By on July 11, 2011

  • “All of Volkswagen’s premium-enthusiast Euro-appeal has been stripped from the Jetta”
  • “The new model has hard plastic that wouldn’t look too out of place in a Chrysler Sebring”
  • “Gone are the things that made the Jetta special to those who cared”
  • “For the Jetta, it’s pay less and you get less. And in our opinion, that’s a step backwards”

There’s your verdict, straight from TTAC, C/D, LLN, and Edmunds respectively.

Jetta sales, first half 2011: 91,752, an increase of well over sixty percent over 2010

There’s another verdict, straight from the people who actually matter.

Does the first verdict refute the second — or support it?

Regular TTAC readers know how cozy, and incestuous, the relationship between automotive journalism, marketing, and product design can be. While it’s common for the buffet-browsing brigade to piss and moan about how everything would be fine if GM/Ford/Skoda/Bugatti would just listen to them and release a whole lineup of manual-transmission subcompact diesel wagons with active aero and hand-sewn ostrich-leather interiors, the fact of the matter is that plenty of cars are designed and/or tweaked with at least a passing thought to the whims and wishes of journalists.

Volkswagen, in particular, is known for making product decisions in the hopes of appealing to its “enthusiast” base and the media mouthpieces which claim to represent it. The problem, of course, is that doing so is almost always a mistake. Consider, if you will, the MkIV Golf R32. Volkswagen brought the car over as a love letter to its most devoted fans… who let them sit on the lots until the tires flat-spotted. The R32 ended up being a used-car-market superstar, often selling to its second owner for more than the first owner paid. VW could, and should have realized that this revealed an essential truth about the “enthusiast buyers”: they buy used, when they buy at all.

Instead, VW decided to repeat its mistake and bring the car over a second time in MkV guise. This completely hilarious “review” written before the car’s actual introduction is a perfect unintentional self-parody of the VW “enthusiast” market, and it’s worth reading for any number of reasons, but I’ll excerpt the relevant bits for those of you who are short on time.

This 2008 model is an R32 in name only.

Clearly Patrick Paternie of Autoweek Magazine (the author) and apparently every suit at VWoA seem to think that they know what VW enthusiasts want, yet they could not be more clueless than if they were a bunch of blind, drunk elephants stumbling around inside a china shop.

Yes, the 20004 R32 had incredible looks, it drove as well if not better than cars costing 4x as much. The .:R’s exhaust note was nearly orgasmic. It simply OOZED testosterone. It was a guys car. It was a beast.

VW owners are more educated and have more refined tastes than any other group of brand owners out there

They even removed the dual exhaust (and I did not believe this was even possible) and swapped it for a set of pipes that resembled a woman’s vagina comparatively speaking. It was like the Grinch had marched into R32 Town and stolen Christmas.

In conclusion, the new R32 may sell well, but I can tell you that most of us in the Vortex community who actually own or owned the 2004 R32 will not be buying it because we realize just how much we will be sacrificing in the process.

Pay very close attention to the next quote, because it’s critical. I’ve even highlighted the relevant section for you. I’m helpful like that.

Yet, if I had 33K dollars, I might consider buying the 2008 R32 if the car offered a driving experience superior to the 2004 model.

Yes, and if I had a hundred million dollars I might consider running a Daytona Prototype team where all the cars were vinyl-wrapped with an original piece of erotic line art, created by yours truly a few years ago in a drunken fit, depicting a “Titanic”-era Kate Winslet kneeling topless in front of me while I scored a million points at “Galaga”.

You would think that Volkswagen would get tired of letting people who don’t buy cars at all, or don’t buy their cars until they are five years old dictate their product strategy. Pas du tout. The second-generation R32 was also showroom poison. Oops.

In fairness, there is one group of VW enthusiasts who vote with their wallets at new-car showrooms, and that is the TDI crowd. They buy the cars new, and they buy as many of them as they can collectively afford. Trouble is, that doesn’t account for very many units. It’s impossible to run a nationwide dealer network on diesel-wagon volume. It takes six-figure mojo and plenty of it. This isn’t the America, or the economy, which supported Max Hoffmann towing one Beetle with another one to a dealer a thousand miles away and taking the train home. This is the America that closed the doors on Oldsmobile because they couldn’t break the 500k mark in annual sales.

The new Jetta and Passat reflect Volkswagen’s long-overdue comprehension of the above facts. Instead of being aimed at mommy’s-basement types who would totally buy an R36 Turbo ten years from now if it depreciates heavily, the new line is designed, equipped, and priced for people who actually buy cars. And — surprise! — people are buying them. This guy may never buy a 2011 Jetta. VW has ceased caring about that guy.

I have come up with two interpretations for the success of the 2011 Jetta, and I’m going to ask you to choose one of the two, or suggest an alternate theory, in the comments.

Scenario #1: The new Jetta is succeeding because it is the right car, at the right price, for people who buy cars in that segment. Those people don’t want a miniature FWD S-Class. They just want a nice Jetta they can afford. This is the “Autojournos don’t know” scenario, by the way.

Scenario #2: The new Jetta is trading on the reputation, and prestige, of the Euro-cred MkIV and MkV. Buyers are too stupid to realize that they are getting the dumbed-down bargain version. When they find out, they will abandon the cars, and the brand, forever, and VW will actually be forced to bury the entire Chattanooga factory in the same place Atari put the million unsold “E.T.” cartridges back in 1981. This is the “Autojournos DO know” scenario.

My vote is for #1. There was a time, during the fifteen years when I owned everything from a single 1990 Fox to a pair of V8 Phaetons, that I would have desperately cared about which scenario is correct. It’s academic to me now. So let’s hear what you think, okay?

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137 Comments on “What Does The Jetta Sales Success Say About Automotive Journalism?...”


  • avatar
    NN

    This morning during my commute I saw a 2000-era white base Passat, and immediately behind it a 2011 base Jetta, also in white. The cars looked very much alike, and to the naked eye look about exactly the same size. It seems VW came up with a very good basic formula years ago and realize they don’t have to change it much.

    Either way, value is king in the American market. The fact that VW is now for once offering honest value, millions of customers who previously wouldn’t consider VW will now do so. There are people who still do care about stick shifts and conservative yet ageless German design and feel to their cars, but aren’t willing to pay x thousands above competing Asian and American offerings to get it. Now they are priced competitively. It really is that simple.

    When i was shopping for a midsize sedan last year, I wouldn’t even bother checking out a VW dealer. Seeing the new price points on the 2012 Passat, I would have definitely checked one out if I were buying this fall.

    • 0 avatar
      alexndr333

      VW made a smart move in producing a German Corolla, just a Chevy has done with an American version (the Cruze). Both are selling very well. However, both marques will have to show that their cars are reliable over the long term so that buyers can justify the purchase over a Corolla or Civic. At least they’ve each got the chance, now. Frankly, I think VW has a bigger hill to climb based on the bad reputation they’ve earned in recent years. (No one said the Cruze’s predecessor, the Cobalt, was unreliable, just terribly dull.) I’ll go with Scenario #1: Auto-journalists are no different than any other media group: They often end up writing for each other and a small fan base more than for the larger public – you know, those folks who actually buy new cars.

      • 0 avatar
        FromaBuick6

        Oddly enough, one of the biggest knocks against the MkV Jetta when it debuted was that it looked too much like a Corolla. And for all the enthusiast hype of the fancy interior, independent suspension and gas struts on the decklid, the enhancements did nothing for VW sales, which faltered as the marque’s quality woes caught up with them.

        I think the new Jetta is both better looking and more in line with what compact buyers are looking for, equipment-wise. Nevermind the questionable reliability, the last Jetta was just a bad buy when you could get a bigger and/or quicker car for the same money. The new car rectifies that and the fact that sales are way up should surprise no one.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I vote for #1, combined with the fact that they’re marketing the hell out of it and offering it with cheap financing and lease deals.

    The car is also bigger than the last version, which may make it seem more like a competitor to the Camry than it is to the Corolla. On that basis, it may seem like a real bargain (although we’ll see about that when the repair bills come in.)

  • avatar
    Jaynen

    So where is the line art?

  • avatar
    ixim

    +1 for #1! So true. I see a lot of the new Jettas around here lately; they look better than the Asian competition – except the altogether different Hyundai/Kias and they’re a good deal, pricewise. Not that I’d EVER get one…lol.

  • avatar
    david42

    I vote for #1. The Corolla, which was once a “mini-LS400″ (I forget who said it), is still a success. The new Civic has been Jetta-fied, and I’m not about to accuse Honda of ignorance when it comes to designing compact cars.

    I’d venture that 99% of small FWD cars are bought by people who want a low-cost commuter car. Try telling these folks about soft-touch plastics or fancy rear suspensions, and watch their eyes glaze over.

    Having said that, I feel that #2 has some merit, but not for the reason Jack cited: once these people find out how UNRELIABLE their Jetta is, they’ll kick themselves for not buying a Corolla or Civic. Worst case scenario: The new Jetta becomes VW’s Chevy Citation. (As a disgruntled ex-Passat owner, I’m sort of hoping for this outcome.)

