By on December 18, 2012

Despite rumors of its impending demise, the Volkswagen Routan will apparently resume production in summer 2013. But the big question is why Volkswagen will have halted production of the Chrysler-based minivan for nearly a year?

Automotive News spoke to VW’s Scott Vazin regarding the Routan, with the news outlet reporting

that VW plans “to offer the 2013 model year Routan” without changes and that it will continue to be assembled in Windsor. There is no set schedule for production of the Routan to restart, but it’s “a safe bet” to happen by summer, he said.

While inventory numbers were not available for the Routan, the vehicle hasn’t been produced since July, and sales were down 17 percent year over year. The year-long gap in production is puzzling to say the least, but the missing inventory numbers are a giant “X’ factor in the rationale behind VW’s decision to suspend production. A 7-12 month supply of Routans is unlikely, but if demand is so poor as to suspend production for that long, why bother carrying on with the vehicle? Only 8,882 Routans have been built in 2012, a 38 percent drop compared to 2011. Manufacturing professionals in the commentariat – we know you’re out there – please feel free to chime in with your expertise.

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45 Comments on “Volkswagen Routan Not Dead Yet, Just On A Long Hiatus...”


  • avatar
    mjz

    If they are going to wait until next summer, wouldn’t that be a 2014 model?

  • avatar
    prndlol

    Chevrolet should keep this chain-of-shame going and license it as the Malibu APV.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    It’s sad the company that practically invented the people carrier concept (the Bus) can’t affordably offer American customers a modern version and insread have to serve up a warmed-over Chrysler product. Surely VW can figure out a better way. There certainly have to be enough Deadheads/Phish Fans left to be drawn to a Vanagon or similar vehicle.

  • avatar

    Perhaps the Routan’s lack of success has something to do with the fact that there isn’t much you can do to improve on the already-stellar and value-packed Town & Country. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that its customers can see through a thinly-veiled Chrysler Group vehicle. At any rate, VW just can’t stand to be unsuccessful in a particular market…

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      TDI?

      Putting a high-torque high-MPG VW TDI engine into a Chrysler minivan would add some real VW-specific value to me.

      After owning a 2001 Jetta, I love driving diesel but hated maintaining a genuine VW product…!

      It would have to be very very nice to compete with the used 2nd-gen Sienna that I just bought, though.

  • avatar
    Frank Galvin

    Must be the contract with Chrysler. VW has to purchase X amount, or the agreement is for a term?

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      This is the most likely scenario here. A prederemined manufacturing contract that needs to be fullfilled without penalty.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Or… VW wanted changes – materials, engine, interior design – and it took that long to change over, maybe by VW delivering its own materials/ and/or mechanicals for assembly.
        Or… VW keeps teasing with wider, lower, FWD Kombi concepts. They may have decided to build their own, then realized they needed more time and went back to the Routan as a stopgap.
        Or… Sergio stopped production out of pique and was forced to restart after a threatened lawsuit.
        Or… VW wanted to punish Sergio for his proposal for an illegal cartel while he was chairman of ACEA, but gave it up when he got re-elected to another term.
        Or…

  • avatar
    210delray

    Does anyone know if at least some of the vehicles produced in July 2012 have 2013 model year VINs? If not, it would seem unlikely any 2013s will see the light of day.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Isn’t there some sort of Dr. Carvorkian who can be called on to permanently ease the pain and assist the ultimate transition?

    • 0 avatar
      Freddy M

      If so, the TWAT listing is probably a better place for such a person to start with.

      Having ridden in a Town and Country earlier in the fall, I can safely say that it’s … an interesting vehicle and fairly comfortable…

      … I hate minivans. Reprieve rescinded.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      I always thought Kerkorian would kill off some of GM’s ailing brands, since his name sounded like the good doctor’s.

  • avatar
    jjster6

    Maybe consumers are smart enough not to pay twice the price for a Chrysler mini-van from a VW dealer?

    Not sure if the facts support this, but it is my perception.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      I don’t think it’s twice the price. It might be twice the price for a stripper Dodge Caravan vs. a relatively loaded Routan, but in that case it’d also be twice the price for a stripper Dodge Caravan vs. a loaded Chrysler Town & Country (which I believe is at least $44K per a review I saw at some point).

