Designing a product for local tastes is a tricky affair. Just getting the name right is a hassle. Everyone remember the Toyota MR2? Not the French. They remember the Toyota MR. Why? Because “MR2” in French would have sounded like “Em-Ar-Deux” (“Deux” being French for “two”). And “Em-Ar-Deux” sounded very close to “merde” which is French for…..let’s not go into that. So, if getting the name right is a chore, you must do your car research with care if you want to pander to local needs. I mean, get that wrong and you could end up in deep Em-Ar-Deux. But Volkswagen reckons they’ve found what the Russians want …
The Moscow Times reports that Volkswagen is building a car designed for the Russian market. When they say “design for the Russian market”, they mean it. Or so they say. The car will be based on the Volkswagen Group PQ45 platform (VW Polo, Seat Ibiza, Audi A1, etc) and built in their Russian Kaluga factory. The car will be priced at 399,000 Russian Rubles (about $12,500).
Actually, the Moscow Times has been had. Or they have been overcome by national pride. That through and through Russian car is a Polo. Volkswagen said yesterday in a presser released in Germany that they launched on Russia a Polo “developed specially for the Russian market, bearing in mind its specific climate and street conditions.”
What makes this car particularly “Russian” is the standard feature of a higher than normal ground clearance. The reason for this is that the car can better negotiate Russia’s potholed roads, says the Russian trade rag Za Rulyom.
Volkswagen’s Russian Director, Dietmar Korzekwa, is confident this vehicle will be such a big hit on the Russian roads (presumably because of the potholes), that they plan to sell 10,000 of these vehicles in 2010 and 30,000 in 2011.
There is more that turns this Polo into a polor bear that thrives under adverse conditions. Volkswagen can hardly say that they built it for the crappy roads and for the mediocre gasoline found in Russia. To avoid another German-Russian conflict, the press release turns into a masterpiece of diplomacy:
“The specific demands of Russian drivers and the climate and street conditions in Russia have both been carefully taken into account during the new Saloon’s development: long-term tests were conducted in different climate zones, and the street conditions in the most variegated regions in Russia were examined. The available petrol qualities were tested repeatedly as well. Thus the vehicle has been equipped with an up-to-date and reliable engine that is ideally suited to those operating conditions prevailing in Russia, a galvanised, non-corrosive body and a wheel suspension geared to bad roads. Particularly robust paints were used for the car’s paint job, and the chrome parts are also highly resistant to aggressive agents.”
I guess they didn’t mean KGB agents.
What will also help is that the car qualifies for Russia’s cash-for-clunkers program, whereby you can apply for a subsidized loan for cars costing less than 600,000 rubles.
Maybe Volkswagen can do a car designed for the UK? Culturally, that should be easy. Any upstanding Volkswagen exec or engineer drives in the left lane only.