Volkswagen is replacing its slow-selling current European-made Lupo model with the new Brazilian-built Fox as exports of a Lupo-badged line to Mexico start this month, writes Rogério Louro.

The Fox was launched in Brazil last October and is produced in São José dos Pinhais plant, in Paraná state.

Next year, VW will begin to make export versions in its São Bernardo do Campo plant, in São Paulo state, to supply European markets and probably also some Asian countries. The shipments to Europe will begin in the second half of 2005 and the carmaker expects to export about 100,000 units a year.

The Fox, previously known as Project 249, is based on the platform of the current Polo which is built as both a hatchback and a sedan in Brazil. The new compact was developed in Brazil and is a completely different design from the Polo.

The Fox is currently sold only with three doors but in April Volkswagen will introduce a five-door model in Brazil.

In the second half of this year, the company will enlarge the range with a compact SUV, the CrossFox. The new model will probably be shown to Europeans at the Paris motor show in September.

The CrossFox is designed to look like a muscular Fox with suspension height increased, bulky bumpers with fog lights, a front bull bar, side bars and roof bars. But despite its off-road looks, the new model will be front-drive only.

Volkswagen will also make the Fox Pepper, a sporty version that would be an idel successor to the Lupo 1.6 GTi model.

The Fox Pepper will be introduced in Brazil at the end of the year but there could be a problem using the ‘Pepper’ tag in Europe because BMW’s Mini brand sells an option pack with the same name.