2000 - 2004

Australian Volkswagen History

By Phil Matthews


The New Beetle is officially launched in Australia at a razzle-dazzle evening function at Darling Harbour in Sydney, called ‘Beetlemania 2000’. George Smilovich is the host and it features a VIP cocktail party, Club Veedub beer drinking, old and new VW show cars provided by club members, and the excellent Beatles tribute band ‘the Beatels’. A club vehicle outdoor display continues the following day.

The New Beetle goes on sale, with an 85 kW 2.0-litre engine, for $34,690 for the 5-speed manual and another $2,000 for the 4-speed auto. It becomes the first Mexican-made Volkswagen to be sold in Australia. A ‘Sunshine’ edition appears later in the year, with bright yellow paint, allow wheels, sunroof and different trim.

The updated Polo is released, with new nose and front bodywork, redesigned interior and more luxurious trim. Only the 16V version is available, with 55 kW 1.4-litre engine. It is priced at $22,490 for the manual, and $2,000 more for the 4-speed auto.

A limited edition ‘Rally’ version of the Golf is announced, in celebration of the Golf winning the Australian F2 Rally Championship in 1999. The Golf Rally has the 1.6-litre engine, 15” Amaroo alloy wheels, dark taillights and special badges. The normal GLE Golf has its expensive 20-valve 92 kW 2.0-litre engine replaced by the normal 16-valve 85 kW 2.0-litre shared with the Cabrio, Bora and New Beetle. The 20V engine continues on in the Passat.

A limited edition ‘20V Turbo Sport’ version of the Passat is announced. It has sports seats with leather upholstery, 16” Montreal alloy wheels and special badges, $4,000 worth of extras for $45,490, only $500 more than the Passat 20V’s usual price. The Passat is awarded the NRMA Best Car Award for Best Luxury Car under $56,000.

The name ‘4Motion’ replaces ‘syncro’ across the VW’s 4WD range worldwide, due to Steyr Daimler Puch losing the VW 4WD contract. All of VW’s future 4WDs will be designed in house and will carry the ‘4Motion’ name, regardless of the actual design. For Australia this only affects the Passat and Transporter/Caravelle. The Caravelle V6 is discontinued, with a 5-cylinder 75kW TDI option joining the 2.5-litre petrol engine.

A major announcement is made that the German Volkswagen AG parent company will take over selling VWs in Australia from Inchcape in January 2001. The VW parent company will be selling and servicing VWs directly, and will no longer operate through a third party.

VW’s car sales increase by 35% thanks to New Beetle fever and booming Golf sales. VW passes Mercedes Benz for the first time since 1977, but is passed by Kia and remains in 13th place. Inchcape has done a solid job of resuscitating VW from nothing, but now it was time for the next step.

8,216 Volkswagens are sold – 811 Polos, 3,519 Golfs, 155 Cabrios, 692 Boras, 1,328 New Beetles, 756 Passats, 90 Caravelles and 865 Transporters.

Volkswagen AG buys out Inchcape’s Australian VW contract for $3 million, and takes over the importing, distributing and sales of Volkswagens in Australia, effective from 1 January. This is the first time that the Australian VW operation has been entirely VW-owned since 1967; a major step forward, but small potatoes compared to the $3.2 billion VW AG will invest in the Asia-Pacific region this year. The move ends the long and disjointed Australian history of Volkswagens being imported and sold by third parties. Inchcape would, however, continue to control VW parts and service for another 12 months.

A new VW AG-owned company, Volkswagen Group Australia Pty Ltd, is created, with former boss of VW Japan, Peter Nochar, appointed Managing Director. A new head office is established in temporary premises on Gardeners Rd at Mascot, Sydney, opened in May by Volkswagen AG Asia-Pacific president Dr Robert Büchelhofer. He told the press, “Inchcape did a very good job, but an importer thinks in the short to medium term. We plan to bring in a long term approach.”

Volkswagen begins its first major sponsorship of sport in Australia, when they sign on as the ball sponsors for the AFL. The multi-million dollar sponsorship is for three years. The famous red Sherrin AFL balls now have VW logos on them.

