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Volkswagen Ready to Challenge BMW, Mercedes

June 20, 2002

The automaker that Ferdinand Piech rebuilt finally is poised, however late, to drive into an automotive world where many (mostly its competitors) think it doesn't belong with its new sport utility vehicle and plush, highly engineered and pricey luxury car, according to a Detroit News story by Daniel Howes.But the Touareg SUV and Phaeton sedan, which gives a whole new meaning to a company whose name means "people's car," are only the beginning, according to the News. The Volkswagen AG of Piech's successor is aiming to introduce as many as 17 all-new models by 2007 in segments where it has never before competed, Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder said in an interview with News."We have 50 different cars today, and this will be 65 or 67 in five years," Pischetsrieder said. "Those are all new products in the market. The greatest growth potential for Volkswagen is in the North American market. Wehave not been addressing 50 percent of the market." That's about to change.The company that created the air-cooled Beetle and Microbus and became the biggest automaker in Europe -- and the best-selling European brand in the United States -- is preparing to attack segments previously ruled by German rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The success of this push, spearheaded by Piech's drive toprove VW can compete in the industry's most lucrative volume luxury segments, will depend on whether these two breakout vehicles from VW deliver what they promise.Most importantly, that means well-heeled customers who buy status when they buy a BMW 7 Series or Mercedes S-Class will be willingto plunk the same cash down for a VW, according to the News.
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