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Spot on regarding the Citation reference. I think the sales bump is due to a combination of 1 and 2, when you’re laying down upwards of 20 grand on a vehicle it’s nice to get something with a little more zing than a toyonda appliance, and the extra elbow room doesn’t hurt either. But VW has to get it right this time, if they leave all these new customers high and dry they might as well punt as far as the USA is concerned.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I’ve had a lot of seat time in about every (North American) Corolla ever made, and “mini LS” doesn’t describe any of them.

      This is a fundamental misunderstanding by car guys, just as the Jetta is/was (as Jack so brilliantly illustrates. The Corolla sold well because it’s cheap to run, cheap to buy and is unkillable even by people like, eg, my mother, who didn’t know what “oil changes” or why you should do them for the first two and half years post-divorce. Yeah, A W123 Mercedes can go a million miles if you keep up the maintenance. A Corolla will do half that if you don’t.

      Mini-LS? Hell no, except in perhaps the “rides like it’s 125% of it’s size”. It’s a mean, crummy little car that

      The Jetta sold to people who wanted a nice-ish car that rode well, has good seats and a respectable badge. It had a problem, though, in that was cramped and expensive (and that it glitched out once the warranty was up). VW made it less cramped and cheaper, which means that people who couldn’t look at anything short of a Passat can now seriously consider VW.

      “Car guys” didn’t get this, but then “car guys” don’t care about back seat space or as-new purchase price.

      • 0 avatar
        86er

        Mini-LS? Hell no, except in perhaps the “rides like it’s 125% of it’s size”. It’s a mean, crummy little car that

        Expletive deleted?

        I agree, the less said, the better. :)

    • 0 avatar

      @david42: Agreed.

      +They’re also falling for VW’s Bait-And-Switch $15,995-I mean $16,495 pricing, for the model that nobody will stock and many will just upgrade to the $21k trim.

      And on that point, I’d Love to hear from VWoA what the % breakdown is by Trim-Level. How many of that 90k is the S-Model?

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        I checked Bernardsville VW (a large VW dealer in NYC area): of their 24 Jetta sedans in stock, 4 are Jetta S.

        http://www.bernardsvillevw.com/new/index.cfm

        Checking of other dealer inventory is left as an exercise for the reader …

  • avatar

    I’ll wager most of us are VWVortex refugees, but I’ll bite anyway.

    Scenario #1, hands down. Everyone’s bet big on “premium small car” (the C&D comparo said as much), except for VW. They went with dead simple (antediluvian 8V 2.slow) with a huge backseat, so they’re winning. They’re not lost in the CVT morass of other automakers, and they’re not asleep at the switch like Toyota and Honda in this segment.

    Car enthusiasts seem to be perpetually broke and fickle. In these times, if auto makers want to survive, they must build reliable simple cars the masses will love, with maybe a sports package (Original Sentra SE-R, anyone?) thrown in as a bone to enthusiasts.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Tah-dah. I think that after a long time, VWoA has woken up and realized two things:

      1. Value is king in the United States
      and
      2. The “enthusiast market” is comprised of a bunch of dudes who talk big, but carry very small bank accounts.

      I was the owner of MK IV R32…that I was able to purchase at a significant discount, used, with only 1100 miles on the ODO. It was pure luck that the dealership where I knew the sales manager had one sitting in the front when I brought my previous car in for service. The car was the service manager’s, who bought it and then his wife got pregnant and said “get rid of it”.

      As a joke, I said to the sales manager, “for $25k, I’ll take it”. He replied, “I’ve got $25.5 in it – so if you’ll do that, it’s yours”.

      The next day I drove off and enjoyed the *crap* out of that car until needs dictated a 4-door a year later and I sold it for more than I bought it for.

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      And the jury’s still out on the whole “premium small car” concept here in the U.S. The “enthusiasts” and autojournos, who aren’t actually buying any of these cars, think it’s the best idea ever. The rest of us, well, we don’t need a Focus that can parallel park itself. I don’t care how great the fuel economy is, how subjectively “good” you think the styling is or how many gee-whiz features it has, paying upwards of $25k for any small car is stupid. Not when you can get a much bigger car with most of the same features and economy for the same money or less.

      Moreover, Ford, Hyundai and Chevy are being heralded for providing us with such premium small cars. But all the journalistic and interweb hype overlooks the real reason why these manufacturers are doing this: Because they have to. For much of the public, Detroit and the Koreans are known for building cheap junk, so they think they can change that reputation by wowing the customers with squishy plastics and fancy options.

      VW, for their part, already tried this. And it didn’t work. At all. Volkswagen sales tanked after explosive growth in the late ’90s. So they switched gears. And for all the complaints, nothing about the new Jetta’s decontenting (save for maybe the Two Point Slow) stands out compared to its competitors (Cruze doesn’t have IRS, Honda ditched gas struts after ’95, almost everybody has rear drums, and at least VW doesn’t have the gaul to call their vinyl seats “leather” like every other manufacturer).

      And Honda and Toyota? Well they never really bothered with the whole premium ruse, and they don’t appear compelled to start anytime soon. Considering how the supposedly-disappointing new Civic and archaic Corolla are selling out at near-MSRP in light of the parts shortage, there’s no need to.

  • avatar
    Stacy McMahon

    #1 of course, and it’s been fairly obvious since the first set of press intros. In between the B&Ming about hard plastic (did they all sit down and figure that one out ahead of time? Because the complaints were practically word-for-word in about a dozen different mainstream pubs) they all said the car was fun to drive and had above-average interior space, while getting good if not earth-shattering gas mileage. Oh, and being 2-3 grand cheaper. It wasn’t hard to figure out that it would do well.

    To be fair, a lot of journos did figure it out. Probably the second most common line after the hard plastic was this-will-sell-but-its-not-a-real-VW-anymore.

  • avatar
    vbofw

    Clearly a combination of the two, but I’m very glad Jack mentioned Scenario #2 because that angle has not been discussed yet to my knowledge. They can coast off the “old” Jetta reputation for a few years….maybe even an entire model run until the reputation trickles down to Corolla/Civic territory [and that\'s assuming it stays reliable, or a big IF]. In the meantime they should move some nice metal in the US

    But Scenario #1 is also very valid. As much teeth-mashing as the Jetta rightfully generated by journos and the Best & Brightest, it really is the right car at the right price for John Q. Car Buyer. These people are the majority of the car buying public. They just don’t care about drum brakes, rock hard touch surfaces, embarrassingly cheap instrumentation panels, and plastic seats.

    Like I think Jack said in his review of the Focus Titanium, the euro-obsessed enthusiasts now have that car to gravitate to. Strange times

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    Being a non-enthusiast and a general hater of Mr. Piech, I’ve never seen the appeal of the Golf, Jetta, nor Passat. Aside from being too small and expensive, I’ve always been disappointed by their agricultural-like base engines, lumpy torque curve of their gutless TDI, and lack of suspension travel.

    I did cross shop the Passat W8 sedan years ago, but glad I didn’t buy it because the design has aged badly.

    That said, I personally prefer the new interiors and restyled exterior over the previous generations. It’s more in line with American tastes. I haven’t driven them so I can’t comment on how they ride.

    So my vote is for scenario 1. It’s amazing what people will buy at the right price point.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Have you driven any TDI-equipped models? I have a ’96 Passat TDI, and while the car has electrical and body mechanical gremlins too numerous to describe here, “lumpy torque curve” and “gutless” are two words I would never use to describe the car/engine! I’ve always been amazed at how much power the car has, especially considering the engine displacement and vehicle weight. And then I smile, remembering that no matter how I drive it, I’m still getting 40+ mpg.

      Back to the topic at hand, my vote is for scenario #1. Most people (wife included) couldn’t care less what’s under the hood, and just want an appliance that reliably gets them from point A to B. Value sells.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Scenario #1.5 – The new Jetta is trading on the reputation, and prestige, of the Euro-cred MkIV and MkV. The new Jetta is succeeding because it is the right car, at the right price, for people who buy cars in that segment but also want to be perceived as having more money/class/auto savvy that their brethren who are buying Hyundais and Kias. Eventually this will dilute the Jetta brand, but as long as a mix of up and down-scale Jettas is sold, the down-scale owners will be happy to keep up the pretense and VW will be happy with the mix.

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    Why not both? I’m voting for #2 as a bias, though. And sure, #1 has some merit. It’s a reasonably sized car and a fair price. But there’s a lot of that in the market from a lot of different makers. Why pick a VW? Vw’s are regarded as more expensive counterparts to domestic and asian offerings. A cheap buy-in to the funky hipster brand with good rear leg room? why not?

    But history holds true, then VW reliability bites them in the left arse cheek followed by a matching bite on the right cheek from VW customer service. I know VW has put a new focus on not making crap at the factory or swearing its actually roses at the service department, but time will tell.

    #2 will fail because it must. when everyone buys something special, it’s not special anymore. #1 will succeed IF VW steps up to the plate with quality product and service.

    Personally, I’m rooting for VW, but I’ll root on someone else’s dime. I gave up on the brand after the disaster of my 2010 Jetta TDI.

  • avatar
    BrendanMac

    Well, as Abraham J Simpson would put it, “a little from column A, a little from column B.”

    The Jetta is selling like hot-pretzels because it is a nice Jetta people can afford. Suddenly, all those design-student Mac users can actually afford some fine German engineering to tuck in their parking space. It’s different, it looks cool (ish), and you can stick cards in the spokes. Wait, no you can’t, but my point still works: this car is an automotive fixie. Not very functional, but hip.