The New Beetle Turbo is introduced as a limited edition model. It features a 110 kW 1.8-litre turbo engine, sports suspension, electronic rear spoiler and body kit. It is priced at $39,500 for the manual and $2,000 more for the 4-speed auto.

Two factory-built New Beetle RSi racecars contest the Australian GT Production Car Championship, in the Group B category. They are driven by former Audi Super Touring driver Matthew Coleman and Tim Leahey, who eventually finished 3rd in the National Championship.

A new top-model Bora is released, the V6 Bora with 4Motion AWD. It comes with a 150 kW  2.8-litre narrow V6 engine, six-speed manual transmission and VW’s Electronic Stability Program (ESP) as standard, the first Australian Volkswagen fitted with it.

The Passat is upgraded to the so-called ‘B5.5’ model, with the same basic body shell but with a redesigned nose, upgraded rear and new interior and trim. Sedan and wagon body styles are available, in 1.8-litre turbo, 2.8-litre V6 and V6 4Motion versions. The Passat again wins the NRMA’s Best Car Award for Best Luxury Car under $56,000.

Rod Penrose, driving his chop-roof turbocharged VW Beetle drag car, breaks a long-standing ‘Hot VWs’ magazine ‘A Sedan’ world record at Heathcote Park Raceway in Bendigo Victoria. His Autocraft 2810cc turbo engine is boosted at 2.1 bar and produces 385 kW at the flywheel. After a few trial runs he runs an 8.96 sec at 155.87 mph (250.9 km/h) for the quarter mile. The fastest Volkswagen drag car in the world! Since then, however, the record has been recaptured by Ron Lumis in the USA.

In the first year back under factory control, Volkswagen Group Australia sells over 10,000 VW vehicles annually, for the first time in 30 years. The 1976 sales record for the Golf is also broken. VW has moved up to 12th in Australian car sales, by passing Kia.

11,007 Volkswagens are sold – 1,126 Polos, 5,614 Golfs, 153 Cabrios, 1,315 Boras, 906 New Beetles, 902 Passats, 117 Caravelles and 874 Transporters.

Volkswagen Group Australia takes over VW parts and service support from Inchcape, ending all third-party control of VW’s Australian operations. Inchcape (Retail) continues some involvement in the VW business, as they own two of the Sydney Volkswagen dealers, Chatswood Classic Cars at Roseville and the Denlo Group at Parramatta.

Volkswagen Group Australia launches the Volkswagen Academy, a company wide program for all learning and training activities, for both VGA employees and the dealer network. All VWGA employees and dealership staff are presented with the Volkswagen Academy Handbook.

The all-new fourth-generation Polo is released, in four-door hatch form. Its body is larger than the old Mk3 Polo (and about the same size as the original Golf), and can be clearly recognised by its four round headlights. The range available is also greatly expanded. The base Polo comes in 3-door; the mid-range Polo S in three or five door, and the luxury Polo SE also in three or five doors, with the models having different equipment and trim levels. All Polos come with the 55 kW 1.4-litre engine, and choice of 5-speed manual or 4-speed auto.

The New Beetle range is revised, with a new lower-spec 75 kW 1.6-litre version priced at just $29,700 at the bottom. An 85 kW 2.0-litre version is available. Higher-spec luxury versions of both models are also available, called the Ikon. The 110 kW 1.8-litre New Beetle Turbo is the top local model, sharing its engine with the Golf GTI.

A 3.2-litre V6-powered left-hand-drive RSi Beetle is entered in the Targa Tasmania, driven by Paul Stokell. It goes well but crashes out on the second-last day.

The Golf range is broadened with the release of the new entry-level 75 kW 1.6S and 1.6SE models, closing the gap between the 1.6 and 2.0-litre models. Next up are the 85kW 2.0S and 2.0SE models, and the 1.8 turbo Golf GTI at the top. S and SE models have a choice of 5-speed manual or 4-speed auto; the GTI is manual only.

The Bora 2.0 shares its mechanicals and trim with the Golf SE. The Bora SPORT joins the range as a premium edition of the existing V5 and V6 4Motion models, with rear spoiler, new front grille, 17” alloy wheels, Michelin Sport tyres and special badges and trim.

