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Car confidential: Growing pains ahead for VW

Ever wondered about the Volkswagen hierarchy? You know, why anyone would buy an Audi when they could have the same car for thousands less at the nearest VW dealer?

Not to mention the relative bargains on offer at Seat and Skoda outlets.

As Wolfsburg assembled its stable of brands throughout the 1980s and 1990s, we watched and wondered how the company would make platform sharing and brand synergies work when so many products were so similar.

It’s a question that’s continued to vex brand specialists – and the internal competition is about to get even worse.

The VW mothership is planning to expand upwards and downwards (think Up city car teeny-tot and upscale models like the Passat CC), while Audi is plotting a hugely expanded range of A- and Q-badged models (stretching from A1 to the sky). 

Forward planning

Seat plans to double its production to 800,000 cars a year, while Skoda will double its range in three years.

Today, the Czech manufacturer has a four-strong range: Fabia supermini, Octavia family car, Superb saloon and roomy Roomster.

But by 2011 it’ll have a tiny Smart-like city car, a new small four-door, the Yeti junior off-roader and a seven-seater MPV. 

Why buy a VW when the equivalent Skoda is just as good and much cheaper? It’s causing increasing unease in the boardroom.

Taking a slice of the market

“I am no longer prepared to let Skoda tread on VW’s toes,” said group chairman Martin Winterkorn recently.

“Instead, Skoda will have to step in line when it comes to a new product for emerging markets.

And its MPV dreams will have to be tweaked to protect upcoming VW models. It is good to see Skoda grow.

But that growth must not be achieved at the expense of the group’s cash cow.”

Sounds like the infighting at Planet Volkswagen could be about to reach a whole new level of bitchiness. You have been warned.

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