Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, VW, at the 2010 NAIAS

2010 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), Detroit, MI – Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg is a Member of the Board of Volkswagen Brand Technical Development.

Volkswagen doesn’t go for deep code names. A simple NCC for New Car Concept, or a NMS for new midsize sedan will do. Volkswagen unveiled the NCC New Car Concept at the 2010 Detroit auto show. The NCC resembles what the redesigned 2011 Jetta will look like.

According to Hackenberg, the coupe with a hybrid drive can achieve 45 mpg in combined highway and city driving . The gasoline engine is a compressor and turbo charger and is powered by a 150-hp 1.4-liter TSI engine and a 27-hp electric motor. The NCC is positioned between Europes bestselling sports car, the Scirocco, and the CC.

In the first half of the year, Volkswagen will launch it’s first hybrid model on the market under the VW label “ an SUV with full-time all-wheel drive.

When I sat down with Hackenberg we talked about Volkswagen’s recent purchase of 19.9 percent of Suzuki. What will Suzuki provide Volkswagen and what will Volkswagen provide Suzuki?

Hackenberg went through the paces: “Suzuki is a really big company, specializing in small cars”.  It’s true, in fact Suzuki built General Motors smallest car back in 1985 when they built the Chevy Sprint. Volkswagen can provide Suzuki with technology, engines, drive trains and vehicle concepts. Suzuki will provide Volkswagen with help on the small/micro cars. Volkswagen is the market leader in China with 19 percent of the market. They have 25 percent of Brazil’s market.

Just because Suzuki isn’t dominating the United States market some people write it off. But Suzuki is the second-largest automaker (behind Toyota) in Japan. Suzuki is the largest producer of K-cars, producing cars for companies such as Nissan.

VW has been late to the Indian market, where Suzuki owns 40 percent through it’s 54 percent stake in Maruti Suzuki. In the zero, zero car size Suzuki has more than 50 percent of the market in India. The purchase of Suzuki could be more important to Volkswagen than buying Porsche.

Volkswagen has just finished the Chakan  plant in Maharashtra, India that has the ability to produce 250,000 cars. Hackenberg said they will produce the Polo and the Polo engine there. But VW wants to accelerate their foray into India and there is no one better to help them then Suzuki.

Another place to grow with small cars is the Asian market. Besides China, Volkswagen is not in the Asian market, such as Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia or Vietnam. With sales of about a million cars and Volkswagen only garnering about 30,000 of them Hackenberg sees huge growth potential.

What Hackenberg has noticed is that in the countries where Volkswagen produces cars for that market they do better in that market. In China, Volkswagen produces more than one million cars, and they are the leaders in that country. “All the capacity we had, we used last year”. And they want to grow another 10-15 percent.  VW has joint ventures with First Automotive Workers (FAW) and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC).

Hackenberg feels the same way about producing in the United States and thinks Americans would know the difference if the vehicle were made in China and imported here. VW will make the new NMS in Tennessee, to compete against the Camry and the Accord. The NMS will effectively replace the Passat. The new NCS will be built in Mexico. Both vehicles will share drivetrains.

The L1is an ultra-low fuel consumption rolling laboratory that “still has chapters to be written to make a business case for production.”

Volkswagen will have a completely different look in three years time. The Polo has been on the market for 1/2 a year. The engines will grow to a 1.4 TSI, 1.2 TSI, 1.6 TDI and 1.2 3cylinder. Delphi produces a TDI engine for VW, but it does not meet specs for the U.S. market. Jetta is known for the diesel, selling 30 percent  of their Jettas as diesel, 80 percent of their Jetta wagons as diesel and fifty percent of the Touareg as diesels.The Scirocco has the same drivetrain as the NMS, so there could be an argument made to bring the Scirocco to the United States, made in the U.S.

And Volkswagen is working on their quality issues. They have moved from the bottom in the JD Power numbers to the industry average. eight of VW’s new vehicles are on Consumer Reports recommended list from 3 a year ago. Some of these issues were just VW DTU – difficult to understand, that VW had to either fix or explain that it was a VW way of doing it. Hackenberg knew, in depth, the problems of quality and design that brought Volkswagen’s quality to it’s knees.

They know they have to solve these problems, and quickly and they take them seriously.  Otherwise they will not be able to achieve their goal, which is to beat Toyota”.

Expect to see more electric, such as the E-Up hatchback in 2013.

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.