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        The Routan starts at $27,020, versus $29,995 for the Town & Country. In practice, I believe you can often get the VW for much cheaper than the Chrysler or Dodge versions.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Base price on a Dodge Caravan appears to be $20,995. The Dodge Caravan R/T (The Man Van) has a base price of $29,995. So my conjecture that a fully loaded T&C could be twice a stripper Caravan is correct.

        By the way, I don’t think those prices ranwhenparked quoted include destination: $820 for VW, $995 for Chrysler. For 2013, it’s $31,390 for the T&C base. The T&C Limited starts at $41,390.

        A loaded Sienna or Odyssey will cost more than a loaded T&C.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    The Routanest Teutonist US market minivan lives.

    I don’t quite understand why they don’t bring the VW Sharan here, although it’s more Mercury Villager-sized than it is Caravan/Sienna/Odyssey-sized, so that might be the reason. If they’re concerned the Sharan is too small, they could make a “Grand Sharan” — or if they continue licensing from Chrysler, even a Grand Sharavan.

    Back in the day, they didn’t bring the Sharan to the US because it was produced in a factory that was a joint venture with Ford — producing the Ford Galaxy — and Ford didn’t want VW minivans competing with the Aerostar in the US. Incidentally, the Galaxy is similar to the Ford S-Max (but marginally taller and marginally longer), which Ford has considered bringing here.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Isn’t the Sharan consistently rated as absolutely terrible in the UK?

      • 0 avatar
        MeaCulpa

        Don’t think so. The old Sharan did quite well in car rag tests, having ridden in one (and on the same trip hitting a deer with one) of the first gens i can not see why, it had horribly uncomfortable rear seats, the ride was slightly bouncy and the space wasn’t there, it was a hell of a deer slayer thou. Mind you this was one of the first first gen ones back when it was new, they might have improved over time. The second gen seems a lot better but I haven’t had a chance to ride in one and they are quite expensive.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Sharan? If someone if my extended family bought one it would forever be the Shazam! It’s not a minvan! It’s the VW Shazam!

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I really don’t get the evident hate for this car. It is a Chrysler T&C with a VW badge for pretty much the same price (at the fictional MSRP). I am sure Chrysler probably charges VW relatively little to build them, and the profit margins on loaded minivans have to be such that VW probably makes a profit even with big discounts. Just not a big profit. The dealers get to keep a sale that would otherwise go elsewhere, as VW does not have anything else that is Federalized for the US market. Given the small volume sales of minivans, I have to think this was smarter than Federalizing something European.

    As to the stopped production, I assume the obvious, they have enough on hand for that many months sales.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I have no hate for it. But it is very much an answer to a question no one has asked.

      Minivan sales have largely been in decline for well over a decade now. GM and Ford gave up completely. Nissan should have gotten the hint long ago. Hyundai has given up. It’s all about the CUV/SUV, which VW offers.

      Why would you cling to a niche vehicle with minimal sales and no halo effect, that dealers have to sell at a steep discount to get off the lots. Marketing, training service techs, parts inventory, logistics, legal resources on badge engineering all costs money. I doubt VW has made up the cost of entry (Brook Shields sure as heck wasn’t free) and other associated costs in the partnership with Chrysler.

      It is just a vehicle that doesn’t make sense.

      • 0 avatar
        MeaCulpa

        You have to pay to enter Brooks Shield? Okay if it still was the 80′s but now I’d have imagined entry being gratis.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        Maybe the Routan started as part of an attempt by Volkswagen to increase their sales volume in the US relative to Toyota. The bigger, cheaper Jetta and Passat strategy worked more or less. Competing with the Sienna with a warmed over Dodge Caravan did not. I’d be curious if Volkswagen customers rejected minivans is general or just this one.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I just traded my Escape* for a Sienna for all of the same reasons that families have owned minivans during my lifetime.

        * The Escape’s fate will actually be going to a family member in a game of musical cars – but when it’s all said and done it will probably be like I traded it…

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      It was still probably cheaper by far than doing something themselves. Realistically, if they sold for more than a base Caravan, they probably made money on them. The markup on a $39k minivan has to be epic – it’s a $20k car with a couple grand in added bells and whistles.

