BERLIN Environmental activists from Greenpeace picketed the flashy premiere of Volkswagen's latest Golf hatchback in Berlin's New National Gallery late on Tuesday, accusing the German carmaker of doing too little to reduce fuel consumption and tarnishing the most important model launch in the group's calendar.
The seventh-generation of VW's flagship, which will retain its predecessor's base price of 16,975 euros ($21,300), is the only model the company builds on four continents and the lynchpin of its strategy of overtaking Toyota as the largest carmaker in the world.
Greenpeace's German transportation expert Wolfgang Lohbeck said VW had a unique responsibility since the car sets the standard for the compact class.
"The Golf is the car that distinguishes the segment it's in for the next 10 years worldwide and all carmakers benchmark themselves against it," he told Reuters, as he led a group of protesters he numbered at about 50.
Lohbeck said VW had the expertise to roll out a car whose basic version requires far less than its 4.9 litres for 100 kilometres and urged VW to set the 3-litre mark as its target for the car.
"It's lame, it's disappointing," he complained, referring to the actual consumption figure. "It doesn't really matter that Volkswagen may roll out an electric version of the Golf next year, since it won't comprise the bulk of the volumes - what's important is the basic petrol version."
Volkswagen Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn dismissed the protest held by a "small band" of demonstrators, arguing the car was the "right answer for rising fuel prices" thanks to model derivatives like the upcoming Golf Blue Motion, which consumes just 3.2 litres of diesel.
($1 = 0.7961 euros)
(Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner; Editing by Mark Potter)