VW Japan Chief Pledges To Stay Top Auto Importer

Volkswagen Group Japan plans to keep its top auto importer position in Japanese market with fuel-efficient vehicles and other improvements.

TOKYO (AP) — Gerassimos Dorizas, who will assume presidency of Volkswagen Group Japan K.K. later this week, pledged Monday to stay as the top auto importer in the Japanese market by selling fuel-efficient vehicles and improving services.

Dorizas, vice president of the Japanese unit of Volkswagen AG, told a news conference, ''Even though we have a very strong foundation of business in Japan we cannot stand still'' as competition is becoming fierce.

By brand, Volkswagen became the largest imported vehicle seller in Japan in 2007 for the eighth straight year, seizing a 19.61 percent share with sales totaling 51,974 units.

The designate-chief executive officer said Volkswagen Group Japan aims to sell around 54,000 units in 2008.

BMW came second with a 17.77 percent share in 2007, selling 47,103 units, followed by Mercedes-Benz with a 17.66 percent share and sales of 46,811 units.

''We will become more and more customer-oriented and make more customers drive our cars'' to understand the quality of the German maker's vehicles, he said.

Dorizas also said his company plans to expand the use of fuel-efficient TSI engines in new product lineups in the Japanese market, raising the ratio of TSI-engine equipped vehicles to up to 60 percent by the end of 2008.

Dorizas will replace current President Tsutomu Umeno on Friday, who will become chairman of the company.

Umeno told the same news conference that the spread of TSI-engine vehicles, introduced in 2007, is a meaningful development as nearly all passenger vehicles are gasoline-powered in Japan, compared with Europe where about 50 percent of cars are clean diesel engines.

The outgoing president said although Volkswagen envisions an automobile powered by sustainable energy like hydrogen with an electric drive system as the final form of a car, the company also plans to carry out what it can do now so as to lessen the burden on the environment.

The successful launch of fuel-efficient cars was behind Volkswagen Group Japan's strong performance in 2007, Umeno said.

Dorizas joined German automaker Volkswagen AG last June after working at Italian automaker Fiat Group Automobiles S.P.A. and Korean carmaker Hyundai Motor Co.
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