    What the new Jetta’s sale success really says about Automotive Journalism is that a new generation of buyers (or at least the younger buyers in this segment) don’t care about Automotive Journalism unless they’re enthusiasts. They want an ironic shirt with lots of wolves on it. Who cares if it itches like a mofo’?

    The question it poses is: how do we better reach them? Also, I’m sure sales will drop once the shine is off the strudel.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      Agree somewhat but do you really care about automotive journalists? If you find a car you want to buy do you not because of something a journalist said?

      I think for the most part we buy what we want.

  • avatar
    pharmer

    I’m voting for #1 with a dash of snobbery along the lines of “it’s a German brand, so I’m inherently getting a more performance-oriented/safe/prestigious car even at the same price point.” VW has been offering killer rebates and lease deals for years, so I don’t think I’d chalk it up to that.

    It does have a greater presence on TV than previous cars have had. Advertising does matter, apparently. I have noticed a lot more of them running around. It’s not a bad looking car to my eyes when you compare it to it’s competition. I imagine it’s all the car and more that most people would ever need or want.

  • avatar
    86er

    VW is really going full-court press on this new little thing.

    Horrible Bosses is an extended informercial for this new little thing. In fairness, Kevin Spacey does call it a “piece of junk”, but then he’s also one of the eponymous employers in question, so you’re supposed to build up sympathy for the new little thing.

    Charlie Day also kicks some dents in the rear passenger door, and let me just say, they don’t make German steel like they used to.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Mostly #1 but also a dash of #2. Clearly VW needed to change its strategy as domestics were lifting their game in terms of refinement and going the value-meal route is always well received in the US.

    However, there is also some truth in the 2nd option in that offering a VW for the price of a Chevy has buyers gravitating for what they perceive to be the better brand based on previous offerings.

    The other question is how long the sales boost will last. I distinctly remember that the Dodge Caliber was such an initial sales success that Chrysler excluded it from their employee discount program. Let’s see what happens once the marketing dollars have run out and we are in year two and three of the sales cycle.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I agree with #1 as well. The masses apparently like bland and reasonably priced blandmobiles. (look at the Camry’s success over the years).

    As an A4/Mark IV TDI enthusiast, there’s no way VW will make enough money off of me to continue operating in the US. I currently own 3 TDIs, and the newest one is 8 years old. And I don’t plan on buying a new one until VW offers a more entry-level priced car with a diesel engine. I refuse to pay $30000 for a Golf TDI. So that means fixing my existing cars. And that’s done with parts from online vendors, because the only reasonably priced part at a VW dealer is the OEM battery.

    So since myself and probably many other enthusiasts give so little money to VW, someone has to keep them going. I guess it might as well be someone that doesn’t know what a diesel engine is or care that the MkVI Jetta is back to using a rear trailing arm. I just hope that VW has engineered the new Jetta and Passat to be extremely reliable. Otherwise VW will have another mid to late 90s sales decline in a few years.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    R32: Make a car for the hardcore American VW enthusiast.
    New Jetta: Make a nice car that people will buy in large numbers.
    Phaeton: Make a car…because Ferdinand Piëch said so.

  • avatar

    Obviously it’s scenario 1. The Civic and Corolla are boring but most people are looking for an appliance. Sales figures don’t lie. The base Jetta is shockingly decontented, but reviews of the TDI I’ve seen have been favorable.

    At 120K my 2006 Jetta TDI is barely broken in, but I’d still consider the new Jetta if I needed a replacement. Though to be honest I’d also consider the Passat since it’s offering aTDI option.

    • 0 avatar
      vbofw

      I thought the Jetta TDI and the Jetta SEL are the exact same trim.

      I’ve always thought the $2,100 premium on the TDI is a really poor value if you’re looking to ever recoup that in fuel savings. Would take something like 7 years just to break-even at average mileage. And that is before taking into account the frequent fuel filter swaps which can’t be cheap.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        But as with a hybrid option, the TDI will also be worth more at resale, so you really don’t need to recoup the entire premium before you sell, unless you plan to run the car into the ground.

  • avatar
    Bytor

    Cheaper and bigger sells to the masses. This isn’t news.

    As soon as the new Jetta was announced I figured it would be a success because it is cheaper and bigger.

  • avatar
    turbosaab

    I’ll go with #1. The Audi-esque exterior styling helps. Most mainstream customers just don’t care that much about how soft the plastics are.

    It’s also interesting to note that the average Jetta transaction price has increased. Per Automotive News:

    “A few weeks, ago my colleague Diana T. Kurylko interviewed Jonathan Browning, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America. Browning had an interesting comment: Jetta’s lower base price attracted new customers and the average transaction price increased.

    “We are selling more units above $19,000 than ever before,” Browning said.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Exactly what Browning said. The art of buying a car is an emotional one, and once you entice someone into the showroom the chances of getting someone to buy goes up exponentially. At that point, many people are committed to the cause, get themselves psyched up, and will trade-up to something more expensive once they get their hands on it.

      Audi’s S4 is exactly this case. Audi of America calls it their “aspirational car” because while being significnatly more expensive than a midrange A4, the car gets people to stretch because they think it’s worth the extra money. That’s a great position for an automaker to be in – and one reason why most S4s are selling for close to sticker price.

  • avatar
    talkstoanimals

    I think it’s probably no. 1. Over the years my grandparents bought multiple Jettas/Golfs/Rabbits of each generation (except for MKV, of which they only bought/own one – likely the last since my grandmother is well into her 80s and my grandfather just died a few weeks ago.) All they really wanted was a basic, thrifty, somewhat fun to drive car. MKs I – III suited those needs perfectly. As the cars became more upscale with Mks IV and V, my grandparents didn’t really respond to the greater refinement and, I guarantee, would have bought more basic versions had they been available at the time. I suspect my grandparents are the types of customers who buy the bulk of the Jettas in this country, and they would have liked the MK VI just fine.

    As long as VW supplies the TDIs, GTIs and GLIs with a bit more of the supposed traditional VW attributes of refinement and better driving dynamics, I suspect the enthusiasts will continue to pony up for those machines while VW simultaneously shifts many thousands more of the “declasse” new cars.

  • avatar
    Boff

    It is a blend of Scenarios 1 and 2, in my view. The new Jetta is selling well because it is CHEAP. And, as importantly, it is cheap relative to its forebear.

    In Canada, VW got the idea to sell the old MkIV (I think) Golf and Jetta as “City” models alongside the new MkV’s. The City’s were CHEAP. And they sold like hotcakes. In the average consumer’s mind (and I’ll be charitable here and say they are non-enthusiast, rather than stupid), they were still Golf’s and Jetta’s, but now at a super discount. The same dynamic is in play with the new Jetta.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      VW Canada got the idea from VW South Africa, though: there the Golf Mk1 production continued until 2009 as the Citi Golf — 26 years after it was discontinued elsewhere!

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      Canada’s typically, uh, thriftier than the U.S. but I think the “City” models are good proof of concept for the new Jetta. The MkV only seemed like a good value to people who really wanted an equally-overpriced A4 or 3-Series. To everyone else, it was a stupid buy and not worth consideration.

      So what if the Eurosnobs and 14 year olds over at VW Vortex think the new car sucks. They’re not buying these cars anyway.

  • avatar
    spyked

    I still don’t see why people are hating on the Jetta. Not long ago all sorts of poor people used to say “I stopped liking VW when they stopped making simple cheap cars for the masses.” Now VW is making a simple cheap car, and people are complaining. And, for the record, the last “unreliable” Jetta/Golfs were the MKIVs. Let’s get that out of the way. The MKV models were just as solid as anything else out there with regard to reliability.

    Second, what cars are people comparing the Jetta to with regard to interior quality? Sure VW had to spend less money on interior materials. The cost savings goes to the buyers. The BUYERS in the U.S. said they wanted a cheaper Jetta. That’s what they got. Sat in an Asian branded economy car lately? Even the new Forte and Elantra have cheap interiors – they also happen to be complicated and overly styled. The only car in the segment that has nicer materials is the Focus. And it’s more money.

    If you really want a VW economy car with a richer interior you can get a Jetta wagon or a VW Golf. I wish they offered a leather steering wheel in a Golf 2.5 – I’d buy one as a fun commuter.

    My only gripe about the new Jetta is the rear drum brakes on the S and SE models. Ugly! But VW offers the SEL, so if I wanted rear disk brakes I’d buy a SEL Jetta, Jetta Wagen, a Golf, or a Mazda when they make it look less comical for 2012.

    Seriously, the Jetta now competes directly with a Corolla and Civic. People for years have been seriously craving something other than those cars. People are HAPPY to have something solid and Euro-bred as a choice in that segment. And the sales numbers reflect that. By and large, auto journalists are like other journalists – they aren’t car people – they landed in that job out of college just like other journalists.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    #1 All the way.

    The sad fact is that car love is on the decline in the US. Most people view cars as appliances. Even BMWs are viewed this way (in the sense that the *function* of the appliance is to impress others).

    In this respect, VW is returning to their roots. The new Jetta is the contemporary successor to the Type 1.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    It is really very simple, JB….”Build a better friggin’ mouse trap,….” and so on, and so forth.

    I call it genius.

