The quest for global leadership may take a little longer to achieve, but Volkswagen has the intent and the ability – Chris Mullett reports
The world of social media and instant communication has spawned an amazing number of overnight experts, each convinced their own blog or website has significant, if not awe-inspiring influence and authority. The reality of this access to information in a microsecond is that much of the rhetoric is unqualified and comes from a commentator that is ill-advised.
The implementation of strict emissions controls is obviously of immense importance, but Australia lags behind most of Europe. North America and even South Korea in legislating for Euro 6 compliance.
Much of the reason behind the inactivity of the federal government to demand Euro 6 compliance results from providing support to the Australian carmakers as they run down their production commitment to cease local car making in 2017. This situation allows Holden and Ford to continue to sell engines that can’t match Euro 6 requirements, without significant expensive development, before they shut up shop and move to full imports.
Although the Volkswagen brand has gained worldwide comment for allegedly disguising its emissions performance for vehicles with specific powertrains, in Australia it’s not that big a story. If you bear in mind that our requirements for cleaner exhausts fall way behind those of many other countries, plus there are no government-driven incentives for owners to trade up to cleaner and greener vehicles, the emissions debate currently taking place becomes largely a media beat-up.
Volkswagen commercial vehicles play an integral role in transport applications throughout the world. Their technology and ability have set new standards of comfort and safety amidst the creation of a reputation for producing functional, reliable vehicles that provide driving pleasure.
The company growth in sales of its commercial vehicles has been supported by the introduction of new models, but its reputation dates back to the original Beetle and the Transporter. These two models set the scene, and the arrival of the Caddy, Crafter and Amarok covered pretty much all the bases for buyers seeking the ideal van, or ute.
Still to come is the next development for the VW Group that comes from the start-up of the Volkswagen Truck and Bus Division, formed with the merging of the brands of Scania and MAN and under the control of Andreas Renschler.
As both divisions gather momentum through close cooperation, VW as a brand will continue to grow, blending economies of scale to encompass a broader spread of products throughout the commercial vehicle industry on a global basis.
Despite predictions that sales would slump to zero, the brand in Australia has enjoyed growth through the first nine months of this year. Although dropping by 6.0 percent in October, the annual performance has seen an increase of 11.9 percent. This tends to suggest that as long as the owner enjoys driving their vehicle, they have little interest in what exits the tail pipe.
From a global perspective, up to the end of September 2015, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles delivered 321,300 urban delivery vans, Transporters and pick-ups all over the world. The brand’s deliveries therefore continue to be at the level of the previous year (January to September 2014: 324,800, -1.1 percent).
As we look forward into 2016, Volkswagen Group will be launching new versions of its Caddy and Transporter range. It has also announced a joint venture with MAN, part of the VW Heavy Commercial Group, to co-build a totally new replacement model for the Crafter at a brand-new manufacturing plant currently being built in Poland. Amarok continues to be a success story for the brand, with production now in Germany as well as Argentina.
Although we will have to wait until the IAA Show in Hanover in the third quarter of 2016 to view the all-new Crafter before it goes on sale in 2017, Australians will be able to buy the latest versions of the Crafter and Transporter T6 from early in 2016.
So, by way of an insight into what lies ahead for February, here is a run down on the changes we might expect for the Australian market in advance of its launch on our home turf.
Both the Caddy and Transporter T6 have already been launched onto the market in the United Kingdom, and it’s fair to assume that Australia will follow suit with relatively similar specifications.
More than 1.5 million Caddy variants have been sold globally, during its 11-year production cycle. Around one-third of these were based on the longer-wheelbase Caddy Maxi version, which was extended in length by 470 mm. The new Maxi version is 320 mm longer than the standard Caddy model.
With two rows of seats in the passenger compartment, the Caddy Maxi features a cargo volume is 530 litres. The backrest of the third-row bench seat folds down, and the second-row bench seat also folds forward. This seat-folding process quickly expands cargo volume, and, if necessary, both rows of seats may be removed entirely to create additional cargo space.
When the third-row seat is removed, storage volume is extended to 1350 litres, and when the second-seat row is also removed it is increased to 3700 litres, some 848 litres more cargo space than the 2852 litres in the small Caddy with rear seats removed.
This means that users can load much more in the Caddy Maxi with its cargo volume of up to 4.7 m3 (in combination with the optional Flex Plus seat) than in the Caddy with its 3.2 m3. The maximum payload of the Caddy Maxi panel van, including the driver, is 1005 kg.
For the European market the engine choice consists of three TDI diesel versions and two petrol engines. The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine is available in three power and torque options ranging from 75 kW to 110 kW. The Euro 6 models have BlueMotion Technology as standard, giving the customer low rolling-resistance tyres, start/stop system, hill-hold assist and regenerative braking. Delivery Magazine considers it unlikely that VW will offer either of the petrol engines in the Australian market, with one of these being a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder.
Safety systems for the new Caddy have been updated and one of these is the ‘Front Assist’ surroundings monitoring system, including City Emergency Braking – if the driver fails to see an obstacle below a speed of 30 km/h, the system automatically applies the brakes and, ideally, will prevent any rear-end collisions entirely. The Caddy Maxi people carriers come fitted with side and curtain airbags.
Approximately 22 percent of all accidents involving injuries are collisions with more than one obstacle. In order to reduce the risk related to this scenario, the VW multi-collision brake system is included as standard in the new Caddy and Caddy Maxi. After a collision, it automatically initiates braking if the driver is no longer able to take action.
Other available options are the Light Assist and Driver Alert systems. The latter recognises any deviations from normal driving behaviour and recommends that the driver should take a break when apparently necessary. Also available is the option of a heated windscreen, which helps to ensure a permanently good view.
