The ceremony in São Paulo city last Friday may have been to celebrate the export of the 500,000th brazilian-made Gol, but Volkswagen do Brasil is expecting even greater things from its new Fox European export programme model.

The Fox is based on the platform of the current Polo and is 310mm longer than the Lupo. The compact car was developed in Brazil and is a completely different design from the Polo. In Europe, it will replace the slow-selling current Lupo and will be launched next spring at prices starting less than €10,000.

When VW Brazil first announced Fox exports to Europe, it was talking of 100,000 units per year. Now, the directors have gone all coy, saying on Friday that the Fox assembly line has capacity to meet all European demand and which they expect will be huge.

A change of production strategy signals optimism. Initially, the 'Europeanised' Fox was to be be made only in VW's São Bernardo do Campo plant, in São Paulo state, while versions for Brazil and other Latin America countries are made in the São José dos Pinhais plant, in Paraná state.

But at the same time the automaker announced an investment of about $US33 million to alter the São Bernardo do Campo plant to make the Fox for Europe, it said European version production would also be done in São José dos Pinhais.

"We believe that the Fox will be a great success in Europe", said Volkswagen do Brasil president Hans-Christian Maergner.

Another interesting development is the building of a new viaduct in front of the São Bernardo do Campo plant to help the flow of trucks that will transport the European export cars to the port.

The Fox makes its European show debut in Leipzig. VW AG initially decided to sell only the three-door version, to limit in-house competition with the Polo, but some executives of the Brazilian unit think there would also be huge demand also for the five-door version.

Volkswagen do Brasil also expects to ship the high-riding, pseudo-offroader CrossFox derivative to Europe. The new version will be introduced in Brazil next March. Despite its off-road looks, the Crossfox is front-drive only.

"We don't have an official announcement from Germany yet but we expect to ship them the Crossfox," Maergner said.