A special limited edition Transporter, the TDI300, is released. It has a turbo-diesel engine and extra safety features, and retails for $33,690. A high-roof version of the Transporter is also released, with 7.8 cubic metres of load space.

VW’s local sales dip slightly to below 10,000 (for the last time, as it turns out). VW drops back to 14th place in the car market by being passed again by Kia and Mercedes Benz.

VW Group Australia sends out a press release – ‘Think Volkswagen, Think Beetle? Wrong.’ The Golf’s cumulative production total of 21,517,415 has just passed that of the Beetle, making the Golf the most successful world-wide Volkswagen model ever. Australian VW boss Peter Nochar comments, “The Golf is our single most important model, and maybe in future when people think Volkswagen, they will think Golf first and Beetle second.”

9,886 Volkswagens are sold – 793 Polos, 4,735 Golfs, 74 Cabrios, 1,268 Boras, 754 New Beetles, 1,020 Passats, 225 Caravelles and 1,017 Transporters.

Volkswagen Group Australia Pty Ltd move into their dedicated new two-storey corporate head office complex at the scenic Lakes Business Park, in Lord St, Botany in Sydney, very close to Mascot Airport. A new Volkswagen Spare Parts warehouse is opened at the Linfox Business Park at Lidcombe.

The Mexican-made New Beetle Cabriolet is released, with a 13-second electrically powered roof and a 110 kW 2.0-litre engine. The old ‘Mk3½’ Golf Cabriolet is discontinued. The standard New Beetle 1.6 and 2.0-litre models are discontinued, with only the Ikon trim versions still available, together with the Turbo.

A special version of the Golf, called the Generation, is released to celebrate Volkswagen’s 50 years in Australia. Available with 1.6 or 2.0-litre engine and a host of extras, the Generation starts at $26,490 drive-away.

The limited-edition Passat W8 is released, with a 202 kW 4.0-litre 8-cylinder engine. It becomes the first Volkswagen sold in Australia to be electronically limited to a top speed of 250 km/h (as if that matters on our 110 km/h motorways).

The Touareg large SUV is released, becoming the first Volkswagen SUV, and the first Slovakian-made Volkswagen, to be sold in Australia. It is available in V6 and V6 Luxury, V8 and V10 TDI versions. Prices begin at $67,600 for the V6, up to $138,500 for the V10 TDI. The Touareg V8 wins Overlander Magazine’s 4WD of the year award. VW Australia appoints former rugby legend Phil Kearns to promote the Touareg.

Local VW ads for the Touareg proclaim, “Come to think of it, announcing our first-ever 4x4.” Unfortunately this is wrong. VW’s previous 4x4s go back to the Schwimmwagens and Kommandeurwagens of WW2. More recently, other VW 4x4s have included the Iltis, the Passat Tetra, the previous range of Syncro Transporters, Golfs and Passats, and all the current range of 4Motion 4x4 AWD vehicles. The Touareg is actually VW’s first 'luxury SUV'.

The 9-seat, economical ‘Kombi’ version of the Transporter is released, with an 85 kW 2.5-litre petrol engine as standard. The Caravelle is upgraded with the 150 kW 2.8-litre V6 engine as standard, with the choice of a 75 kW 2.5-litre TDI engine as an option.

The LT range of large VW Transporters is released, taking VW into the 3.5 to 7.5-tonne van market in Australia for the first time. Short and long wheelbase vans are available, in short or high-roof versions. Two TDI engines are available – 80 kW 280 Nm 2.5-litre, or 116 kW 331 Nm 2.8-litre. Prices start at $41,600.

VW regains lost ground as the new VW Group Australia stabilises, and overall sales grow by 25%. VW passes BMW (for the first time since 1980) and also Daewoo, to move back up to 12th place in the local car market.

12,357 Volkswagens are sold – 1,236 Polos, 6,457 Golfs, 10 Cabrios, 1,050 Boras, 540 New Beetles, 201 New Beetle Cabriolets, 1,002 Passats, 325 Caravelles, 118 Kombis, 993 Transporters, 114 LTs and 311 Touaregs.