  • avatar
    George B

    Mostly scenerio 1. I think the 2011 Jetta is simply a better value for the masses than the previous model because it’s large enough for four adults and it looks like a real car. I liked driving the previous model, but disliked it’s too tall too narrow proportions. Drarf proportioned cars are discounted cars in the US.

    I want to see what Volkswagen does with the GLI. Hope VW offers the soft touch interior and independent rear suspension for those customers willing to pay a little more. I believe that VW would find paying customers for the combination of diesel, soft touch interior, and IRS.

  • avatar
    snabster

    I haven’t been in a new Jetta, but I am seeing tons on the road in DC.

    From window peeking, the inside looks nice. It may not “feel” good but that “feeling” thing is just a fetish. Or just signalling that you read about cars in your spare time.

    People are cheap. They want something that doesn’t scream Korean cheap. The Jetta is OK. I think the Fiesta is also doing a good job moving upmarket, although it looks awful inside. The Cruze, which is probably the nicest inside, is being neglected, as usual.

    • 0 avatar
      talkstoanimals

      “The Cruze, which is probably the nicest inside, is being neglected, as usual.”

      Really? I feel like I see them around DC all the time now – far more than the Fiesta. And I thought I remembered seeing that sales are pretty good. But perhaps they just stand out to me for some reason.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Door #3: Any time a new vehicle is introduced that meets unmet demand, there is a sales bump, like the Caliber when it was introduced (and the Neon before it), early MDX, PT Cruiser, and the current Cobalt. It doesn’t mean it’s a great car, or that sales success will last.

    Let’s see where sales are in a year, at which point, the Cobalt will have a ton of money on the hood, Hyundai dealers will be pricing the Elantra at invoice, and Honda will have its manufacturing cpacity fully online. I am betting on a flash in the pan for VW.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      Where do you buy a Cobalt?

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      That’s actually a good argument to make. Initial sales are poor indicators of overall performance for a model because of pent-up demand.

      I would argue that while sales will of course plateau at some point, I think the car will do well. It’s simpler, less complex, more profitable and (knock on wood) more reliable. Those were the internal goals for the car, at least.

      Enthusiasts will still get the GLI, which I would bet most dealers will only order a handful of….

  • avatar
    anchke

    Use a sports analogy here: A team’s fans evaluate players differently than the people who manage and coach the team. Fans like a player with a bit of flash, some passion, maybe a little rascally, one who will stay on the field and sign autographs for their tykes. Management would prefer someone who puts paying customers in the seats, wins games and whose future isn’t receding faster than his hairline. So if the score card tracks product sold, there will always be a conflict between the fan POV and more analytic types who are playing with real dough.

    Car journalists are usually fans themselves and their customers are other fans, not manufacturers or car buyers. If you’re building cars, you need people to buy ‘em, so you have on staff a passel of analytic types who are able to predict what factors will move the metal. The Germans have figured something out mein herr. The journos say the new VWs are homely and a step backward. But on the road, in comparison to some of their competition, I’d say the new VWs look like cars for grownups. And at an attractive price, too.

  • avatar
    AKADriver

    I’m with you. To me, the difference is academic.

    For what it’s worth, I completely agree with the journalists’ zeitgeist up until the point where they predict failure as a result. I’m cynical enough to believe that with very few exceptions (the NA Miata comes to mind), cars which please journalists and excite enthusiasts are sales poison. The buying public aren’t so much stupid as they are actively interested in dull, anonymous, not-too-nice cars.

  • avatar
    tsoden

    So the Jetta has moved toward being a car that almost everyone can afford. Well I suppose if you want more, you could always buy a golf instead. I do find it interesting how the Jetta and Golf seemed to change roles… I always thought of the Jetta as the more expensive of the siblings, but now it seems to be the opposite.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    While I agree that there’s some of both #1 and #2 going on, I do take issue with the way you characterize #2.

    People too stupid to realize they’re getting dumbed-down bargain cars are people who didn’t know VW had “Euro-creds” to begin with, or maybe what the heck “euro-creds” even are. I find it more likely the momma’s-basement dwellers are knowingly buying bargain versions of a marque riding on it’s Euro-creds reputation and growing aesthetically closer to its upscale cousin Audi so that they may foster a certain image in the minds of people too stupid to recognize reality as the buyers spout the lines that they’ve got Euro-credz. The #2 is still valid, still relatively small compared to #1, but IMHO mistakenly characterized. It should be more forcefully lampooned.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    I say it’s selling well because it fits a sweet spot in size between a compact and a midsize. For the price of a compact you get a bigger car than what the competition offers. That’s more important to people than a “fun driving” car with high quality interior that costs more. For years I’ve complained about the “people’s car” being too expensive for the people. Now it looks like vw has listened and they’re getting rewarded for it.

  • avatar
    nvdw

    To answer your original question Jack, I won’t quite get there with the ‘journos don’t know’ schtick. I’d rather speak of a perception gap. You see, ‘them journos’ do get things right. All the remarks on decontenting and the like, how blasé they may seem, are true. The general buying public however apparently doesn’t give a toss about low-grade plastics. Instead, they see that the Jetta offers more of the stuff that matters in the real world: interior space, trusty mechanicals.

    The answer to your question is: automotive journalism is out of touch with the general buying public. They might, however, not be out of touch with their readers. Is Joe Average an avid C/D subscriber, does he frequent Edmunds, Left Lane or even TTAC? I think he doesn’t and neither did he 25 years ago. It doesn’t matter. Buff books and ditto sites may still call a car mediocre and be right without the market backing their statements. It’s the same everywhere else. Britney Spears’ Crossroads earned $61m, despite critics all over the world panning it (and rightly so).

    Automotive journalism caters and has always catered to the enthusiast. It ends once the enthusiast isn’t being catered to anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      nvdw

      PS: do my eyes deceive me or does that ad really say “Suprisingly”?

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      I long ago gave up trusting anything that automotive journalists write when reviewing cars. How many times have we seen the following scenario?

      1) New car comes out. It gets “reviewed” in buff books. It’s a great car with only minor shortcomings and very much to love.

      2) Later that year, the same car is featured in a “comparo” with every other competitor. Suddenly, it’s awful (even compared to cars that preceded it when reviewed as new).

      I find it hard to take this kind of stuff seriously.

      • 0 avatar
        outback_ute

        Agree completely, it is only when a car is replaced that you sometimes find out what the journos really thought about it. The initial VE Commodore reviews in particular were a very instructive exercise, a lot of areas where the car was hugely improved over the old models despite little if any criticism of those aspects at the time.

  • avatar
    micvog

    Neither, but #1 is closer. However, implied in that option is the oft-repeated mantra that the Jetta interior is cheap. It certainly could be nicer, but I much prefer it to the Cruze or Focus. The latter are overly fussy in their design, where the Jetta seems tightly screwed together and panels seem to line up well. The extra interior room is a nice bonus and puts the new Jetta at the top of the list to replace my rock-solid and dependable MkV.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Scenario #1: The new Jetta is succeeding because it is the right car, at the right price, for people who buy cars in that segment. Those people don’t want a miniature FWD S-Class. They just want a nice Jetta they can afford. This is the “Autojournos don’t know” scenario, by the way.

    Nails it.

  • avatar
    MikeAR

    Price sells, especially with value thrown in. I read all the criticism at the time and I’m not suprised at all that sales have been good. In real life I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say the car’s interior was bad. On the internet it seems to be common though. I’m not sure why but it would be interesting to explore that sometime.

    Maybe we have reached a saturation point of electronics and options now and decontented cars will be the wave of the future. I hope so anyway.

  • avatar
    Neb

    When I read all about VW going downmarket, it didn’t really surprise me, nor did I care. It had been a decade since VW went upmarket, and stopped being a fun euro alternative to the Japanese. Why did people buy tiny jetta sedans, that might have drove nicely but broke expensively all the time? I didn’t understand.

    So the move downmarket and subsequent decontenting, assuming here that you are rational buyer, removed the last reason to buy a VW. But, really, did that reason even matter? If you knew someone who was looking to buy a new small car and wanted something fun, you’d probably direct them to something Japanese, like a Mazda. Then you’d have fun to drive, reliability, and as a bonus the service department wouldn’t be staffed by reptiles.

    So, yeah, the whole thing seems to be a tempest in a teapot to me. It’s just like when Mac stopped building it’s own hardware, and started to use off the shelf PC components. If you knew the difference, this was a major knock against buying Mac, since one of the things you paid all that extra for was the special hardware. But most people have no idea about that stuff, and thus, it didn’t effect Mac’s sales.

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      Well, worst case, the de-contenting moves VW back to the MkIII era, when everyone but the diehards thought the cars were garbage. Everybody else bailed on the brand after the Westmoreland era, to the point where sales tanked so bad there was rampant speculation VW would pull out of the U.S.

      And the MkV ultimately sold only to people who otherwise would have bought new Accords or used 328s. Meaning that absolutely no one bought the Passat.

      So I don’t see how the cars are any less appealing than in “the good old days” to the enthusiasts, and if they cars are built with any attention quality whatsoever, there’s no where to go but up. Throw in a more competitive, bigger Passat and VW’s sales goals start looking pretty reasonable.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    The lower the price, the greater number of buyers. Not much else needs to be said. So long as it’s not a complete POS, it will sell. Whether it will keep selling is dependent on it’s POS-ness.

