One of my jobs in China was to help out with the launch of the Passat B6. Except that there was no Passat B6 in China. In 2005, the car was introduced in Europe to great acclaim. A year later, it was supposed to be made in China. In China, Volkswagen has two joint ventures, Shanghai Volkswagen in Shanghai, and FAW-VW in frigid Changchun. SVW made and makes the Passat and was the logical choice to make the B6. Except that SVW didn’t want it. They deemed the 1996 vintage B5 and its Chinese variants as good enough for the Chinese market. The folks in Wolfsburg shook their heads. “They always complain that they don’t get the latest technology, and when we give them the latest technology, they keep the old stuff.”
Making the best out of having two joint ventures in China, Volkswagen sold the B6 license to FAW-VW. As the name “Passat” was taken, the B6 received a new name, “Magotan.” Pronounced “Ma-GO-tn”. Except that in Chinese, it’s called “May Teng.” (Are we confused yet? Gee, there is a company that is proud of the mess.) The Ma-GO-tn/May Teng was launched to limited success.
Last year, a new generation Passat was launched in Europe, dubbed the B7 internally, but detractors say it’s no more than a big facelift. The Chinese version will be shown at the Shanghai Motor Show. Guess who will make it?
It will be made by FAW again.
Once more, SVW turned down the offers to ride into the future with a Passat that is (allegedly) two generation ahead of theirs. Therefore, China will have to survive without a B7 Passat and will get a B7 Magotan, courtesy of First Auto Works in Manchuria. According to TheTycho, FAW-VW will grace the Shanghai Auto Show with a Magotan B7L, as in long. Stretched cars are all the rage in China, where the owner rides in the back and leaves the driving to a driver.
And what about SVW? Will they continue to delight their customers with a Passat that pretty soon will be old enough to vote? Not to worry. SVW will get the license to Volkswagen’s Chattanooga-made NMS, aka, “New Passat”, or simply “Passat”, or whatever. This will also be shown in Shanghai. According to China Car Times, “the New Passat will take the old B5 Passat out of production once and for all.”
However, it would not surprise me if the B5 will live on in one way or the other. The Chinese just hate to throw away usable platforms, as the many generations of the Jetta, built in parallel under different names, attest. I mean, just in 2009, SVW launched the Passat Lingyu, which was based on the old Skoda Superb, which was based on the Passat B5.
(Not confused yet? Then take this: When you head over to China Car Times, carefully read their story on Britain’s Bristol being bought by the Xinjiang No1 Tractor Company. Note the date of the story. It received so many hits that CCT’s server was down for two days.)