Volkswagen Group Australia publishes issue 1 of ‘Volkswagen Magazine’, their six-monthly high-quality glossy VW lifestyle magazine. Issue 1 is Autumn/Winter 2004. This is the first Australian VW company-produced magazine for owners since ‘New Horizons’ in 1965-66.

The 500,000th Australian Volkswagen is sold in March, but sadly no official ceremony marks the occasion and it passes unnoticed. What an opportunity for celebration missed!

The first issue of the independent bi-monthly ‘VW Magazine Australia’, edited and published by Craig Hughes in QLD, goes on sale in newsagents. Its website is www.vwma.net.au

The VW Nationals Drag Racing is held at new Western Sydney International Dragway, on Easter Saturday, for the first time. Leigh Harris wins the Gene Berg Trophy, Dave Becker wins King Of The Hill and Rod Penrose gets fastest ET – 8.96 sec @ 259.39 km/h (161.15 mph).

The Polo range is revised, with the 3-door Polo Club, 5-door Polo Match and 5-door Polo Elite now available, with different levels of equipment, from $19,990. The Polo Classic, the booted version of the Polo, is introduced for the first time, with the same 74 kW 1.6-litre engine as the hatchbacks. The Polo Classic is the first Chinese-made car (of any make) to be sold in Australia.

A pearl-effect ‘Black Magic’ colour version of the New Beetle Cabrio is added to the range. It sells for $46,990.

The latest fifth generation of the Golf is released in Australia, with the Golf 5 now being sourced from VW’s Uitenhage plant in South Africa rather than Germany. The trim and equipment range of the Golf 5 is also revised. Bringing the Australian range into line with the rest of the world, the Golf 5 is now available in Trendline, Comfortline and Sportline versions. Engines choices are 1.6-litre, 2.0-litre FSI, 1.9-litre TDI and 2.0-litre TDI. The Golf range begins at $25,490.

The most powerful production Golf so far, the 177 kW 3.2-litre V6 Golf R32, goes on sale in Australia for the first time, in very limited numbers (it’s still the Golf 4 version). Just 200 examples are imported.

The low-spec Passat 1.8 turbo is discontinued, and replaced with a 125 kW 2.5-litre V5 version, the same engine as the V5 Bora. The 142 kW 2.8-litre V6 Passat continues. The exclusive Passat W8 is discontinued, proving itself too expensive for the Australian market.

The Touareg range is expanded further, with the R5 TDI turbo diesel engine joining the existing petrol V6 and V8, and turbo diesel V10 versions. Buyers can now choose from four engines – two petrols and two diesels, and also standard/luxury equipment levels. Base price is increased slightly to $69,900.

The Caddy range of small delivery vans is released in Australia for the first time. It is available with a choice of two engines – the 75 kW 1.6 petrol, or 77 kW 1.9-litre TDI. 5-speed manual transmissions are standard. The Caddy is the first Polish-made Volkswagen to be sold in Australia.

The T4 Transporter/Caravelle is discontinued, and replaced by the latest T5 version. It is available as a van, single or dual cab-chassis, in long or short wheelbases. Five engines are available – an 85 kW 2.0-litre or 173 kW 3.2 V6 petrol; either a 63 kW or 77 kW version of the 1.9-litre TDI, and the 128 kW, 400 Nm 2.5 TDI. Prices range from $31,900 to $46,900.

Matching the T5 Transporter is the T5 passenger range. The 96 kW 2.8-litre TDI is standard on the Kombi and Caravelle, and the 128 kW 2.5-litre TDI is standad on the Multivan. Buyers can choose from a 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto transmission.

Cab-Chassis versions of the LT are added the range, in both short and long wheelbase versions, with the same engine choices as the vans.

In spite of the popular new Caddy and T5, VW’s passenger car sales dip by 22.8% and VW is re-passed by BMW, slipping to 13th place in the local car market.

10,754 Volkswagens are sold – 753 Polos, 5,920 Golfs, 483 Boras, 353 New Beetles, 258 New Beetle Cabrios, 337 Passats, 233 Caravelles, 106 Kombis, 1,102 Transporters, 20 Caddys, 254 LTs and 935 Touaregs.


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