By on August 22, 2012

It’s a little less than 40 years ago that a newly minted copywriter called Bertel Schmitt wrote his first ads for a newly minted car called Volkswagen Golf. As chronicled in the Autobiography of BS, the car became an involuntary star. At its launch, everybody at Volkswagen was convinced it would be a dud.

29 million cars later, the Golf is one of the world’s most sold cars, and by large Volkswagen’s most important.  In a few weeks, Volkswagen will launch its all—new seventh generation of the Golf,  the emm-kay seven in blogger parlance. This is a make-or-break launch. If something would go wrong with this launch, it would be doubly bad for Volkswagen. The new Golf also is the first Volkswagen that is based on VW’s new modular MQB architecture.

The Golf VII is already being produced in Wolfsburg under a cloak of secrecy. A few journalists were allowed to touch, but not to see. They could sit in a new Golf that was still covered by a big tarp. And they had to surrender their camera-equipped cell phones. Today, the embargo on Volkswagen-supplied pictures lifted.  Pictures of the car will be supplied later.

Wait, auto motor und sport has pictures – of a Golf dressed in fetish gear.

The most important innovation: Despite growing a bit in length and girth, the seventh generation Golf is 100 kg  (220 lb) lighter than its predecessor.  The Golf is now at the lightweight level of the 4th generation Golf. The car will get an up to 23 percent better mileage, and will not cost more than the current model, says Volkswagen.

This weight reduction was not achieved “with expensive materials such as aluminum, magnesium or carbon fiber,” writes Der Spiegel. Volkswagen engineers systematically hunted for weight savings.

Electrical parts did shed 3 kilos, the engines lost 22 kgs. 26 kilos were saved in the chassis, 37 in the Golf’s body. Seats could become lighter and less bulky through the use of high tensile steel.

Using “tailored blanks,” metal is only used where needed.

In the past, Volkswagen engineers were proud of the straight line weld achieved through the use of a laser. Now, they brag of “wobble welds.” Those are laser welds that look like a sine curve, allowing firm weld with a minimum of overlap.

The new Golf is “equipped with all imaginable infotainment and electronic assistance gadgets,” writes the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. It even has a new “multi collision brake” that tries to avoid a second impact after initial collision.

The new Golf will meet formidable opposition in Daimler’s new Mercedes A-Class and Toyota’s new hatched Corolla, the Auris.  This time, nobody at Volkswagen doubts that the car will be a success.

Note to GM: Despite a once in a generation model change, and a once in a lifetime changeover to a completely new car architecture that requires completely new production methods, Volkswagen did not pile up inventories of the Golf 6, and does not shut down factories for months.  It is a smooth and fluid changeover. During the three week vacation time from July 30 through August 17, one line was kept running to fill demand, while elsewhere, the lines were re-rigged for the new Golf VII.

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48 Comments on “More Car, Less Filling: Volkswagen Launches New Golf Generation...”


  • avatar

    Great story Bertel. MQB…and here we’re in doubt over Pq24 or Pq25, ha! Also, VW do Brasil makes much ado about that straight welding and say the Polo is the only car welded in Brazil by robots. Wonder what they’ll say now…

    BTW, Bertel AutoBiography is a must read everyone. WHen will we get more?

  • avatar
    mike978

    Very interesting. Bertel, were you one of the journalists to go and see the new Golf? I ask because Toyota has let you do that (with the recent LFA series) and you have a history with VW and the Golf.

    I saw in Autonews an article about the new platform, with a interesting graphic :
    http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120821/COPY01/308219918/1295/prolific-vw-platform-is-key-in-race-to-be-global-no-1

    If nearly everything is variable except the distance between the front axle and the pedals how does it save VW so much money? I can see how it is highly customisable, I just wonder how it saves so much.

    I would have thought the more formidable competitors were the Astra and Focus based on sales not the Auris which has always been a bit player in the compact market in Europe (deserved or not is irrelevant).

    • 0 avatar

      The whole idea of the kit is flexibility. Flexibility through standardization.

    • 0 avatar
      MeaCulpa

      My, somewhat educated, guess is that they achieve savings by a high degree of standardization. A high degree of parts commonality offers economics of scale even if one or many of the cars sell in limited numbers, additional savings are probably obtain by streamlined logistics and reduce lead time in future developments. The use of platforms that allowed quite different cars with common parts and development made VW a powerhouse, as others are catching up, VW moves on.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    Well, I’m going to be that guy.

