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VW and Suzuki move closer together with joint projects

By Georg Kacher

Motor Industry

29 June 2010 10:29

As predicted by CAR Magazine, Volkswagen last year bought a 19.9% stake in Suzuki. But according to the Wolfsburg grapevine, the minority interest is set to increase by 10% annually over the next four to five years. Fact or fiction? Neither party will tell.

The two car makers are equally tight-lipped with regard to a low-cost version of the VW Up! which may – or may not – be built by Suzuki on behalf of the Germans for distribution in certain low labour-cost markets. Using the modified underpinnings of the similarly sized Alto, this oriental-teutonic hybrid could not only work in countries like India and China but also for price-sensitive brands like Skoda and Seat.

Volkswagen and Suzuki: joint SUVs

Another likely cooperation project concerns a small SUV, which may be based on the next Vitara or on the SX4 replacement. The future product plan mapped out by the VW Group calls for up to five different crossovers/SUVs:

Small SUV (Vitara)
Compact SUV (SX4)
Mid-size SUV (Tiguan)
Mid-size + SUV (Q5, baby Cayenne)
Full-size SUV (Touareg)

Although a small crossover is highly desirable from a marketing point of view, the Vitara is probably too low-tech to match the need of all VW Group brands and most markets. That's why the product planners are reportedly favouring the next SX4 which would work for Volkswagen (CrossPolo), Audi (Q1), Seat (Tribu) and Skoda (Yeti II).

Trouble is, the future SX4 is reportedly not exactly a beauty, so mere badge-engineering is out of the question. But will VW spend the money to develop a brand-new body which can be made to work for four brands? Although the verdict is still out, the rumour mill in Wolfsburg is optimistic.

VW SUVs galore!

Even though the Tiguan already exists in standard and XL form, Wolfsburg sees room above it for a slightly bigger Passat crossover dubbed VW416. Passat SUV, Tiguan II, Audi Q3 II and the follow-up to Vitara/Grand Vitara would in this scenario share the same DNA. Instead of using the flexible but rather expensive modular transverse matrix MQB, VW and Suzuki could pool their hardware and create a more affordable common architecture.

Upwards of the Q5, the longitudinal components set (MLB) is the obvious choice. But does it really make sense to conceive every car the nose-heavy Audi way? Or would be it more clever to evolve MLB into a better balanced front-mid-engined layout which does not automatically require 4WD in all configurations?

Questions over questions – and so far only one answer. While Suzuki will at the bottom of the price and performance spectrum teach the
Germans how to decontent and save money, Porsche will at the upper end teach Audi and Bentley how to conceive modern lightweight driver´s cars and crossover vehicles.