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German launch of fifth-generation Golf

VW's fifth-generation Golf was shown off to media in Wolfsburg yesterday, 25 August. The town is being temporarily re-named 'Golfsburg' in honour of the new model.

The fifth Golf debuts this autumn in its home market, and VW will hope it rapidly regains its former longstanding European market leadership, currently held by Peugeot's 206. The design and technology of the new, biggest-ever Golf is claimed to represent the largest evolutionary step since the model series came into being, though more aggressive headlights are the most striking element of what some have described as a cautious, evolutionary re-design. The new model sports a chassis (including ESP) with a newly developed multilink rear suspension and optimised front suspension-strut-type axle, a new electromechanical steering system, five- and six-speed manual gearboxes or the six-speed automatic transmission (converter transmission and 'DSG' direct shift gearbox). Other innovations include modular doors which can be repaired relatively inexpensively if they are damaged. VW chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder said at yesterday's launch that more efficient production systems would help reduce the new Golf's production costs by at least 10%, although the car is larger and boasts more complex technology than its predecessors. The Financial Times has reported that analysts reckon this should boost the new car's profit margin to at least 5% compared to the VW group model average of 4% VW plans that 135,000 units of the new generation Golf will be produced in the fourth quarter of 2003. Sales of Germany's highest-volume car are expected to exceed 600,000 units from 2004 - the first full sales year. The model sold about 1 million units a year in the heyday of its previous incarnations.

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