The UAE and the rest of the Middle East will be the first markets to receive the petrol-engined version of Volkswagen's new Touareg, a senior executive has revealed.
And the new Car of the Year, the Polo, could go on sale in the region earlier than planned, Stefan Mecha, Managing Director of Volkswagen Middle East, told Emirates Business.
Production of the petrol-engined Touareg is due to start at a plant in Bratislava at the end of June, and 200 cars from the first week's output have been allocated for delivery to the region, with further units to follow over subsequent weeks. This reflects the increased importance of the Middle East market to VW.
The luxury sport utility vehicle, powered by a V6, 3.6-litre petrol engine, will go on sale in the region in mid-August. The car will be launched first in Germany in June, but will initially be available only in diesel-powered form. Diesel cars are not sold in the Middle East.
"The region will be the first market that will be getting the petrol engine," said Mecha. "We are the first launch market for the V6 petrol due to the focus on the Middle East market."
A 4.2-litre V8 will follow in the region at beginning of next year, but Mecha added: "We focus in the region mainly on the V6, which accounts for almost all of our sales. The V8 accounts for less than 10 per cent of the total sales."
There are no plans to sell the hybrid version of the Touareg in the Middle East.
"The hybrid market is not an issue at the moment. We do not see that there's really customer need and the price increase for a hybrid car is significant," said Mecha.
"Bearing in mind that petrol is pretty cheap across the region it's not really viable from the customer perspective. From an environmental perspective yes, of course, but I think this needs some time until you really have customer demand."
The Polo was named European Car of the Year 2010 by a panel of journalists from leading motoring publications across the Continent. VW has longstanding plans to launch the sedan version in the Middle East in 2011, but Mecha added: "Perhaps we will have a surprise for this year on that one – we might work on the Polo hatchback in the Middle East. Together with our colleagues in Germany we are working on assessing whether we should launch a Polo hatchback this year."
The Polo has not been available in the region since the previous model was discontinued in 2008.
Mecha was speaking ahead of the world premiere of the new Touareg in Munich at an event attended by more than 500 international guests.
The original Touareg first appeared in 2002 and was launched in the Middle East soon after. The range went on to sell 500,000 cars around the world and became Volkswagen's best-selling model in the UAE and the rest of the region.
The new model, which Volkswagen says is its most technically innovative car ever, is 208kg lighter than the original and 20 per cent more fuel-efficient. It underwent off-road testing over sand dunes at a secret location in Dubai in 2008.
It is the first of a number of new models the company is preparing to unveil over the next few years. A successor to the Jetta will appear in the Middle East in 2011, a new Beetle is due the following year and a new version of the Phaeton luxury sedan is on the drawing board.
And – as if Toyota did not have enough problems – VW is developing a mid-size model that will challenge the Japanese manufacturer's popular Camry.
"A very important product that is going to be launched at the latest in 2012 is our new mid-size sedan, to be built in the US," said Mecha. "We are very curious to see the launch of this car as it will bring a big, big boost to the brand."
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