VW plots its winning new Polo
High-performance Polo R to be unveiled. Plus: EU goes legal on Germany; Toyota stays on top
A Volkswagen Polo R WRC at the WRC Rally in Monte Carlo
Volkswagen seems keen to capitalise on its recent domination of the World Rally Championship with an ultra-high performance version of the Polo. Last year, VW made a limited edition run of Polo R WRC models with a 220hp engine to celebrate its arrival on the world rally scene, but now plans are afoot for something a little more hardcore. VW already has prototypes circulating of a new Polo R model, this time with 250hp and, crucially for any rally-derived weapon, four-wheel-drive.
According to German car magazine Auto Bild, which has driven one of the prototypes, it can accelerate from 0-100kmh in under 6.0secs and has a limited top speed of 250kmh. The only doubt over producing the model would be the potential cost (we suspect it would carry an Irish price of at least €45,000) and whether or not it would tread too heavily on the toes of the forthcoming Audi S1, which will use many of the same mechanical parts and which is due to be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show.
EU and Germany come to blows over new air-con rules
The European Commission has kicked off a legal process against Germany for its failure to enforce new rules on car air-conditioning systems. The row, which has been bubbling away for months, centres on the use of a refrigerant known as R134a, which the EU says is damaging to the environment.
German car makers, most notably Mercedes-Benz, contested the ruling, saying that the only current alternative fridge gas, R1234yf, is dangerous to drivers, as it is flammable in a crash.
“We are opening a procedure against Germany. This is not a final decision by the Commission,” EU industry commissioner Antonio Tajan told reporters, but the starting of the process means that the Berlin government must now respond within two months. Both government and car makers have previously asked the EU to continue research both into the safety of the new gas (which Tajan has said he sees no safety issue with) and development of next-generation air-conditioning systems which will use inert carbon dioxide as a coolant.
If Berlin and/or Mercedes are unable to convince the Commission of the merits of their views, then up to 130,000 Mercedes cars may have to be withdrawn from the market as they will no longer conform to type-approval rules, and Germany could be hit with heavy fines for flouting an EU directive.
Toyota holds slim lead in global sales figures
Toyota has released its official 2013 sales figures and it seems to be holding on to a slim lead in the global car-maker stakes, with total sales (including Daihatsu cars and Hino heavy trucks) of 9.98 million vehicles. General Motors is slightly behind on 9.7 million vehicles across its myriad brands, but it will be closely contested by Volkswagen Group, which won’t announce figures until March but which will probably be neck-and-neck with GM.
That means GM has halved the gap that existed between it and Toyota in 2012 from 460,000 sales to 270,000, but Toyota is expecting to stretch its lead in 2014 and become the first-ever car-maker to sell more than 10 million vehicles in one year. VW, however, wants to be the world’s Number One car maker by 2018 and is investing $7 billion in the US alone this year to try and increase sales of VW and Audi badged vehicles.