Flashy Audi roars past other VW brands

Volkswagen's flashy brand Audi is racing ahead of VW's other makes and generated more than 85 percent of total operating profit in 2009, according to group figures released on Thursday.

Flashy Audi roars past other VW brands
Photo: DPA

Audi’s operating profit of €1.6 billion ($2.2 billion) was nearly three times that of VW’s eponymous brand, which posted a profit of €561 million. VW’s finance unit was the second biggest contributor to operating profit, turning in €606 million.

In terms of unit sales, Audi sold just under 950,000 vehicles, less than one quarter the 3.954 million VW’s delivered last year.

“Without Audi, VW would not be profitable,” German car expert Ferdinand Dudenhöffer from the University of Duisburg told news agency AFP. The Volkswagen group “does not pay enough attention to costs,” he added.

VW, Europe’s biggest carmaker, aims to overtake Toyota as the world number one by 2018, and sell more than 10 million vehicles per year at that point. To reach its goal, VW is ramping up local production in Brazil, India and the United States, countries where chairman Martin Winterkorn said the group was “under represented.”

VW is also developing a common “modular” system that would account for two thirds of new autos, with accessories and other elements added to differentiate brands and models, he said.

Winterkorn told an annual press conference that “2010 will not be an easy year,” however.

“The German and European markets will decline markedly,” he said, while increases were forecast in Brazil, China – now VW’s biggest single market – and the United States.

“Our goal is to do better than the competition” this year, the VW chairman said, though he did not provide a precise target.

In 2009, VW sold 6.29 million vehicles, and made a net profit of €960 million, a drop of almost 80 percent, on €105.2 billion in sales. On the financial front, the group said it was sticking to plans for a rights issue in the first half of 2010, and looked to raise around €4 billion. The funds would help maintain VW’s credit rating as it integrates its latest acquisition, the luxury sports car maker Porsche.

Other VW brands include Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Seat, Skoda and the Swedish heavy truck maker Scania.

VW, which has also bought a 20 percent stake in Suzuki of Japan, has become too big, Dudenhöffer said, with brands like Seat, Skoda and VW “devouring each other.” Seat posted an operating loss of €339 million last year.

VW supervisory board president Ferdinand Piëch, the man behind the scenes, believes competition between the group’s brands is healthy however because it forces all to search constantly for ways to improve their operations.

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Two hospitalized in Munich after activist crashes parachute into Euro 2020 stadium

At least two people were hospitalised Tuesday after a Greenpeace activist crash-landed on the pitch before the Germany-France match at Euro 2020 when his powered parachute microlight struck spidercam cables at Munich's Allianz Arena.

Two hospitalized in Munich after activist crashes parachute into Euro 2020 stadium
The activist lands on the turf of the Allianz Arena. credit: dpa | Christian Charisius

The pilot flew over the pitch just before kick-off in the Group F clash with “Kick out oil” written on the canopy of his parachute.

However, when the pilot hit television cables above the pitch, it knocked his microlight off balance and he landed on the turf after clipping one of the stands, where the casualties happened.

The activist was arrested soon after landing.

A Munich police spokesman told AFP that at least two people suffered head injuries and “both had to be taken to hospital, we don’t know yet how serious the injuries are”.

The police spokesman said the activist appears to have escaped injury, but “we are considering various criminal charges. Munich police has zero understanding for political actions that put lives at risk”.

UEFA also slammed the botched stunt.

“This inconsiderate act – which could have had very serious consequences for a huge number of people attending – caused injuries to several people attending the game who are now in hospital and law authorities will take the necessary action,” European football’s governing body said in a statement.

The parachutist above the stadium. Photo: dpa | Matthias Balk

“The staging of the match was fortunately not impacted by such a reckless and dangerous action, but several people were injured nonetheless.”

The stunt was a protest against German car manufacturer Volkswagen, one of the sponsors of the European Championship, Greenpeace explained in a Twitter post.

“UEFA and its partners are fully committed to a sustainable Euro 2020 tournament and many initiatives have been implemented to offset carbon emissions,” said UEFA.

Greenpeace said they regretted any harm caused.

“This protest was never intended to disrupt the game or hurt people,” read a Twitter post on Greenpeace’s official German account.

“We hope that everyone is OK and that no one was seriously injured. Greenpeace actions are always peaceful and non-violent.”

“Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan.”

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