    We’re in austere times. Price is king.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      Ahhh, if the average transaction price of the new Jetta wasn’t $26,000, $1,000 higher than the outgoing Jetta it replaced, this simply truth would be – simple. But the average transaction for a new Jetta is well above the come on in asking price of a stripper two-oh-slow with a manual and at the high end of the C-Segment competitors.

      • 0 avatar
        vbofw

        “Ahhh, if the average transaction price of the new Jetta wasn’t $26,000, $1,000 higher than the outgoing Jetta it replaced, this simply truth would be – simple.”

        Ahhh, nothing is a lightning rod quite like the VW posts are. People just make stuff up!

        @HoldenSSVSE: a fully loaded SEL Jetta (check every option) MSRPs (not transaction price) for $24,865. Average transaction price $23,900. Quite obviously the average price for all Jettas going out the door is nowhere near $26,000.

        A fully-loaded TDI (which likely represents <5% of all units moved) MSRPs for $26,000, and on average sells at $25,150.

        So for your $26,000 figure to hold up as the average TRANSACTION price, there would probably have to be $4-5k cash in the glovebox.

  • avatar
    frizzlefry

    My Audi dealership had the R32 problem too. They got two fully loaded 2009 A3 3.2 S-Lines in with the magnetic suspension option. Basically Audi-badged R32s. Asking price was 57 grand Canadian. They sat on the lot for a year. Both sold at a discount to dealership employees after which I bought mine used for 36 grand with 30,000kms. Shop manager owned it. It’s an absolutely awesome car but 57 grand was too much, no one was going to pay that much for a hatchback. I asked the sales guy what new Audis sell for 57 grand and he said loaded A4s or a bare-bones A5. Not enthusiast cars. Upper middle class families people buy them. Being an enthusiast, if I had 57 grand to spend I would buy the used 2007 RS4 with 50,000km on it for 50 grand, not a new A3. The depreciation of VW/Audi cars make buying used such a disgusting deal that it’s hard to sell sport models brand new.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Great point. This is why the magnetic ride-equipped A3s only lasted for one model year and why the 3.2 was phased out in favor of the 2.0 TDI.

      The ’07 RS4 didn’t have the same fate because there were fewer of them and at that price point you’re not talking about 19 – 22 year olds lusting after a car with no checkbook, but grownups with lots of disposable income to play with. ;-)

      • 0 avatar
        frizzlefry

        Yeah the magnetic ride was short lived in the A3, despite the fact that it’s absolutely awesome. From what I see there is another factor in buying used VW/Audi cars, particularly with Audi. There are often short-lived “gems” that they price too high and can’t sell new but have great features you can’t find in new models ie magnetic ride, the 3.2 in an A3 or the 2.7T engine (that had a big desirability factor used as they replaced it with a slower engine in the next generation A6 at the time) Plus the fact that you can chip the heck out of used VW/Audi cars for a couple hundred bucks and get better performance than brand new models. Most other manufacturer’s new models are legitimately better than the previous generation but that’s not always the case with VW/Audi.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    It’s both.

    Scenario #2 beings customers into the showroom (though I wouldn’t refer to them as dumb).

    Scenario #1 seals the deal.

    The real challenge is what happens three to four years down the road. If VW didn’t design/engineer better reliability into this car the fat lady will be singing. Loudly.

    As for the interior comments I understand both sides. A great interior is one of the things that made recent VW’s a VW. But when you compare it to the interiors of cars who VW wants to swipe customers from (Civic, Accord, Camry, Corolla) its not that bad and the increased panache of a VW badge more than makes up for it.

    Ask yourself if you’d rather have a Jetta or a Camry (I know reliability plays a big role but just based on looks and brand cachet) and you can understand why the Jetta is selling as well as it is.

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      Long term reliability will absolutely make or break VW’s strategy. If the cars prove to be remotely decent, this car will continue to gain market share. And given the brand’s lousy reputation to begin with, the car’d have to be a major lemon to not continue to do well.

      Also, it’s kinda interesting that the Cruze and Focus haven’t been scrutinized about reliability nearly as much as the VW has. But then it wouldn’t be the first time the media waxed poetic about a “game-changing” new GM or Ford, suckering consumers into buying a lemon of epic proportions.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Neither scenario, I believe. I think people just like the car on its own merits. They like the new design and the space and the value. I think many people look at the features and the size of the back seat/trunk and have Accord/Camry in mind when they look at the price.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    “whole lineup of manual-transmission subcompact diesel wagons with active aero and hand-sewn ostrich-leather interiors”

    Sounds great, where I can I get this?

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    The new base Jetta is a large car for the money. The styling isn’t bad. It’s nice enough for $17k, and sells like crazy when pitched to a lot of unsophisticated entry-level buyers who don’t know a rear disk from a compact disk. These people aren’t aware of all the content VW pulled out to hit their price point.

    As much as I love my ’09 TDI I don’t know if I would buy another given the current crap interior and overall cheapening of the car. I suspect I’m not the only potential repeat customer who’s going to push back against paying more for less. As you move up to the higher trim levels it costs more than the old model.

    Ironic that just when Chrysler got serious about upgrading interior quality to build sales while VW decided to take their place in the bargain basement. Stranger still is that fact that it seems to be working for both of them.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Interesting. Could it be many people WANT to like Chrysler again and MANY people believe VW’s are good, well-engineered, simple cars that will last forever?

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    The success of the new Jetta says nothing about automotive journalism, everything about Volkswagen buyers. The new Jetta is a bigger piece of junk than the last four Jettas were, but that doesn’t matter at all to the sort of people that buy VWs. They just want a German badge they can afford to wear, and now it is more affordable than before. VW buyers don’t know themselves that well, claiming they were buying VWs for imagined superiority in subjective categories over the reliable competition. Now, VW has put their badges on a haphazardly constructed and engineered clone of a Kia Rio, and VW customers are happier than ever, because it will cost them even less to put on their German car driver costumes.

    • 0 avatar
      vbofw

      Wow! This comment serves as a good reminder the only thing more hyperbolic than auto journos, are the subsequent anonymous user comments under the post!

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        To be expected from CJinSD though …

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        All I’m doing is putting what VW already knows into words. Why do you think they decided US VW buyers didn’t need rear suspension, brakes, or modern engines? They didn’t make the new interior out of recycled packing material because they respect their customers, they did it because they finally figured out the people that their cars appeal to. Now they’re going to mine that well of insecure posers with a vengeance, rolling out a bloated and decontented Passat. I’m guessing the success of the New Beetle all those years ago got them thinking about why they wasted their time trying to make good cars when their image was so much more commercially viable than their engineering capabilities.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        “VW buyers don’t know themselves that well, claiming they were buying VWs for imagined superiority in subjective categories over the reliable competition.”

        CJ, I know exactly what I am, a lifelong Honda driver that wanted a hot hatch. One that I can throw my girl and dog in, and tour Appalachia in. Not some soul-less, torque-less, coupe with a fart-can and Mugen stickers.

        When I pass some gelled-up Honda/Acura driver, my “imagined superiority” is very real.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      From what I have read about 2% of buyers had the base engine. It is underpowered and uncompetitive but allowed a cheap entry price. Most companies do this – Hyundai’s Elantra has a cheapish base price but if you want a/c and other “basics” you pay $2000 more. The Focus Sedan S is a miniscule seller but allows a cheap list price to be used in adverts.

      As for the Passat from what I have read on Edmunds (http://www.insideline.com/volkswagen/passat/2012/2012-volkswagen-passat-first-drive.html)it will have all round independent suspension with a multilink set up in the rear and the interior plastic quality is actually reasonable. So it is unfair to say the new Passat is just as decontented as the new Jetta. If people don`t like the Jetta there is still the Golf hatchback and Jetta sportswagen which are “Euro”

      • 0 avatar
        smlfox

        I second what cackalacka said. Granted, I’m not a lifelong Honda buyer, courtesy of a one and a half year stint with a Dodge Dakota, but I definitely have my very real “imagined superiority” everytime some kid in a dressed up Civic rolls up next to my stock Integra and tries to race me. I won’t say I’ve never been “that guy,” though. I’ve certainly made use of the quick acceleration in my old 93 Accord and my current 97 Integra. Granted, the Integra is in desperate need of a tune-up so it doesn’t give a nice little squeal when gunning it.

        I love my Hondas because Honda learned long ago that you pick a good design and stick with it. I can get into any Honda and know where just about everything is. I mean, the turn signal/head light switch is exactly the same as my old Accord, and the only difference in the wiper switch is the control for the rear windshield wiper. Even the power antenna is exactly same.

        My Accord and my Integra were durable, reliable cars. I don’t drive them to put a body kit that costs half as much as the car, or throw a type R wing on it. No, I drive it because it’s a good car. I don’t need the imagined superiority of the ricers.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        I should add, smlfox, that when my last Honda finally gave up the ghost last summer, I was on the market for a hot hatch. As Honda stopped making those with the Gen7s, I turned to the one of the few hot hatches available in N.America, the VW GTI.

        I’m only 20,000 miles in, but it is everything I ever wanted in a car.

  • avatar
    Jellodyne

    Who would have though Volkswagen could make a ton of money selling slow, cheap, minimally contented cars? I’m voting for Type 1 — I mean #1.

