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by Daniel DeGasperi

Volkswagen Australia Group (VAG) is targeting mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP in 2013, with the hope of securing lucrative sales contracts for its commercial vehicle range.

Speaking at a media conference in Sydney, VAG managing director Anke Koeckler (below) confirmed the aim for this year.

“Especially now with Amarok, we want to go into the mining areas.

“[We] want to be approachable to Australians.”

While acknowledging that Toyota has a stronghold on the mining sector with its commercial vehicle range, VAG director of commercial vehicles Phil Clark added that mining companies are now demanding “five-star vehicles” as rated by the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), and this gives Volkswagen an edge over its Japanese rival.

“We’ve got mining companies pursuing us,” said Clark. “[Toyota] HiLux is a four-star vehicle … Amarok is five star. There’s only two or three companies [with five-star utes].”

Despite the opportunity, Clark stressed that “we have to come with a really good offer [for mining companies]”.

Volkswagen says its first and foremost priority is to improve its reach into rural areas, and particularly “expand our service points in WA and North Queensland,” according to Clark.

He cautions that Volkswagen therefore isn’t expecting immediate and rapid sales growth in the mining sector.

“We can’t do it overnight … you [mining companies] can’t afford any downtime, so we must expand our service network first.

“We’re doing it [expanding] in a manner that we’re only doing it once.”

Despite targeting rural areas, Volkswagen says it has no plans to make genuine factory bull bars available on its commercial vehicle range like most ute rivals. It also cautions against using aftermarket bull bars, which may affect the operation of the vehicle’s passive safety systems and its overall crashworthiness.

Volkswagen’s Australian arm saw its commercial vehicle sales increase 52 per cent in 2012, with 12,050 units of Caddy, Transporter, Caravelle, Multivan, Crafter and Amarok sold last year.

The latter ute, in its first full year on sale, contributed 6700 sales to the total. The HiLux-rivalling Amarok is also expected to be Volkswagen’s strongest proposition to mining companies.