Volkswagen brand chairman Wolfgang Bernhard has borrowed from his days at the Chrysler group to map out a future product blueprint for VW, according to an Automotive News Europe report.

Internally, the plan is called "Hut" - a German word that means "hat" - and refers to VW's initiative to place a unique exterior, or hat, over vehicles that share common underpinnings.

The strategy is "to offer different models with a single change of the sides and roof parts, without changing platforms," VW's Portugese Autoeuropa assembly plant managing director Emilio Saenz told the trade newspaper.

Autoeuropa is a leading candidate to produce VW's niche vehicles, sources have said.

Within the next three years, VW will launch up to 10 new vehicles that either will be based on derivatives of current cars or will be niche models.

Crossing over

The first vehicles using the "hat" will be "cross" versions of current models that will offer distinct styling, unique engines but similar underpinnings as mainstream models. The first example, a Cross Polo, will be unveiled at the Geneva motor show in February, followed by the Cross Golf Plus in July and the Cross Fox later next year.

All cross versions will have distinct styling that is differentiated from mainstream models and meant to attract younger buyers.

Among planned niche vehicles are a Golf-based coupe that will be called the Scirocco, due in 2008, and a four-door, coupe-style vehicle based on the Passat that will be similar to the Mercedes-Benz CLS. The Passat coupe should be in showrooms by 2009.