    “The new Golf is “equipped with all imaginable infotainment and electronic assistance gadgets”

    This line scares me. Until I hear that VW has outsourced it’s electronics to a crack team of Japan engineers, I’m going to be one weary VW shopper. It’s the achilles heel of the company, yet I never seem to hear about how they will improve things on this front.

  • avatar
    nvdw

    What is most intriguing with this millionaire bit is that the Golf and the Corolla both rack up tremendous sales, but never truly compete with each other. In Europe it’s the Golf that rules the waves, but in America, it’s really a niche car with the Corolla being the default choice.

    Using steel ‘with holes in it’ is not new however, Ford has shown me something similar on the Fiesta three years ago.

    • 0 avatar

      It is not steel with holes. That is ancient. It is effectively flexible gauge sheetmetal. The picture shows it quite well.

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        “It is not steel with holes. That is ancient. It is effectively flexible gauge sheetmetal. The picture shows it quite well.”

        Also not exactly “new” so much as never been able to be done at the scale needed for auto manufacturing. My bicycle has steel tubing that has a variable wall thickness based on where extra strength is needed.

        A friend of mine is in the materials engineering business, and his firm is busier than ever. The interest in finding ways to improve the usage of existing materials is coming from all sorts of industries. You’re going to see even more innovative uses in the coming years.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      “In Europe it’s the Golf that rules the waves, but in America, it’s really a niche car with the Corolla being the default choice.”

      For the US market the Golf hatchback shape is associated with cheap cars, but it’s built expensive. In a land of large parking spaces, the length-efficient packaging of the Golf adds no value. The NA Passat shows Volkswagen is finally listening. It gives the US the expensive shape but it’s built to budget. Unfortunately Volkswagen shortchanged us on a couple details like the base engine, infuriating plastic seating surfaces for the middle trim level, and offset steering wheel.

      The Corolla doesn’t sell well because Americans aspire to own it. The Corolla sells because its cost of ownership is low and it’s size and shape is useful.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    Golf Mk 1 was a fun little car. Many people expected Volkswagen to have problems coming up with something to replace the Beetle, but they did it be it by luck or skill.

    The Golf has grown fatter and more comfortable in later generations, but I tried a Golf Mk 6 at the local Volkswagen pusher, and it was light-footed and good to drive.

    If I was buying a C-segment hatchback in Europe the Golf would be first on the list of cars to look at. In Germany the Golf is a good value at 18.000 euro.

    Nicking 2011 European sales numbers from the Frankfurter: Golf 568.000 units, Astra 295.000, Focus 282.000

  • avatar

    I Love some of those German words!

    -Forthwith referring to all girls’ rear-ends as a Hinterwagen. hahaha

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    Bertel, nice littel jab to GM at the end of the article. While interesting, I am wondering if it is an apples-to-oranges comparison in some key ways. Maybe I am thinking about it too hard.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “While interesting, I am wondering if it is an apples-to-oranges comparison in some key ways.”

      On a traditional mass production line, retooling was quite a lengthy ordeal.

      One of the innovations introduced by Toyota with lean production was to speed up the retooling process.

      In theory, all of the domestic automakers are now also using lean production. But in practice, they’re still using at least some of the outdated approaches associated with old-school mass production.

      It really shouldn’t take GM months to retool their plants, yet it does. Those longer timeframes ultimately cost a lot of money, not just because of the downtime involved but also because of the large amounts of capital that have to be tied up in excess inventories as the manufacturer prepares for the model changeover.

      (Of course, that model that they’re overproducing is about to be discontinued, which means that this excess inventory may end up being heavily discounted, which somewhat defeats the purpose of having overproduced it in the first place.)

      The more quickly that a company can convert car parts and assembly line labor into a retail sale, the better that its margins can be. Inventory turn is critical to profitability.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I don’t think the actual line changeovers are significantly more time intensive. The model switchover excuse for channel stuffing is a red herring. They’re just building hundreds of thousands of surplus trucks to put off the public forming a realistic picture of their financial health until after the election.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I love the look of this car if the German magazine photos are even close to being accurate. If the reliability is good and it has the solidity of teutonic-ism, I could easily see myself picking a future 5 door manual Golf instead of many far more expensive alternatives.

        This is a fantastic article in terms of discussing the specifics as to how VW is using their modular system and finding less expensive methods to shave weight (but apparently not sacrificing quality or safety) from this vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “I don’t think the actual line changeovers are significantly more time intensive”

        Toyota needs about two weeks to retool for a new model.

        For the upcoming Silverado/ Sierra, GM is planning for a 21-week transition period.

