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Brand rethink by new head of VW

Bernd Pischetsrieder, who will be chairman of Volkswagen Group from April, is planning changes to the line-up of marques and models.

“There are some things which are not as I would like them,” he said. “But my job now is to change them and get them working to my advantage. We have too many brands and too many cars in similar segments of the market. But we also do not cover enough segments.”

Next year Volkswagen launches a mini-MPV, 4x4 and a sportscar.

Dr Pischetsrieder is thought to disagree with current Volkswagen boss Ferdinand Piech who has believed in developing each brand upwards and downwards.

The former BMW chairman, who lost his job in 1999 over the huge investment in Rover, acknowledged Volkswagen looked vulnerable in the wake of declining demand for its cars.

He sees greater cost savings across the group through wider sharing of components and chassis/platforms, but wants to differentiate strongly between “the more sporting and aggressive” badges at Audi and Seat and the Skoda and VW marques.

“It is my job to develop the brands and products across the company so that this happens in a natural and evolutionary way,” said Dr Pischetsrieder. “Of course the two sets of brands are integrated, even with a little overlap, but they are also two sets of brands with completely separate entities.

“I know that's how some financial analysts see the situation, but my job is to move Volkswagen upwards and forwards and that's what I intend to do.”

One of Volkswagen's problems is that car buyers are aware of potential cost-savings as Seat/Skoda use many identical parts to VW/Audi.

Dr Pischetsrieder's appointment has been widely welcomed by financial institutions eager to see the VW share price revive.

Dr Piech – in charge since 1993 – developed a reputation for forcing through investment-heavy projects such as new small cars for Bentley and Lamborghini, as well as Volkswagen's D1 Passat super-saloon.

His successor has a reputation for brand vision (flawed only by the Rover experience) and for being financially shrewd. He also secretly secured the rights to the Rolls-Royce trademark. (September 28, 2001)

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