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Old 02-09-2007, 02:40 AM
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Arrow VW's Rabbit refresh, hybrids on hold

WOLFSBURG, Germany - Volkswagen's hybrid-vehicle programs have been put under the microscope by Martin Winterkorn, VW AG's new chairman.
The chances of hybrid variants of the Golf, Jetta and Touran coming to market soon have sunk rapidly under VW's new management. Winterkorn succeeded Bernd Pischetsrieder on Jan. 1.
Company sources tell Automobilwoche that Winterkorn is looking skeptically at sales projections for VW's planned hybrids.
Forecasts for the hybrid version of the Touran minivan, to be badged as the Highbrid, are "far too low," company insiders say he has told planners.
Given the price sensitivity in the compact segment and the high cost of hybrid drive relative to a standard engine, "the hybrid business case doesn't work out, no matter how you look at it," one VW executive says.
The executive estimates the price premium for a hybrid drive at 2,000 euros minimum, or about $2,580.
Pischetsrieder had announced plans for a Jetta powered by a mild hybrid for the 2008 model year, initially with the United States in mind.
A mild hybrid uses an electric motor to give the internal combustion engine a boost, but the electric motor does not provide full power.
The hybrid version of the Touareg SUV remains on track, sources say. Based on current plans, the recently updated SUV will be the first regular-production VW with hybrid drive. It is slated to be available in late 2008.
Winterkorn is also ordering a reworking of the design of the next VW Golf, known as the Rabbit in the United States. The changes probably will delay the planned 2008 introduction of the hatchback by up to six months.
Winterkorn thinks the design of the new Golf - done while Wolfgang Bernhard was VW brand chief - is "too progressive." In particular, Winterkorn wants to tone down the large air intakes to avoid putting off conservative Golf buyers.
Winterkorn has asked new VW group design chief Walter de' Silva to alter the design of the company's top-selling model.
The new Golf was scheduled to be launched in the first quarter of 2008. A high-level VW manager said the launch will be delayed "because of the design revision."
Dresdner Kleinwort automotive analyst Arndt Ellinghorst wrote in a report that VW could lose 90,000 Golf sales by delaying the launch until the third or fourth quarter of 2008.
02/01/07, 12:59 pm
Based on the cartoon-ish looks, some might write off Toyota??™s FJ Cruiser as a novelty that only pays lip service to the idea of venturing off road....

Source: [url=http://www.autoweek.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070207/FREE/70205010/1024/LATESTNEWS]AutoWeek[/url]
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