VW Group preview night at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show

Published: 12 September 2011

The Volkswagen preview night ushered in the world premieres of no fewer than eight new models. If you were in any doubt of the scale of VW's ambition, tonight was a prety chunky statement of intent.

The home teams take Frankfurt very seriously indeed. VW invited 2352 of the world's media from 43 different countries, shipped them out to an out-of-town warehouse and spent a rumoured seven-figure sum on persuading them that VW is bang on course to become the world's number one car maker by 2018. Here's a sneaky look behind the scenes.

VW Preview night at Frankfurt: proof that Wolfsburg knows a thing or two about the black art of persuasion

If the scope of the new model launches is a measure of success, then the VW group is already well on the way. An extraordinary array of new cars is rolled out on the eve of the Frankfurt auto show, to a son et lumiere show more normally seen at the Cirque de Soleil.

First up is the VW Up. This small car is Wolfsburg's big news at the IAA, and it looks neat and pert in the metal. Shame we're not getting the 79g/km CO2 nat-gas one that was the focus of the speech, but there's no denying the interior quality of the Up. At around £8k, it'll sell well. But is it that different from the Fox or Lupo before it? Or has VW just noticed the downsizing trend and put some muscle behind its city car this time?

Next up is Dr Wolfgang 'Two Jobs' Durheimer, showing off the new, svelte Cheshire special, the Bentley Conti GTC ('British motoring proved on the German autobahn') and the absolutely crazy Bugatti Veyron L'Or Blanc special - whose white porcelain stripes on royal blue looks like those crazy prototype camo jobs. With a stunning backdrop of ultraviolet lights, this Bug is absolutely mesmerising as it drives around a stage of dry ice.

From Bugatti to Skoda

Amid the hoopla and pyrotechnics - and when the brilliantly visceral new Gallardo Super Trofeo Stradale is unveiled and production Sesto Elemento confirmed by Lambo chief Stephan Winkelmann, there's fire everywhere - the VW preview night proves a reminder of the scale of VW's reach.

Not many car groups can jump from the crazed Veyron Grand Sport L'Or Blanc to a humble new Skoda MissionL. It's a new four-door to slot between Fabia and Octavia, and looks rather Seat-ish in its precisely pressed suit. Perhaps that's because there will be a Seat version forthcoming (perhaps looking like a shrunken IBL concept, itself a design signifier for VW's Spanish wing).

Next up Audi teases us with the Audi A2 - and tells us precisely nothing about it - leaving the nagging realisation that the whole event is a media puppet show to hog 12 hours of headlines before the IAA kicks off in earnest at 8.00am on Tuesday.

But just when you think you're being played, Volkswagen's professionalism slips. The Polo WRC car stalls on stage and there's an awkward 10-second pause while the head of motorsport dithers. They are human, after all.

911 to eco cars

VW group chairman Martin Winterkorn wraps up by drawing comparisons across the range. He has a democratic wish to let future mobility have high emotion and low emissions, a noble aim entirely in keeping with VW's populist roots.

And in the new 911 - the seventh-generation at Porsche, they line them all up on stage, rather gloriously - they have ample proof that they can achieve both these disparate aims. The new 911 offers 194g/km and 34mpg in a car that can top 180mph. No wonder they're charging a chunky £4000 extra.

And that's why Volkswagen will continue to prosper. Cars people want, with the tech to ease their consciences - and sold at a premium to boot. That's a recipe for success.

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet