VW light commercial vehicles’ year will finish with a flourish with the arrival of the updated Amarok – Report by Stuart Martin.
Volkswagen’s Amarok, the yardstick for refinement and ride in the segment, will add class-leading outputs to its list of attributes when it arrives in November packing 165 kW and 550 Nm from the V6 (with an extra 10% of power and around 5% more torque on overboost), already seen in some of the VW group’s prestige SUVs from Audi and Porsche.
Amarok will be – at least until Mercedes-Benz and Renault turn up – the only V6-powered ute in the segment, overtaking the revamped Holden Colorado’s 147 kW and 500 Nm, Nissan’s 140 kW/450 Nm Navara and the 147 kW/470 Nm of the five-cylinder from the Ford Ranger/Mazda BT-50 pair.
Volkswagen Australia Commercial Vehicles director, Carlos Santos, said the interest in the new Amarok is considerableand expects the model range to top 10,000 once full production in South America is underway.
“New Amarok V6 enquiry is oversubscribed on what supply we have coming … we’re not getting the number we want to get this year,” Mr. Santos said.
“There’s over 2000 real leads asking for test drives, and we’re getting 300 cars this year, 2017 volumes haven’t been finalised yet,” he said.
The utility range – to be sourced initially from Germany – will retain the current four-cylinder twin-turbo powerplant for the mainstream pickup and cab/chassis models, leaving the new V6 to the high-end models of the range.
That will be augmented by the arrival of the new Aventura flagship in April 2017; Core and Core Plus will be four-cylinder and the Highline and above will be the V6, according to Mr. Santos.
The light commercial has sold 5310 units to the end of July this year – the vast majority from the 4×4 stable – which is more than 10 percent up on the 2015 rate.
Amarok sold 8545 units last year, a steady growth rate from 7522 in 2013, and 6742 in 2012 – its first full year on sale.
Part of the brand’s strategy for revamped fleet customer focus is a pilot programme using six dealerships as Fleet Business Centres, with staff devoted to dealing with fleet customers in sales and service capacities.
Mr. Santos said the company was aiming to expand the pilot program to any of its dealers who could meet the criteria.
“The dealers need a dedicated fleet department within the dealership, over and above the traditional business areas, as well as a minimum level of loan cars. From a sales side they will have access to VW Australia’s fleet evaluation vehicles. Broadly speaking it’s giving the fleet customers quick service and a discount service structure to lower the cost of ownership.
“I think we’re untapped in terms of the potential for commercial vehicles … we’ll open it up to any VW dealer that
meets a minimum criteria for a VIP service for fleet customers,” he said.
The brand is also expecting to get its smallest LCV in the form of the Caddy, back into it Australian ranks in diesel guise at about the same time the Amarok V6 turbodiesel arrives.
“The diesel will come back on stream in November this year, Caddy moving forward will be all Euro 6 diesels from that point, we get Front Assist as standard, as well from then, the Euro6 version is better in fuel consumption and emissions as well, it’s only a diesel engine update, there’s no facelift but there are better safety offerings,” Mr. Santos said.
Volkswagen Australia’s new managing director, Michael Bartsch, has been in the position almost 12 months and said the emissions issues had taken up much of his time.
Mr. Bartsch said the company was well on the way to fixing Amaroks effected by the emissions scandal – around 3500 (just under half of the total number impacted) have been rectified, most in the course of scheduled servicing.
Mr. Bartsch pointed out several times that he was not defending the emissions cheating actions, but criticised what he called “entrepreneurial litigation” and said the emissions situation in the US was different to that in Australia.
“It is indeed a very different situation than it is in the markets under EU protocols – we have made it very clear in relation to the issue of compensation and managing the situation that the US is not a model for Australia because the situation is significantly different,” he said.
“The legislation that drives emissions standards in the US, driven by the California Air Resources Board and managed by the US EPA, focuses on nitrous oxides (NOX) output as the primary consideration, the EU model focuses on CO2 and fuel economy – different priorities,” he said.
Mr. Bartsch said Volkswagen Australia brought the Amarok in under the stricter EU5 emissions regulations than those required by legislation, which was 280 g/km.
“When we did homologation on that car we did it at 220-230 g of NOX per km, it was substantially below the legislative requirements,” he said.
“When we re-flashed the car according to the rectification protocols approved by the KBA (the German federal motor transport authority), it still came out at 220-230 NOX g/km driven. In the US under the legislation the maximum NOX output is 30 grams, it is two very different legislative environments,” he said.
Mr. Bartsch pointed out that the differing legislation and focus of the regulations means that: “As far as we are aware, to the best of our knowledge, we have not with any of our cars breached any environmental standards in Australia.
“To the best of our knowledge, we have not made any representations at a consumer level that are inconsistent with the performance under which the car was originally bought.
“We don’t believe there will be any situation where the performance of the cars will deliver an outcome materially different from that presented when they bought the car,” he added.
The company was, at the time of writing, awaiting federal approval of the rectification programme from the DIRD (Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development) and ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) while dealing with organisations that make money from entrepreneurial litigation.
“We will of course defend any class actions that will be taken. Again we come back that the consumers are best served by getting the fix done, we don’t believe we have breached any environmental standards, and we don’t believe that consumers will be disadvantaged or have a vehicle that performs any less,” he said.
Mr. Bartsch also paid tribute to the light commercial side of the business (which is on track for a record year), while laying out plans to improve the customer service and aftersales side of Volkswagen Australia in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal.
“It’s clear that the traditional values that drove VW in Australia in the first place are alive and well in the LCVs – the robustness, engineering integrity and utilitarianism, and the technology,” he said.
“The development of the brand here has not kept pace with the growth in volume, the brand position has not been optimised. I think John White was on record that the aftersales and service side needs to catch up and I completely endorse that.
“You sell the first car on the front end of the business and you sell the second one on the backend of the business.
“We have to be frank and candid, the backend of the business needs attention … if we want to position the brand to continue making it aspirational,” he said.