  • avatar
    night driver

    Want to buy a Prius or a Civic Hybrid? At a discount? With no supply due to the Tsunami and the gas price rise? Fat chance.

    The lack of supply for hybrids is absolutely driving Jetta TDI sales.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Volkswagon = ‘People’s car, right?

    VW headed for the hills, much the same way Audi did when they stopped making profits on affordable cars. I think this is about the realization that not everybody can be premium and that somebody has to sell to the masses, and the market is responding to that. Still, take a new Jetta Sportline in piano black… it still has a wiff of austere Audi-ness to it that the Asian cars don’t.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Despite enjoying the overall article, I’m having a bit 0′ trouble with the tense below:

    “Yes, the 20004 R32 had incredible looks…” ;O)

  • avatar
    hifi

    So what if sales are up over 60% versus the previous model? That’s a metric that we see a lot, and it’s a horrible one. Obviously the outgoing model’s sales are going to decline because buyers know that it’s an old car and are waiting for the replacement. So demand is pent-up. Plus…

    - VW is marketing the hell out of the new model.
    - The new one is much more affordable than the outgoing one.

    My issue with VW’s strategy is that it isn’t maintainable. VW can’t compete on price, and will never be the bargain basement brand again. That’s what Hyundai/Kia do much better than anyone. After the initial glut of Jetta sales, things will level-off and VW will have to keep the sales going. But with all the negative reviews, along with the conspicuous “shift” in built quality, that will be tough for them to do.

    What VW should do is continue to build the best mainstream cars they can, and build signature quality elements into every car so that they achieve an economy of scale that brings down the cost. It’s the “surprise-and-delight” things that VW has always done so well. They can’t be the cheapest, but they can be the best value.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I think there has to be some level of positive VW brand reputation going on here.

    It can’t just be price. The cheapest advertised price for a new automatic-equipped Jetta I can find within 200 miles of me is $18,130. That’s higher than what I could find for a comparable Forte, Cruze, Lancer, HHR, Elantra Touring, Patriot, and I’m sure a whole host of other vehicles.

    It can’t even just be size/$, you can get an Impala or Mazda6 Sport for an advertised $18K-$20K (with EPA fuel economy ratings very close to the 2.0L Jetta) and those aren’t exactly flying off the retail shelves.

    I suppose it is possible that he new Jetta is way better than reviews are making it out to be. I haven’t driven one yet.

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    What does “de-contented” mean? One interpretation is that it means eliminating unnecessary “luxury” junk that serves no purpose other than to break expensively at some later time. The idea of a well-engineered, de-junked car has appeal. The C-Class in its earlier guises of the 190 reaching back the the 1950′s was such a car, as was, say the Volvo 240 series. The sinking of the dollar made these simple cars luxury-priced in the USA, resulting in the “need” to offer them with luxury features. Mexican labor rates of $3.50/hr has allowed VW a window to re-introduce them to the US market. Whether in fact the new VW products are indeed well-engineered is open for debate, but that the general perception that they are is not. I suspect most customers for the Jetta are looking for this value.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The Volvo 240 had 4 wheel disc brakes 35 years ago. Eliminate the touch screen, power seats, automatic transmission, self retracting side mirrors: absolutely. Eliminate the brakes and independent rear suspension? That is the opposite of the philosophy that guided spartan quality cars in the past.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        You don’t need four-wheel disc brakes on an commodity front-drive economy car. Hell, you don’t need fully independent rear suspension, either.

        There’s plenty of cars with rear drums that can post excellent single-stop numbers. Since they’re not doing track duty, that’s fine. Same with the rear suspension: a twist beam works well enough for marshmallow-mobiles like the Sienna; unlike a rear- or all-wheel drive vehicle, there’s enough independence for it to do it’s job**.

        Both allow a lower price, less maintenance (drums withstand debris damage and don’t warp), better fuel economy (a twist beam weighs less). I don’t think your average buyer would notice the difference (I certainly couldn’t notice it in the Cruze and Cruze Eco), but they do notice a few hundred dollars in MSRP.

        I’d say this is exactly the spartan quality car philosophy (in the Toyota Corolla sense of the word) in play: stripping away spec-sheet frippery in place of what people can actually feel, use, touch and pay for.

        ** which is why, say, the Matrix gets IRS in AWD trim

    • 0 avatar
      Bytor

      The base engine in the new Jetta is something like a 20 year old design that pretty much sucks across the board, being both low HP and delivering mediocre efficiency.

      115 HP/2.0L Iron block that gets 23/29 MPG with the AT…

      I would say that is one serious piece of de-contenting. I understand not everyone is an enthusiast, but who buys a car with an engine with the power of 1.5L and the gas mileage of a 3.0L V6? VW should be embarrassed to even offer such dismal engine.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I’d love to agree with you, but the 2.0 5-speed is the only Jetta I’ve seen tested that actually delivered good gas mileage. Yes, it was the slowest manual transmission test car in years, but it returned 29 mpg in Car and Driver’s hands. http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/car/10q4/2011_volkswagen_jetta_s-short_take_road_test

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        The basic engine design (EA111) actually dates back to 1974, when it debuted in the Audi 50. Mind you, there have been a few changes since then …

        Somehow people are still choosing to buy the Jetta with the 2.0L evn though 2.5L and TDI (and soon 2.0T) are available. Are you calling those people fools, then?

      • 0 avatar
        Bytor

        Sorry but you will have to better than a C&D one off getting 29MPG, to claim this is an efficient engine. That could have been doing 45mph on an empty back-road where a Mustang V6 would have got 40 MPG. It is completely meaningless and arbitrary as a point of comparison. EPA has some issues but it still serves as a basis for comparison.

        Would I say someone is foolish choosing what is likely the worse engine on a new car today? No. But ill informed? Most definitely.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Now I know why I liked the new Jetta at our auto show. Cars that enthusiasts fawn over (me included) all too often are not suitable as daily drivers – at least those in my age bracket. VW has apparently made the Jetta that an “everyman” or “everywoman” can live with day-to-day and not get paranoid about driving due to either a “sporty” (read: ‘rough’) ride wearing the driver out day after day, or having the option of an auto tranny so as not having to shift constantly in traffic. When I drive our MX5, it can be a real pain for me, literally in the back and/or my left leg if I do so more than a couple of days in a row. I’m sure the younger among us won’t feel that way. It is fun, though, just the same.

    On the matter of “de-contenting”, I say: “good!” if it means buying a nice-looking car that I can have pride in that has just enough options to make it livable day to day. My Impala is like that. Just enough stuff and nothing I don’t need.

    I still feel the secret to a successful car is that it looks good, has a bit of flash and makes you want to slip behind the wheel to take a spin and is, of course, reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      “Cars that enthusiasts fawn over (me included) all too often are not suitable as daily drivers – at least those in my age bracket.”

      VW GTI is certainly a suitable daily driver.

  • avatar
    DesmosDromos

    A ’99 Passat wagon was the last car I bought new, I own an ’07 Passat and an ’08 R32 that were both bought used, I’ve driven an ’11 Jetta as a loaner/rental twice and my nephew just bought one. I feel qualified to comment on this topic (note: I may not be, but I FEEL qualified).

    I think I’m mostly on board with scenario #1. Excepting the rich, who aren’t buying VW’s, I think value is the main factor and the new Jetta is competitive there. It also still carries some euro cachet that probably appeals to buyers. I still have to catch up with my nephew on his selection criteria. I was surprised he got one, but he’s not an auto enthusiast per se.

    I say that as my first reaction to pulling one from the rental/loaner fleet while my car was in for service was less than enthusiastic. Drum rear brakes, hard plastics and a vanilla dashboard didn’t help. However, after putting about 300 miles on a couple of TDI sedans over a couple of days, I have to say it isn’t a bad car to drive. It lacks some of the upscale feel of the prior generation, but all the right feature boxes are checked and the price seems right.

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    Jetta looks good and not weird – win against all the curvy/bulging Corollas and Civics. Those cars are hideous in comparison.
    It’s a Jetta for the price that the Jetta should cost.
    Leases are not really sales.
    Win for Jetta.

    • 0 avatar
      spyked

      Exactly. Make a reliable, safe, attractive car that is a good value, then actual buyers show up. The Jetta is in a class where, on the low end, the cars look like they should be running up alleys in India or Thailand (Corolla and Civic) or, on the high end, have questionable resale value and reliablity records while costing more (Cruze and Focus).

      It’s not hard to see why the Jetta is selling right now, in this economy. It’s an honest simple car that offers everything an economy car buyer might need.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Correct on all points. The general styling reminds me in a way of the late 1990′s Camrys – the most “American-looking” car the Japanese ever made!

  • avatar
    jaje

    Jetta is VW’s competitor to other compact cars and has to be able to compete on price. VW’s were always more expensive and frankly have quite a bad reputation for reliability driving away customers in droves to other imports and even Detroit. Now VW’s are much more price competitive helping them on the cost front…now just need to improve on the reliability front.

  • avatar

    I just wonder, when was the last time you looked at the eyes of that Patriot/Chraysler 200/Sebring/Compass/Avenger driver and asked him why?
    There are so many cars on the market, why this?
    Now, when you see a Jetta driver, please ask him why? don’t you read the paper? did you look at consumer report lately? do you really thing that in Europe they drive the same thing?
    After 8 years or more of first generation Focus, I don’t think anybody care anymore.

