Special Coverage

Frankfurt Auto Show

FRANKFURT – What’s up at Volkswagen AG? A rear-engine B-car destined for Europe and emerging markets such as South America.

The auto maker unveils the Up! here in an invitation-only media event preceding Tuesday’s opening of the Frankfurt auto show.

Volkswagen Group Chairman and CEO Martin Winterkorn takes the wraps off the concept car that proclaims the auto maker’s commitment to building and selling fuel-efficient, environmentally friend vehicles. Based on a unique platform dubbed NSF for New Small Family, the Up! is one of several planned derivatives.

He is mum on production timing for the Up!, but a VW insider suggests it could reach the market within two years.

Plans for a North American rollout are unclear, but Ward’s is told a another concept based on the NSF platform could be introduced in November at the Los Angeles auto show. And a third might be seen next year at the Geneva auto show.

The first rear-engine VW since the Beetle, the 2-door hatchback is envisioned with a 2- or 3-cyl. engine. Winterkorn promises fuel economy of 67 mpg (3.5L/100 km) to start, but adds VW’s objective is to get below 78 mpg (3L/100 km).

“It will be a very, very successful car,” he tells the gathering of 1,500 journalists from 62 countries.

At 138 ins. (350 cm) long and 64 ins. (163 cm) wide, the snub-nosed car resembles the new, widely acclaimed Fiat 500 – one of several B-cars arriving in showrooms or headed that way. Against a backdrop of volatile gasoline prices, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC are developing B-cars, as well.

Volkswagen also uses today’s event to unveil the eighth-generation Audi A4, Bentley Continental GT Speed Coupe, Bugatti EB 16.4 Veyron Pur Sang, Lamborghini Reventon, Seat Tribu concept cross/utility vehicle believe to be based on the ’08 Volkswagen Tiguan, Skoda Fabia Combi and VW Caddy Maxi van.

Winterkorn says the variety of vehicles proves VW has been more successful with a multi-brand strategy than any other auto maker.

Indeed. The Skoda will retail for €10,740 ($14,817), while the new Bugatti – just five will be produced, all of which already are sold – sells for €1.4 million ($1.9 million).