has not been selected, but the VW-badged vehicle will be built in North America.

Len Hunt, head of Volkswagen of America Inc., said at a press event last week that he had "no official comment" on the deal.

Bernhard shows sketch

Bernhard showed dealers a sketch of a minivan at a dealer meeting on July 15 in Dallas, dealers have said. It is one of four new vehicles Bernhard said VW plans to launch in North America.

Bernhard told dealers the minivan is similar in size to the Toyota Sienna and Dodge Caravan, would have seven seats and would "be dedicated to the North America market."

Hunt said in an interview that VW's Sharan minivan sold in Europe isn't suitable for North America because it doesn't have enough seating and cargo room.

"We want a vehicle better fitting to the U.S. market," Hunt says.

He confirmed that Bernhard discussed a minivan with dealers.

Hunt says a minivan will be sold here within three years: "We want a very North American minivan" like the Caravan or the Sienna.

Dealers said the van sketch shown in Dallas has the VW front with a big chrome grille and did not resemble Chrysler group vehicles.

The minivan would help VW fill what Hunt calls "white spots" in its lineup. VW needs these vehicles - all in segments new to the brand - to boost sales and ailing dealer profitability, he says.

Convertible in 2006

The minivan would be VW's fourth new vehicle to go on sale in the United States. The first is a convertible based on the Concept C show car and will go on sale in May. Its name will be revealed at the Frankfurt show.

The second is a compact SUV. It will compete with Honda's CR-V and be similar in size. Hunt denied reports in the German press that the vehicle has been delayed.

The third new model is a four-door "coupe" based on the Passat that will be positioned between that car and the Phaeton.

Hunt says that VW could add more products after 2008, adding: "We're looking at a medium-sized SUV, a sports car based on the Concept R, the premium compact segment and all those areas that Volkswagen can get good positioning with affordable German engineering and styling."

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And let's not forget the Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix twins. Why do companies do this?...helping out their competitors...yes I know it's about dollars and if they don't do it, someone else will but should GM be doing anything with Toyota?

In any event here is the VW Touran minivan marketed in Europe, notice the conventional rear doors.

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Edited by HarleyEarl
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