Volkswagen Australia managing director John White says he is comfortable that local examples of the new-generation Volkswagen Passat won’t arrive for more than 12 months after the European launch taking place this week.
The long lead-time, said White, is the result of a staggered worldwide roll-out of the new model, which is based on an entirely different architecture to the old car — a version of the MQB matrix that also underpins the Golf, Skoda Octavia and Audi A3 among many others.
Given the circumstances, the German plant that makes our Passats is taking some time to get up to full speed, and since the mid-sized car market is shrinking in Australia, it is not deemed a high priority. Not as high as a proportionally big-seller such as the Golf GTI, anyhow.
“It’s a staggered launch on a worldwide basis,” White explained. “That segment in Australia is not as important a segment as it is in other markets in terms of its size.
“This is a brand new car, new architecture, and your production curve is [gradual]. I’m comfortable when we’re getting it.”
“We believe we still have legs under the current Passat scenario, a good run-out strategy”.
In the interim between this week's European launch and the Australian premiere, three new spin-offs will arrive in Europe, some time near June next year. These are the GTE plug-in, the R-Line sports-styled derivatives and the high-riding Alltrack version.
Speaking on the wider mid-sized segment, down 12.8 per cent this year, White said the full picture would not emerge until 2018, when the dominant Toyota Camry ceases to be made in Australia. At present, the ubiquitous Toyota takes a staggering 48 per cent segment share.
“I think it’s going to level out, I think it won’t be until 2018 when we get the real picture,” White said.
"Why do I say 2018? When you look at the stats, 75 per cent of the segment is driven by the Camry, and if you look at the business Camry does, a high percentage is fleet business, government fleet.
“So the day the government and government industries are no longer buying the Camry (as much) because it’s a ‘Made in Australia’ product, what will happen? Will all that business still go to the mid-sized car segment? Will that business shift to other markets? I don’t think we’ll really know until then.
“I suspect, if I was to put money on it, the market will shrink a little bit and level off. But long term, we can still do good, profitable volume with the Passat range.”
The Passat launches in the final quarter of 2015 into Australian showrooms. Our first drive review from Europe is coming soon. For detailed specifications on the car, see here.