POTSDAM, Germany - Volkswagen has unveiled its eighth-generation Passat at the VW Design Centre in Potsdam, Germany. The sedan, over the past 41 years, has racked up more than 23-million sales worldwide.Volkswagen says it has shaved 85kg off the previous model and improved fuel economy by 20%. The weight loss is in part due to the use of "hot-formed steel" and aluminium in its structure and for the first time there will be a plug-in hybrid. GALLERY: 2014 Volkswagen PassatThe sedan is 4.7m long (two mm shorter than the outgoing model), 1.4m tall (14mm lower), 1.8m wide (12mm wider) and has a wheelbase of 2.9m (79mm longer). While the new Passat will be dimensionally smaller, VW says leg, head and boot space have expanded.PREMIUM SEDANExpect local sales to begin in South Africa in late 2015; don't however, expect the wagon version.VW claims its new Passat’s "cab backward" design helps to create the impression of a premium-class sedan. The new Passat’s grille has four chromed bars, the lowest of which stretches towards the headlights; the rear lights have been made considerably wider. According to VW, "the new Passat bridges the gap between the upper medium and premium class".New Passats will have diode-lit rear lights and either halogen or diode headlights, the latter automatically adjusting to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers.New technology in the Passat includes an (optional) active information display which replaces the instrument cluster with a configurable interactive 31cm display. The new sedan is equipped with a head-up display, VW’s latest infotainment system (including the Car-Net remote app), a 360-degree camera function and auto parking.The parking system comes with a trailer-reversing function.LOADS OF SAFETY TECHIn terms of safety, the new car will be equipped with side and rear traffic warnings, help to avoid traffic jams, breakdown/emergency assistance and the latest front range-finder to help avoid traffic shunts; it combines radar and camera sensors to warn of pedestrians.The star of the Passat’s engine range will be a four-cylinder two-litre bi-turbo diesel capable of 180kW/500Nm which it will deliver through a new seven-speed direct-shift gearbox and all-wheel drive. The plug-in hybrid variant has a claimed battery-only range of a 50km and maximum range of around 965km.It's unclear which models / gearboxes / drive systems will be used for South African showroom stock.The new Passat will be launched at the 2014 Paris auto show in October 2014.