Volkswagen is best-known for its diesel vehicles for those associating the German automaker with fuel efficiency, but its future plans stretch well beyond endless TDI models.

Speaking with Automotive News Europe, VW's development coordinator Ulrich Hackenberg says making cars lighter and greener is the group's main aim--as is improving value.

XL1-derived cars?

One of the most exciting green vehicles of recent years has been VW's XL1 plug-in hybrid.

The production reality of around a decade of concepts and feasibility studies, the XL1 is to fuel efficient vehicles as the Bugatti Veyron is to supercars--a boundary-pushing exercise in reducing weight, improving aerodynamics and reducing consumption.

It is, sadly, hugely expensive as a result. There's also a limited market for a slightly noisy, gull-winged two-seat diesel-powered cigar, so it comes as little surprise that VW also plans more realistic models based on the XL1's drivetrain.

Until now, this was expected to be an ultra-efficient take on the Volkswagen Up, the group's light-weight city car sold in Europe.

Hackenberg hints at a few other models, though. The first of these, he says, will be based on VW's modular transverse platform, using a four-cylinder gasoline engine and six-speed dual-clutch transmission. A 75 kW electric motor would provide some of the power, and an 8.8 kWh battery supplies the juice.

To us, this sounds very much like the upcoming Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid, though it could imply further VW group plug-ins are on the way.

The second may be much closer in concept to the XL1. Hackenberg tells Automotive News Europe, "We envision a four-seat vehicle that is homologated very closely to the one-liter car. It still depends on what developments are implemented with regard to weight and aerodynamics".

Whether this manifests itself as the XL1-powered Up or a vehicle closer to the XL1 itself remains to be seen--though VW is keen to see it become successful, something that wasn't necessarily the case with previous high-tech VW Group products like the "3-liter" VW Lupo and Audi A2.

Ultra-budget offering

2009 Volkswagen CitiGolf (South Africa)

2009 Volkswagen CitiGolf (South Africa)

In Europe and growing eastern markets, budget cars are increasing in popularity--matching the needs of existing low-budget consumers, as well as finding buyers who might not previously have been in the market for a car.

Renault-owned Romanian brand Dacia has taken Europe by storm, its simple and inexpensive cars with trusted mechanicals proving popular with buyers. Nissan is also reviving the Datsun name, aiming its first new subcompact--priced at $5,300--at the Indian market.

Volkswagen already offers budget models in some markets, such as the South African Citigolf we drove in 2010, but Hackenberg says the company can go lower, with a $7,700-$10,200 family vehicle for developing countries.

This would sit below existing vehicles like the Santana sold in China, which begins from that $10,000 or so upper limit.

Like Nissan with the new Datsun models, cars sold at such low prices would be localized, with regional suppliers and features unique to the conditions of each country.

Unfortunately, the likelihood of such a model reaching the U.S. is slim--so don't expect that brand-new $7,000 VW any time soon.

What VW's plans do show is that the company is looking far wider than TDI Golfs and Jettas for its future lineup--and its plug-in models in particular could be worth waiting for.


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