2007 Volkswagen UP! Concept, Frankfurt Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
Is this the shape of things to come, or a return to Volkswagen’s roots? The UP! concept is a bit of both. The minicar prototype “is what the Volkswagen brand has stood for since it started,” declared the automaker’s CEO, Martin Winterkorn, “affordable mobility for everybody.”
Though the four-seater on display at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show is only a concept vehicle, company officials did little to hide the fact that something very similar will be hitting the highways, most likely by the 2010 model year. And as the first of what has been dubbed the NSF, or New Small Family, platform, Winterkorn suggested that several variants on the theme will likely follow.
details were sparse, though the CEO noted UP! has a rear-mounted engine,
Volkswagen’s first, in fact, since the original Beetle. In the little hatchback
on display in
Nose-to-tail, the UP! measures just 3.45 meters, or 11.3 feet, about 35 percent longer than Daimler’s second-generation smart fortwo. But the UP! boasts four seats and reasonable interior space, largely due to its tall roof and upright seating. Those seats can fold, meanwhile, into a variety of interior configurations, and provide a surprising amount of cargo space.
Where the original Beetle was a stripped down econobox, the UP! Show car is loaded with an array of high-tech goodies, including a high-line audio system, and onboard navigation.
With the UP! aiming for an
increasingly crowded and cost-competitive segment, company insiders say it would
be highly unlikely for VW to build a production version in
According to Winterkorn – who has
made the UP! one of his personal priorities since becoming CEO – the little car
would be aimed at crowded urban markets in
The automaker is in the midst of a grand reorganization, Stateside, aimed at reversing multi-billion-dollar losses. To ignore the fast-growing minicar market would suggest, said another observer, that for all its talk about a turnaround, VW still doesn’t have a clue about what makes the American market tick if it doesn’t bring the UP! to the States.
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