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Volkswagen Middle East Director: We are Testing Electric Cars in Region | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The logo of Volkswagen company is seen on a car on an assembly line at the Volkswagen car factory in Palmela, Portugal, December 9, 2016. (Reuters)

London – Brand Director for Volkswagen Middle East Andrew Savvas revealed that the company is currently testing in the region a plug-in hybrid version of its Golf GTI.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that consumer demand for electric vehicles will help remove some of the obstacles in the industry.

“Electric vehicles are coming; The readiness of the region will be determined by consumer demand,” he revealed.

This demand requires the elimination of current obstacles that are standing in the way of these vehicles. They include how fast these cars can be charged over long journeys, their cost and the price of fuel, he explained.

This requires many improvements and government support. The United Arab Emirates and Jordan are currently leading regional efforts in this regard, revealed Savvas.

There are around 100 charging stations throughout the UAE, while Jordan has exempt electric cars from registration fees, customs and the sales tax. The kingdom has also invested in setting up charging points at gas stations, he continued.

“I have no doubt that the obstacles preventing the growth of electric vehicles in the region will be eliminated in due course,” he stressed.

The plug-in hybrid Golf GTE will continue to be tested throughout 2017 and it will not be offered for sale just yet, he said.

“It is our goal to be the global leader in e-mobility” he said, revealing that they aim to sell 1 million e-cars globally by 2025.

Asked about the most popular Volkswagen model in the region, Savvas said that the Golf is a bestseller, representing almost a third of total sales in 2016.

“The Golf has established itself as an iconic people’s car, decades of German engineering has seen every generation of Golf set benchmarks in pure driving pleasure and ownership experience,” he stressed.

Assessing 2016, he said it was a challenging sales year for our brand in a market that was notable for high levels of discounting. For the consumer on the other hand, it was a good year to buy.

Despite the hardships, Volkswagen introduced the new Passat model in the first quarter of the year. In the second quarter, it introduced the Golf GTI Clubsport, the most powerful GTI in the region, he stated.

“We finished the year with the launch of the all-new Tiguan, which has set benchmarks in the compact SUV segment. Many of our dealers quickly sold out following the initial launch allocation. we are therefore very optimistic about 2017 sales,” he remarked.

“We have another challenging year ahead of us, however we are focused on making positive strides ahead with powerful new products and improving our customer services with a focus on digitalisation,” he said.

As for its plans for the Middle East in 2017, Savvas said that the Arteon will be introduced in the Autumn. The summer will witness the unveiling of a special edition Touareg model with bespoke trims, featuring additional value that will directly benefit our customers.

On what distinguishes Volkswagen Group from others, he said: “As a direct result of the Volkswagen Group’s wide portfolio of sports cars, luxury, premium and volume models, the Volkswagen brand is able to develop technology and safety features that ultimately benefit our customer. The Volkswagen brand is premium in the volume segment – which means that we offer technology found in premium models, but at a price point that is comparable with Japanese and Korean brands. Our customers get more for their money, be it safety, materials or horsepower.”

Volkswagen is now the largest carmaker in the world. Asked whether that results in any pressure for them to stay at the top, he replied: “We aspire to be a winning company and a competitive one in regards to big production, while committing to superiority in quality.”