      • 0 avatar
        sunridge place

        @PCH…the 21 weeks are cumulative over multiple plants. So, if Toyota had 3 plants that need 2 weeks to re-tool. That would be reported as needing 6 weeks to re-tool.

        Not saying there aren’t ways to make it faster, and I would imagine some of this re-tool might be more extensive modernization that was ignored during the last re-tool that happened in 2006 as GM was running out of $$.

        But, its not fair to compare 21 weeks to 2 weeks given the multiple plants.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “the 21 weeks are cumulative over multiple plants”

        GM is currently building them at those trucks at three plants.

        If they retool three plants, then that’s seven weeks per plant. Five weeks longer than what TMC requires.

        At some point, the domestic fans need to get honest with a basic fact (get ready for it):

        — Toyota does a better job of building cars than GM does. –

      • 0 avatar
        sunridge place

        ‘At some point, the domestic fans need to get honest with a basic fact (get ready for it):

        ‘Toyota does a better job of building cars than GM does.’

        I never said Toyota didn’t. Not sure why you assume I feel that way.

        I was simply putting the timeframes you quoted in more accurate perpective. You know how people twist numbers for their own purpose…and you often successfully point that out on here as one of the B&B.

        If Toyota ever decides to update the Tundra , it will be interesting to see if their re-tool system can handle a truck re-tool with multiple engines/cabs/beds/drivetrains as well as a more basic car.

        I suspect they will. Mainly because the San Antonion plant is less than 10 years old and was probably built with flexibility re-tools in mind unlike some older GM plants. Toyota (and other transplants) plants in this country are much newer than GM’s for obvious reasons. One would assume that newer plants are built with newer production methods in mind etc.

        It is also interesting to note that the GM Truck re-tool varies by plant. One needing up to 9 weeks and others less.

        As I noted in my post, I would imagine there is a lot more modernization going on now in GM plants than Toyota would need given the recent construction of those Toyota plants in the US versus the older GM plants and lack of investment to modernize those older plants all at once in the past.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      I saw the jab too. While I agree they should be more efficient with model changes and not build up inventory I don`t see the purpose to continual jab away especially as this article was very specific about the VW approach.

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      There is no doubt its a bit of apples-to-oranges comparison.

      1. European build to customer order system pretty much eliminates dealer inventory. There isn’t the expectation of having 10 choices per model at the dealership ready to buy on the spot.

      2. GM is scheduling about 20 weeks of downtime over 4 plants for truck re-tooling. About 5 weeks per plant. Its hard to tell in this example because they don’t say how many lines total–but its somewhere between 3 or 4 weeks total downtime here for VW. Hardly a massive gap. Given the European model of production, it makes sense to keep one running while re-tooling…but then that one line will be down to re-tool once the others start up.

      3. Trucks also add a lot of complexity versus a Golf given the Regular Cab/Extended Cab/Crew Cab, 2WD/4WD, Short Box/Long Box mixes. I’m going to guess that’s a bit more complex lineup than the new Golf.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        You left out one other difference: American workers don’t take off the month of August (+/-) en masse. Europeans, especially northerners, love those beaches in Crete and Ibiza.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    This is the continuation of the anti-Ford business model that VW has been unveiling, where VW makes better (and often larger) successor cars, but charges either the same or less for them, all things equal.

    Ford’s model equals making better (Focus) or worse (Edge) cars, and charging a hefty premium on the level approaching an aspirational brand price increase in % terms, Chinese transmissions and Mexican assembly (same as the non-aspirational volume makers) included.

    Incidentally, since they unveiled this strategy, VW market share % has grown appreciably, while Ford’s has dropped.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      Need I remind you that VW is a small niche player in the U.S. with a market share of only about 3% compared to Ford’s 15%. VW still hasn’t caught up to Kia yet who is growing considerably. VW doesn’t have the dealer network to even remotely compete with Ford head to head.

      Chasing market share in today’s car market is a fools errand. It’s profits that matter and Ford is still showing plenty of that, even with heavy losses in Europe. Ford more than doubled it’s profits year over year so I think their strategy is working just fine.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      If you’re planning to purchase a Golf five-door per-se, you may have to settle for automatic if purchased in the States. Our family Mk 6 five door came that way, with no other choice. The only other option might be to move up to a GTI five-door. I think even the current Golf R all-wheel-drive comes standard with some sort of TripTronic or DSG(I don’t have my VW memory card installed now).