In the case of the optional Adaptive Cruise Control, ACC for short, which is activated at speeds of 0 to 160 km/h (DSG) or 30 to 160 km/h (manual transmission), a radar sensor monitors the distance and relative speed to vehicles in front. In combination with the DSG, the ACC system can also slow the vehicle down, for example in queues or traffic jam situations, to a complete stop.
The optional Park Assist system enables automated parallel parking as well as parking at right angles to the carriageway, and a reverse camera monitor is available dependent on the audio screen selection on the dashboard.
For the European market the standard spec for the entry-level Startline model includes electric windows; electrically adjustable wing mirrors; a five-inch touchscreen Composition Colour radio system with DAB+ and Bluetooth capability; a lockable glovebox; plus safety features such as driver and front-passenger front, side and curtain airbags, a new post-collision braking system and a seatbelt reminder.
Moving up the range, Trendline adds full wheel covers; body-coloured bumpers, door handles and wing mirrors; rear parking sensors; cruise control; multi-function display; driver’s lumbar support; under-seat storage; and sun visors with vanity mirrors.
At the top of the range, Highline includes alloy wheels; front fog lights and daytime running lights; climatic air conditioning; heated front windscreen; automatic dimming rear-view mirror; Thatcham Category 1 alarm; and windscreen wipers with intermittent control and rain sensor.
Moving on to the Transporter T6 gives Delivery Magazine the opportunity to preview the sixth generation of a vehicle that has become one of the best-known vans and people-movers in the world.
The T-Series has been the number-one in Germany for decades. Its predecessor sold some two million units around the world within eleven years. Across the entire model series’ 65 years, the figure is around 12 million vehicles.
From a visual perspective the entire body now has the appearance of being all one piece. Topping the range is the Multivan and this is followed by the Caravelle.
Created both for commercial and private use, this spacious multi-purpose vehicle has also been upgraded once again and is now, for the first time, available as a Highline model as well.
A completely new generation of TDI engines is being launched for the EU6 markets, and it remains to be seen whether VW will step up to the mark from an emissions perspective and introduce Euro 6 as its new standard. By adopting Euro 6 from the start of the T6 sales in Australia, it not only contributes to reducing emissions levels, it future-proofs the purchase from an investment perspective, helping to maintain resale values for when Australian legislation finally catches up with world expectations.
The TDIs available are transversely mounted and angled forwards by eight degrees. They have a cubic capacity of 1968 cm3 and deliver 62 kW, 75 kW, 110 kW and 150 kW.
Although Delivery Magazine believes the range for our market will only include diesel-fuelled versions, there are 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol models available that produce either 110 kW or 150 kW. The new Euro 6 engines are more fuel-efficient than the Euro 5 versions they replace, and with a stop/start system as standard they are capable of providing fuel consumption reductions in the order of 15 percent on average.
The new adaptive chassis control, Dynamic Cruise Control (DCC), enables the vehicle to be adapted to three driving modes: comfort, normal and sport. In each case, the electrically adjustable shock absorbers adapt to the chosen style via a preselected programme.
Throughout the T6 range the seating layout can be varied to alter the balance of seating versus cargo area. Although the base model provides manual opening and closure for the tailgate, higher up the food chain VW offers an electrically operated version. It opens automatically via the tailgate handle, and it closes by pulling a loop, or by pushbutton. Alternatively, it can be opened by pressing a button on the driver door or on the remote control integrated within the vehicle key.
Radar-activated safety features have changed many aspects of standard driving safety, and the T6 has a ‘Front Assist’ area monitoring system (optional for the Transporter, Multivan and Caravelle; standard on the Multivan Business).
The radar system recognises critical distances to the vehicle in front and helps to shorten the stopping distance. In dangerous situations the system warns the driver visually and audibly, as well as with a slight jolt of the brake.
With adaptive cruise control (ACC), a sensor measures the distance to the vehicle in front and the relative speed. In combination with the DSG, the ACC system can also slow the vehicle down, for example in queues or traffic jam situations, to a complete stop. Depending on the situation, ACC then starts up again automatically after a predefined period.
An integral component of Front Assist and ACC is the City Emergency Braking function, which provides assistance at low speeds of under 30 km/h and thereby offers significantly improved safety, especially in dense city traffic.
If the driver fails to see an obstacle, the system automatically applies the brakes and ensures that the collision-speed is reduced. In order to minimise the risk related to this scenario, the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System is provided as standard in the Transporter. Another option is Light Assist that performs automatic, camera-controlled switching on and off of the main beam.
The Driver Alert System, which is standard in vehicles with a multifunction display, recognises any deviations from normal driving behaviour and advises the driver to take a break.
During the journey, the optionally available electronic voice enhancement helps drivers to keep their eyes focused on what is happening on the road. Without any turning of the head, the driver’s voice can be automatically amplified and played back to the passengers over the radio system’s speakers.
For buyers that include off-road work in their daily routine, predominantly on surfaces such as snow, ice, wet paddocks and gravel, the all-wheel-drive 4MOTION system now includes Hill Descent Assist as an option.
By targeted application of the brakes to individual wheels, which the driver is not able to do singularly using the foot brake, and by cutting the engine speed, it ensures a safe, controlled hill descent. During towing operation, electronic trailer stabilisation also utilises the components of the electronic stability control system, and thus contributes significantly to safety while driving.
As the Volkswagen juggernaut continues to develop its global presence, there’s every indication that at some stage it will fulfil its wish to become the number-one vehicle brand in the world. With a comprehensive programme of introducing new products in all the segments in which it operates, that day may not be so far away.