  • avatar
    gglockster

    I didn’t buy an 05 Jetta TDi because it was German. I bought it because I had a Passet diesel rental station wagon for 2 months in Germany and kicked the stuffing out of it on the Autobahn. I feel people now buy new VW’s because they are cheap (not inexpensive but plastic cheap) and think they are getting a good deal.

    I’ll hang onto my Jetta until it dies but I will never buy another VW. The VW sale staff are jerks. The best way to ruin a VW is to take it in for dealer service. The grease monkeys in the service department cannot even put the dipstick back in (happened twice). Five recalls in six years. Life is too short for me to return as a VW/Audi buyer.

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      I know VW sales and service are supposed to be epically terrible and I generally don’t doubt it. But terrible compared to what? I’ve owned Honda, Toyota and Ford and found service for all three to be similarly awful; Honda’s been the most bearable for no reason other than my Hondas required the fewest trips to the service department (except for the friggin’ timing belts).

      VW can’t be any worse than Ford and can’t be too much worse than Toyota for minor-but-aggrivating repairs. Heck, I’d even be willing to give VW a shot when it comes time to trade my Civic, because the new Hondas are just too ugly.

      • 0 avatar
        AutoFan

        +1. I have an ’03 Passat and an ’01 Ford Focus. I FAARRR prefer the VW dealer than the Ford. I always felt like I was haggling for parts and service at the Ford dealer when going for non-warranty repairs. I do most of my own repairs on the Focus now, but still go to the dealer from time to time with the Passat as that is the wife’s car and she prefers a pro work on that car. Our VW dealer has been courteous, timely, honest and even quite helpful when a repair might be a bit more than what we budgeted.
        But, I’ve also been to another VW dealer for a repair (it was close to my then office) and the experience was pretty bad. I have yet to have a good experience at a Ford dealer.
        The ’12 Focus is on my short list when I go car shopping this fall, but the dealer experience does play into that, so we’ll see how it goes when you actually buy the car at the dealer where you get it serviced.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    the truth about cars indeed!
    My brother is one of those few who bought a brand new TDI. It’s a fantastic car in every sense.

  • avatar
    sushytom

    Good editorial. I wish I could disagree with it, but I can’t.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Too bad the reliability history of VW is so abysmal…a smartly styled and lightly gizmo-d sedan with more buttoned-down driving dynamics would be exaclty what my 67 year old mother would prefer (trying to talk her into a new C-class for her last car she’ll ever buy, but am afraid it’ll be “too much” for her). The Jetta would be ideal in size, style and driving manners…but having a hard time reconciling the overall quality and longevity of VW…sigh. If they had done this 5 years ago and had a great track record, it’d be a slam dunk. But I have to say, I am seeing quote a few new Jettas out on the road…

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Jack, you are generally very good at posing interesting (and provocative) questions.

    I think it’s #1 as well, but I also think the Jetta is actually a decent car for most people’s purposes. Most people in North America don’t need a suspension capable of maintaining the road at Autobahn speeds, nor do most people who would buy a car like a Jetta need rear disc brakes (as Psar rightly pointed out).

    I also think Jack may be onto something when he notes that most of the people who buy new cars may not be ‘car-magazine-enthusiasts,’ but may fall into a different demographic (with many so-called ‘enthusiasts’ tending more towards the used-car market–great deal, get an upscale car for a more affordable price, and so on).

    Finally, I should point out that not all automotive journalists panned the Jetta. Some such as Sam Moses actually praised it to the hilt–”All-new version brings fresh styling and superb execution”– (though maybe reviews such as his don’t count as true ‘journos’ in the sense being used here).

    http://www.newcartestdrive.com/review-intro.cfm?Vehicle=2011_Volkswagen_Jetta&ReviewID=4843

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    #1a – Sign and Drive.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    The answer is quite simple. People like the Jetta’s exterior – it looks better than the competition – and people like the interior. VWs are just different on the inside; and in spite of the interior not being as nice as that of an A3 or A4, some of the coherency and craftsmanship with which the A3 and A4 interior are made is also present in the new Jetta.

    Definitely scenario #1. The autojournos are comparable to people saying that custom handmade oak furniture is soo much nicer than Ikea furniture.

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      “The autojournos are comparable to people saying that custom handmade oak furniture is soo much nicer than Ikea furniture.”

      Well handmade, finely-crafted furniture is nicer, at least if you’re an enthusiast about furniture. But Ikea products perform their furniture function well enough and obviously suit most people’s wants and needs just fine.

  • avatar
    claytori

    Definitely #1. VW has created THE car for the times. When the competition has weirdly styled, overly “aerodynamic”, ergonomically compromised, and excessively complicated offerings, the Jetta is a refreshing study in taste, simplicity, usefulness, and value.

    Forty years of driving have taught me that drum brakes in the rear work well enough for sprited track driving while having much less maintenance and better reliability than discs, primarily because the works are shielded from dirt/salt spray. The twist beam axle can provide excellent handling, including solving much of the front drive understeer issue (two Sciroccos convinced me of this). When the inside rear wheel lifts, the fun begins. Independent suspensions are complicated, expensive, heavy, tear up your tires, and have a bunch of joints and bushings that will need changing somewhere along the way, not to mention the difficulty in keeping them aligned.

    And “soft-touch” plastics! These are great for the first few years. Then they start to peel like a bad sunburn. I have this on my computer mouse and on the infotainment system on the Saab 9-5. After 5 or 7 years the hard plastic will still look great.

    Next item. Severely raked windshields. Besides the rediculously wide instrument panel, the encroachment on the engine compartment that compromises accessibility, the weird little windows by the door post, the main issue is poor visibility. The forward vision range is narrowed and the posts effectively become wider to the driver. Pedestrians hide in the blind spots created by these posts. The low windshield header blocks the view of traffic lights.

    The VW Jetta presents a pleasing, understated design without resorting to all the gimmicks that produce a bad car.

    Reliability will have to be seen. With a 20 year old engine design and no groundbreaking TX design, perhaps this is a better bet than some of the competition.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      “And “soft-touch” plastics! These are great for the first few years. Then they start to peel like a bad sunburn. I have this on my computer mouse and on the infotainment system on the Saab 9-5. After 5 or 7 years the hard plastic will still look great.”
      That’s not the kind of soft touch plastics we’re talking about with regards to cars. Not the rubbery stuff Logitech puts on it’s mice, but just the more padded plastic surfaces that should be used on doors. And certainly not the weird basketball stuff that Mazda uses on the 3 for some bizarro reason.
      My 8 year old car has no peeling soft touch plastic anywhere.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    #1…

    Plus, I am DONE with the professionals telling me which car to buy.
    They hate my MKS w/ecoboost, yet I find it to be better and better every day. Still 30K into it and it still feels luxuious, awesomely fast and silent.
    Nobody really , really praised the Mazda3 (09), yet this V6 still feels like a pwerfull and steady V8, carves up the Ozark roads like a Stuambecker (if anybody remebers the toy I am trying to recall here) slot car…almost a poor man’s audi.
    On top of this all the love thrown at Hyundai with every strangely sci-fi lined car drives me crazy. Each one I have driven makes me long for the next drive in the 6.

    Enough already.
    From now on I drive every car, and drive them over and over again until I know which one I want.

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      It seems to be that if a professional car reviewer is generally “meh” about a car, the car will be pretty darn good. Examples from the January ’04 issue of C/D:

      “The Protegé pays the price of growing up.” “The Mazda 3 may very well carry on the Protegé’s best-in-class tradition. But for all the gain, something’s been lost.”

      And

      “Acura TL: A sharp car that would be even sharper with rear-wheel drive.”

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Which model Mazda3 came with a V6?

  • avatar
    msquare

    If #1 is true, and endorsed by so many, why the hell did cars like the Pontiac G6, pre-08 Chevy Malibu, the Cobalt, the Sebring/Avenger twins, etc get lambasted so badly? What makes the Jetta better than any of these?

    And what about the crappy second-gen US Ford Focus or Mazda-based Fusion instead of the European Focus and Mondeo? Price figured into those decisions, too.

    That said, the previous Jetta, for all its appointments, was kind of dull, too. At least the current Jetta addresses a shortcoming of the previous model with increased interior space.

    The irony of all this is that the Detroiters have worked to take the cheapness out of their cars right when VW is making cheap and chintzy fashionable again. Right.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      If #1 is true, and endorsed by so many, why the hell did cars like the Pontiac G6, pre-08 Chevy Malibu, the Cobalt, the Sebring/Avenger twins, etc get lambasted so badly? What makes the Jetta better than any of these?

      The Detroit cars were fleet darlings. The Sebring and G6 were among the worst offenders — more than half of the Sebrings consistently went to rental, and the G6 wasn’t far behind.

      In contrast, if VW follows its usual playbook, then the vast majority of these are selling to retail customers. That would mean that real people actually want them, and that they’re gaining significant conquest sales from the competition.

      That being said, we’ve seen VW go through boom-and-bust cycles before. The company has a nasty habit of gaining cachet value in the US market, only to blow it and lose it and have to start again. The jury is out as to whether this is sustainable.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    “Everything would be fine if GM/Ford/Skoda/Bugatti would just listen to them and release a whole lineup of manual-transmission subcompact diesel wagons with active aero and hand-sewn ostrich-leather interiors.”

