PARIS -- Despite the debt crisis and loss of confidence in the automobile industry in Europe, Volkswagen Group is forging ahead with new-vehicle releases, with plans to launch "more than 140 new models around the world by 2014," according to the chairman of Volkswagen AG, Dr. Martin Winterkorn.
"This Paris Motor Show is coming in turbulent times," Winterkorn said on the eve of the Paris Motor Show at a VW Group event here. "How long will this crisis in Europe last? Where will the auto industry go from here?"
Those questions may remain unanswered for now. But one thing's for sure: "We are convinced Volkswagen will continue" to launch new vehicles in the marketplace, he said. "We have the right vehicles at the right spot. Our global debuts this evening show we are present in more than 150 markets... Our cars are developed and sold around the world."
From January to August, says Winterkorn, VW Group sold more than six million vehicles for the first time.
"A lot of people are singing the swan song for Europe," he says.
"Volkswagen is countering this vigorously."
In fact, Volkswagen Group is investing about seven billion euros in research and development and continuing its quest to be "the world's best carmaker," Winterkorn says.
Part of the VW Group's efforts are being spent on developing new plug-in hybrid technologies for the Audi e-tron, Q7, A3, A6 and A8, along with the Porsche Cayenne and "numerous others", Winterkorn says.
Following are some of the highlights from the VW Group:
AUDI unveiled its crosslane coupe concept, a plug-in hybrid that made its world debut here. The crosslane provides a look at the future design language of the automaker's Q models, says Wolfgang Egger, head of Audi design.
The concept features a 1.5-litre three-cylinder TFSI engine and two electric motors that provide an impressive fuel economy rating of just 1.1 litres per 100 kilometres.
The crosslane is an urban concept designed to appeal to "young, sporty customers," says Audi. The coupe sprints from zero to 100 kilometres an hour in 8.6 seconds. In pure electric mode, it takes 9.8 seconds. The car's top speed is 182 km/h.
Although there are still no plans to bring the A3 Sportback to Canada yet, that doesn't mean Audi wouldn't do so if demand warrants it.
Unfortunately for Canadians, our U.S. neighbours are not as fond of hatchbacks as we are. And that means our volumes don't yet justify the A3 Sportback coming to Canada. It's too bad because it's an attractive little hatch.
The A3 Sportback "is the newest baby of the Audi AG family," said Rupert Stadler, chairman of the board of Audi AG. It features 300 horsepower and can accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in just 5.7 seconds.
The new A3 Sportback five-door has a 53-millimetres-longer wheelbase than the three-door, yet its lightweight design makes it 90 kilograms lighter with a weight of just 1,205 kg.
Audi is offering the A3 with a choice of one TDI and two TFSI engines, with two diesel and one gasoline version to follow. On average, fuel consumption has been reduced by 10 per cent, according to Audi.
Let's hope Canadians can persuade Audi to bring the hatch to our shores.
BENTLEY is off to the races again with its new GT3 Continental race car concept, which made its world debut here.
The automaker says it plans to return to motorsport toward the end of 2013.
While Bentley did not reveal the specifics of the rear-wheel-drive car, it is based on the Continental GT Speed, which also made its debut here. The 330-km/h GT Speed has a twin-turbo W12 engine that develops 616 hop and 590 pound-feet of torque available from 2,000 to 5,000 rpm. With a new ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, the GT Speed accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in a mere 4.2 seconds. It reaches 160 km/h in just nine seconds.
"At Lamborghini, we sell dreams," said Stephan Winkleman, president and CEO of the automaker. But even dreams have to be updated once in a while.
And so Lamborghini took the wraps off its revised Gallardo LP 560-4, which features a new front and rear end, including larger air intakes up front, and new 19-inch alloy wheels.
A new Edizione Tecnica version of the high-performance LP 570-4 Superleggera and Spyder Performante models also made its debut here along with the facelifted LP 560-4.
Lamborghini says nearly 13,000 units have already left the Sant'Agata Bolognese factory.
The Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo concept also made its world debut here, featuring "a look at the future of Porsche," according to Dr. Matthias Muller, president and CEO of Porsche AG.
The Sport Turismo concept is for those "who occasionally need more loading space but still value the turismo" aspect of the car, says Muller.
The concept is 1,990 millimetres wide, 1,401 mm in height and 4,950 mm long.
A new twist is there are no conventional exterior mirrors on the concept. Instead, the Sport Turismo features two cameras mounted in the side air outlets whose images are shown on the displays in the cockpit.
The plug-in hybrid features a 333-hp V6 engine coupled with a 95-hp electric motor, which combine for a peak output of 416 hp.
The plug-in hybrid can be driven in pure electric mode up to 130 km/h. The Sport Turismo has an enviable fuel economy rating with a combined city/highway consumption of less than 3.5 L/100 km. According to Porsche, the concept accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in less than six seconds.
Volkswagen unveiled three world premieres here: the seventh-generation New Golf and two concepts, the Golf GTI and Golf BlueMotion.
While the seventh-generation Golf is a 2013 model in Europe, it will not arrive in Canada until early 2014, according to Volkswagen Canada.
Despite being 100 kg lighter than the last-generation model, the New Golf is 56 mm longer and 13 mm wider. It's also lowered by 28 mm. There's 15 cm more rear-seat legroom and cargo capacity grows to 13.4 cubic feet, up by one cu. ft. It features an all-new 1.4 TSI 140-hp engine. It will be available with six- and seven-speed twin-clutch manual transmissions.
The BlueMotion concept is a "state-of-the-art technology that people can afford," says Winterkorn.
The third-generation BlueMotion features a new 1.6L TDI engine and has a fuel economy of 3.2 L/100 km. It has 110 hp and a top speed of 202 km/h, according to the automaker. Helping to decrease consumption are fuel-saving technologies such as stop-start and a 10 per cent more fuel-efficient aerodynamic design.
The Golf GTI concept has a 2.0L turbocharged direct-injection gasoline engine with 220 hp and a high-output version featuring 230 hp. It also has larger brakes and a redesigned steering system to give it sharper handling.
-- Postmedia News