2007 Volkswagen UP! Concept

September 10, 2007

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.


Specific 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 Frankfurt, it will be a clear fuel economy champ, consuming just 3.5 liters per 100 kilometers driven. (That’s the way European’s measure mileage. In U.S. lingo, it would get better than 60 mpg.) And with several two- and three-cylinder powertrains, diesel and gasoline, available for the UP!, the automaker believes it could eventually do even better. “Our goal is to get below three liters,” said Winterkorn.


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 Germany . More likely, it could be sourced at a low-salary site, such as Brazil, Mexico, Eastern Europe, or even China . To go up against current products, such as the Toyota Yaris or smart, pricing would have to hold to somewhere in the 10,000 to 15,000 Euro range.


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 Europe , as well as cities in emerging markets. What was notably absent in his speech was any mention of the United States . And that took some observers – including several VW insiders – by surprise. Considering VW’s image, said one, “We absolutely need a car like this in the U.S.


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.


Related Articles

2007 Frankfurt Auto Show Coverage by TCC Team (9/4/2007)


Volkswagen Moving to D.C. Area by TCC Team (9/6/2007)
Dulles corridor to be new corporate home.


BlueMotion Golf Coming to Frankfurt by Richard Yarrow (8/16/2007)
High-miler diesel gets “blue” power.

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