    Yep. That’s why, despite lacking the ability to shut up about cars, I’ve had to swear off the buff books and a lot of more popular car sites. The print journalists are parodies of themselves and, while most of the internet is still only fourteen, I, sadly, am not.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    The Cruze is not aspirational; the Jetta is. At the DC airport last week I saw a number of Cruzes waiting for rental duty. A few Foci, too.

    Interesting recent Automobile mag comparo between the Cruze Eco, Jetta TDI, and Civic Hybrid. While the Cruze had the overall lowest mpg, it was the most livable.

  • avatar
    skotastic

    Awesome article and right on.

    My wife and I were just shopping for a new lease car (Mazda3, Jetta, SX4 were options) and it all boiled down to dollars/cents and lease/finance terms.

    In the end, we just bought a 1996 328i saloon 5-speed with 40,000miles, or my used car comfort zone…!

  • avatar
    tekdemon

    I’ll vote number 3 instead-that by staking their claim so boldly in this price segment their fate now rests almost entirely on how reliable these new VWs are and how they deal with issues when they do arise. People who suddenly decided to start buying VWs when the price dropped are probably fairly price/cost conscious people who won’t be coming back if the new VWs end up costing them a fortune to keep running. Some of those same VW enthusiasts that are so easy to parody are also the few people willing to put up with countless insane and complex repairs to keep driving VWs, but the new buyers aren’t.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    Hi Jack, I have to say, you got it right and i agree with u totally (I’m an auto journo btw, so make of that what you wish)

    I think the new U.S Jetta is what a VW Jetta is supposed to be. from my childhood i remember the Jetta nameplate being parodied in french with (Jette-La.. ie:throw it) because it was so iffy in every aspect. The Jetta was never the car to challenge a 3-series or C-Class and in my opinion it should not regardless which wheels do the pushing or pulling. That should be left for Audi, after all VW is the people’s car and that essence has been lost for a while

    I’ve driven the 2.0l new U.S jetta destined for the Middle East market, and other than the old underpowered (but properly torquey) engine I don’t see the car wanting anything in that price range. sure you can opt for more gizmos in the comfort line trim but even in trend it’s still an attractive package for people that want a simply styled car that has a robust and well finished interior using plastic and material that have been made to look and feel much more than they actually are (people, all 7-billion of them love to get more than what they pay for even the filthy rich). and the driving experience is also what my mother, sister and in fact dad would appreciate and none of those three have any enthusiastic cell in them, like a great load of people. it’s those people that buy Corolla’s and Civic.

    so i never really got the auto-journos’ triads on the Jetta in the U.S…after all a Golf Mrk VI sells better in base than in GTI, same applies for almost everything else. a VW, as nice as they may be and as much as i would like mine fully loaded, is not a luxury brand, it’s a mainstream car maker that should cater to those who want good near-German quality for a good price.

    honestly i don’t know what VW were thinking with the older Jetta, and honestly not sure what to make of the European one, it’s a fine car, but is it really a (Jette-La?) more like a (Guarde-la ie: keep it)….

  • avatar
    shuswaper

    This Canuck definitely votes #1. The pocket book rules bigger than ever during/after tough times in Western economies. More bang for the buck is quite perceivable here, depite the “de-contenting”, so called. Lets face it, the “keep it simple” approach can be quite refreshing when it comes to design.As far as materials go,tell me,how many people drive down the road feeling up their “soft touch” dash boards?
    However,the proof is in the ride when all is said and done.Ask me how I know!This car is a winner as the numbers suggest….from a former `02 TDi owner (290,000kms; original battery,clutch and exhaust!) and now….the proud owner of an`11 Jetta TDi 6 speed manual, in “White Gold”.

  • avatar
    shuswaper

    Bytor, have u ever driven/owned a TDi for any lenth of time? You might be missing something in your equation.FYI: in the last fiscal year of my TDi ownership, over 14,980 kms (9308 miles)driven,it consumed 691.5 Litres of diesel fuel (182.6 US Gal.)It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the “value” here, given enough time ofcourse, to recoup the initial capital premium.

    • 0 avatar
      Bytor

      The old TDI is not the new TDI, economy is lower, complexity is higher, so you won’t get the same MPG and you will pay more for maintenance.

      You also have to factor in time value of money on that extra $4000 or so. You also have to factor in that gas powered cars from “other” manufacturers have all dramatically increased their gas powered fuel economy. TDI economy only looks good compared to VW’s poor economy gas engines.

      Jetta TDI fuel econ in Canada:
      6.7/4.6

      Hyundai Elentra fuel econ in Canada
      6.8/4.9

      Notice how close those are. You paid $4000 more to save about $50 a year in fuel costs, which will be eaten away in higher priced maintenance, we won’t even have to delve into the time value of money of what $4000 in bonds would compare(or not having to finance another $4000+).

      TDI is not a value proposition. Even without maintenance, even without time value of money. $4000/$50 = 80 years for payback. :D

      • 0 avatar
        shuswaper

        Cmon Bytor, get a grip. One is not paying 4000.00 more for just a Diesel…there is more to the TDi than that. Perhaps u better drive one ….there is more to it than meets the eye. Its hard to put a price on the driving experience after all there Bytor. Secondly, you cannot project at this time, higher maintenance costs in the future for the TDi. That is wild speculation. Thirdly, we are not playing stocks and bonds here with our financial calculators. Real car enthusiasts enjoy the total driving experience which involves many factors…comparing an “Elantra” to a TDi is laughable.

  • avatar
    streamliner

    I read a selection of these many comments; if I missed the following point among them, c’est l’vie. Consider that VW “gets” it better than you think; they may use the R-series as a showroom traffic attention getter more than as a profit center. In fact, the high sticker versus value indicates a certain lack of intent to sell many units. Regards the new Jetta, we own a TDI Sportwagen and we are quite happy. It is no longer the weak sister of the line. It is not poorly trimmed out. Auto journalists not withstanding, I detect road manners, ride, handling, and composure the equal of prior model like our old Passat despite the de-contented rear suspension. The seats are superb, the dash layout very good except for the too small markings and dim lighting on the HVAC controls. The acceleration is superb versus class, the fuel mileage excellent. Find me another IC car that will travel consistently over 600 miles per tankful and achieve consistent 44-46 mpg over the 600 + miles. Argue value against those numbers and you will have to find an exceptional case.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    The reason why your Jetta TDI Sportwagen has “road maners, ride, handling, and composure” like your Passat is because it is actually a Golf. It has IRS and four wheel disc brakes. Also, because its the TDI trim, the interior is much nicer then the regular Jetta as well. Your Sportwagen is way more MKV Jetta then MKVI Jetta.

  • avatar
    otaku

    I seem to recall Mr. Baruth writing a similar article a while back regarding the poor reception of the 2008 Ford Focus by the majority of the automotive press:

    http://www.speedsportlife.com/2008/05/29/avoidable-contact-12-why-the-motoring-press-cant-even-focus-on-its-own-astra/

    I can still remember when everyone dissed and dismissed the 2008 Focus as a piece of junk, which, speaking as the proud owner of an ’08 SE Coupe, never made a bit of sense to me. I purchased mine used for a very reasonable price about two years ago and have been very impressed by its comfort, refinement, dependability and fuel economy. In my humble opinion, it deserved a heck of a lot more respect than it ever received.

    Personally, I’m somewhat conflicted about this new Jetta. On the one hand, I don’t like the idea of all the self-appointed/annointed so-called “experts” unfairly slamming this car just because it happens to be targeted at consumers with less money to throw around. Yet, at the same time I can’t help but wonder whether it offers as much value overall (at least in the less expensive base version) when compared to the similarly un-loved 2008-2010 Focus.

    I’m pretty sure the base model 2008 thru 2010 Focus was slightly less expensive, lighter and more fuel efficient than the current base Jetta. Plus, it offered a more powerful, class competitive, all aluminum two-liter engine and fully independent rear suspension as standard equipment. I even find much of the new Jetta’s chunky, angular sheetmetal (especially in the front fascia and profile) to be a fairly derivative retread of lines already used on my Focus. The only areas where the Jetta appears to offer more bang for the buck are in rear seat passenger space and trunk size.

    I don’t have any empirical data for a comparison of the these two makes in terms of frequency of repairs/maintenance costs, etc. All I can say is that I’ve owned Fords for most of my life and they’ve all had pretty damn good track records in this area, so I had no worries about dependability when I bought my Focus. Conversely, I’ve heard a whole bunch of horror stories from Volkswagen owners over the years that would really make me think twice about purchasing ANY of their models, let alone one of the new budget-oriented offerings.

    So, what’s the verdict? I can’t really say for sure, but I have my share of doubts. Volkswagen’s marketing guys want people to perceive the new Jetta a good economy car alternative at a relatively low price, but if the reality ends up being that you have to shell out significantly more than its base price if you want something on par with the competition, possessing half-decent reliability, then it might not be quite the bargain they’re making it out to be.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    This has to be a better strategy than VW’s upscale ambitions of a decade ago. Most sales gained, I’d bet, came from Audi. VW was chasing its own tail, and if they had succeeded, they might have self-cannibalized.

    The world needs a good, cheap Volkswagen for “the folks.” Maybe this is it, I hope so.


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