      Don’t underestimate the ability of car makers to profit on making dealers BUY all those tools and the training either – it often isn’t free, and in this case it all came as a package from Chrysler anyway, most likely.

  • avatar
    dcars

    I think they are restarting production because they enjoy the relationship that they have with Sergio and just can’t make the breakup final!

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    It’s not dead, it’s restin’. It’s probably pining for the fjords.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I don’t think it will return. Maybe they’re just trying to avoid having a fire sale on the remaining stock.

  • avatar
    -Cole-

    I wonder why, really, they even made the Routan.

  • avatar

    Kill the damn thing now!

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    About a year ago my wife was mini-van curious so I wanted to test drive one.

    I went three times to the dealer – Myers Volkswagen – and they would only let me drive it if I gave them a $2K deposit.

    Worst treatment I’ve ever had at a dealership in my 25 years of new car ownership.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      The worst treatment I’ve ever had was a local Subaru dealership who also asked for deposits for test-driving some of their cars, insisted that their cars were going several thousand over MSRP (even though a Subaru dealership a few towns over was selling them for something much closer to invoice), and would send out closer after closer even when you called them out on their BS.

      At one point, they sent out someone really high up, and when I laughed at his BS, he said, “well, okay, at least I made you laugh.” If they had been serious about dealing, we would have had a quick deal, but they stuck to their guns and had me walk out. If you read the reviews about the dealership, tons of people have this exact same experience, and end up going a few towns over. That really made me wonder who the chumps are who buy from those jokers.

      It made me understand what that Edmunds columnist meant when he said he worked at a “high-pressure dealership.”

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I worked at a place like that in college. Their attitude was that they’d absolutely rather take a few people for thousands of dollars than sell lots of cars for a few hundred in net profit. We sold a couple of the most popular brands in town, but the ones you’d see on local streets usually had license plate trim rings from a dealer in a small town 30 miles away.

        I asked my sales manager about the Civic Real-Time 4wd Wagovan, or whatever it was called. I wanted to try one out, since they seemed cool on paper with their 6-speed manual in 1989 and an engine shared with the Si models. He had this big grin on his face as he told me that their distributors kept the supplies real tight in the winter so they could sell the 6 of them they’d get for whatever they wanted. Wouldn’t he have rather sold 30 of them in December alone? Apparently not.

    • 0 avatar
      Halftruth

      Same thing happened to me recently but for a different vehicle. They wanted a deposit before I could test drive. I told them to keep it.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I’ve never heard of paying a deposit for the privilege of a test drive. No way I’d ever buy from such a dealer. That practice should be outlawed.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    What happened to VW’s Eurovan? Couldn’t meet US safety specs? VW kinda forgot about it? What’s the deal?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      According to Wikipedia, the Transporter would still qualify for the 25% light truck chicken tax. It would be absurdly expensive without it anyway. VW priced themselves out of the minivan market over a decade ago, when the dollar’s value was less of an act of willful suspended disbelief. They sold 1,339 Eurovans in the US in 2000, three years before giving up. The Transporter would need to be built in Mexico or the like for the US market, and the predicted volume doesn’t justify a second production line. Even Ford and GM can’t be bothered trying to compete with Chrysler and the Japanese for the dwindling minivan market. It will be interesting to see if the Korean bother replacing their aging vans here.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        I think Kia has said the Sedona will be redone for 2014. I’m a huge fan of our 2009; too bad the Sedona is overlooked in minivan comparisons – it’s just not cool to pay less than $30k for a minivan anymore, and bling is culturally-mandated in them now.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @gslippy: it’s true. Where I work (midwestern dot-com in a college town), blinged out minivans are the luxury vehicle of choice. They’re practical, comfortable, and perceived as more respectable than ostentatious.

        The only BMW in the lot was owned by a 20-something contractor who worked here for a while. There are some more typical enthusiast rides in the parking lot.

        This is from a crew that can choose to drive whatever they like. It’s just that most would rather put their resources toward their kids – but will spend a little extra when they can have it both ways.

        Culture is a funny thing! More subtle and more powerful than I used to think.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Could this be part of the ongoing feud between Marchionne & Piech? I wonder if Chrysler will give you the $1000 “VW conquest bonus” if you trade in a Routan for a Caravan.


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