  • avatar
    car_guy2010

    If VW could make a “stripper” version of this new VII Golf, I might consider it. Get rid of the “infotainment system” and give me a head unit with an USB jack. That’s all I need.

    While I’m nowhere near the ability to buy a new car anytime soon, I’m still torn between the Ford Focus and a VW product. I would probably not buy a VW product unless the reliability improves. I had a 1985 Golf as my first car and I miss it. It was quirky. Only the driver’s door opened from the outside though.

    • 0 avatar
      Freddy M

      Has Ford fixed the issues with the DCT in the Focus? (I’m really asking, I don’t know.) Because that would be a reliability concern to add to that. Unless you’re getting a manual in which case nevermind.

      • 0 avatar
        car_guy2010

        I don’t know how to drive stick. I wish I did but I need time and a beater to practice with.

      • 0 avatar
        MeaCulpa

        @car_guy2010

        You don’t need a beater to practice with, you need somebody who knows how to drive a stick and a large parking lot. Operating a manual incorrectly results in a stall or some gear grinding 99.99% of the time, non of those things will damage your car significantly, your ego might get a bit sore thou.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        A friend bought a new 5-speed Golf (way back about 10 years ago) — and she had never driven a manual-gearbox car. The salesman drove it home for her, and then another friend taught her how to drive manual. The car was no worse for wear …

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      That was really fortuitous that the driver’s door was the one that didn’t fail. Did the others perish from disuse?

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      I think VWusa considers the Golf three-door as their ‘stripper’, it’s less well-equipped than the base five-door, but at the very least you may be able to get a factory/dealer-installed iPod adapter, if that helps you.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    The Golf is quite reliable. Consumer Report gives it “good bet” status. Just stay away from the first batch of the Mk 7, like with any other car, so they have time to fix the bad bits.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Thinking long-term ownership, all cars are going to need repair. Replacement parts on a Ford will likely be cheaper than on a VW, especially if the USD remains weak.

      Reliability may be improving at VW, but they still have parts cost working against them. For this reason, I would give the Focus the nod if I was on the fence between the two.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    As I’ve said many times over the past two years: MQB, like MLB for Audi, is a very significant development for Volkswagen. Audi has had phenomenal success with their “kit”: it has allowed for quick proliferation of niche models (think A5 Sportback and A7), achieved significant economies of scale and helped improve their bottom line.

    Based on statistics and anecdotal evidence overall reliability has improved as well across the A4/A5/A6/A7/A8 line. Problems like the water pump failures in the 3.2V6 seem to be pretty isolated at this point.

    MQB has the potential for disaster if a subcomponent (think HVAC as an example) has a defect and it finds its way into millions of cars (think new A3, Seat Leon, new Golf for starters), but I would have to imagine they have paid very close attention to such details.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Any word on if their sticking with the same drive-train in the base (non TDI/GTI) model?

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      The North American-market 2.5L is rumoured to be replaced by a new-generation 1.8T (EA888 rather than the old EA113 1.8T, now with a timing chain), probably with roughly similar horsepower but much better drivability (and better fuel economy, too).

      But the North American introduction is still some time away so it’s not going to be immediately clear which engines we will get here.

      • 0 avatar
        stryker1

        Cool. Turbos are fun, and will likely get better gas mileage. As a 2012 2.5 golf owner, however, I have to say that I kinda like the torquey not-so-little engine in the kinda-little car. Even if its a bit of a gas guzzler by compact standards.

      • 0 avatar
        snakebit

        As another owner of a Golf 2.5 five cylinder/six-speed autobox, I like it , as well, the two are a very good match. Sometimes, I would rather give my significant other my E46 coupe for the day and take the Golf to work.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      It’s been reported previously that the 2.5 gasoline engine is to be replaced with the new EA888 1.8 TSI engine. I don’t know if it’s on the exact same timeframe as North American changeover to the Mk7 Golf, but it looks pretty close.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      All new engines for the Golf and it’s variants. The new 1.8T and 2.0T will also employ a combination of direct and port fuel injection (similar to what Lexus has done with their DI engines) to help with the valve carbon deposits issues.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    The weight loss is very impressive. You guys should do a suspension walkaround to see if you can spot the chassis weight loss.

  • avatar
    SteveMK2Rio

    Bertel,

    I’ve heard about Toyota doing similar things at TMMK – switching over to a new Camry without stopping the line. This sounds like even more of an achievement. It’s seriously amazing what they can do.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    Don’t know about the Golf, but from what I heard/read, on the UK Top Gear, the GTI -they did make use of – say it with me…AL-U-Men-Nee-um.


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