By Nick Aziz
Monday, Feb 5th, 2007 @ 2:32 pm
 
Volkswagen's new CEO Martin Winterkorn intends to fill "lucrative market niches" with new models over the coming years. The plan aims to boost profit while shrinking capacity.





"The Volkswagen brand is far from tapping its full potential," Winterkorn said in a letter to employees obtained by Bloomberg.

It's unclear what niches Winterkorn plans to fill, but the forthcoming Scirocco and Tiguan could arguably fall into this category. Oddly, Winterkorn is rumored to have considered canceling the Passat coupe, Scirocco and Tiguan projects, but too much had already been invested in their development.

Several media reports have indicated Winterkorn is not satisfied with the three vehicles, but it's not known what his specific concerns are. Many enthusiasts criticized the Scirocco for looking too much like a hatchback and not enough like a coupe.

Winterkorn is reported to have delayed the launch of the Passat coupe, originally slated for the Geneva Motor Show. A lack of design creativity might be a concern with all three models, given Winterkorn's upscale niche market ambitions.

As previously reported, Winterkorn asked VW's new design chief, Walter de'Silva, to rework all of VW's upcoming models. De'Silva was previously head of design at Audi, until being transferred to VW last month.

While at Audi, de'Silva was very critical of VW's recent decision to copy Audi's single-frame grille and the exterior similarities on VW vehicles, according to Automotive News.

Under Winterkorn's direction, de'Silva's job is now to create distinction between VW, Audi, Seat, Bentley, and Lamborghini. How Volkswagen will target upmarket niches like those occupied by Mercedes-Benz while not conflicting with Audi remains to be seen.