By on November 4, 2013
piech1974-copyright-audi

1974 Audi photo

The United States was supposed to be an important part of the Volkswagen Group becoming the world’s biggest automaker by 2018, with sales of 800,000 units in the U.S. by then, but it’s finding the U.S. market a tough nut to crack. “We understand Europe, we understand China and we understand Brazil,” VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech told Bloomberg this month. “But we only understand the United States to a certain degree so far.”

VW is currently being outspent on advertising in the U.S. by a two to one margin compared to its competitors and it has gaps in its lineup when it comes to appealing to American consumers. The volume VW and Audi brands both lost U.S. market share  in October, according to analysts.

VW had doubled its U.S. sales, based on strong sales of the Passat, redesigned and contented specifically for the U.S. market but the Passat has stalled along with the rest of the lineup. Through the first 9 months of 2012, VW brand sales were down 3% in a market that, overall, grew 8%.

VW has spent $691 million on advertising for the U.S. market so far this year, less than half of that spent by GM, Ford or Toyota.

The German automaker has also been slow to the SUV and CUV party, two critical segments in North America. A U.S. style SUV based on the Crossblue concept will likely not make it to the market until 2016. Currently VW has nothing in between the compact Tiguan and the Touareg, which is more expensive than the Lexus RX.

 

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153 Comments on “VW’s Ferdinand Piech: “We only understand the United States to a certain degree so far.”...”


  • avatar
    sirwired

    So, pretty much VW is saying: “Our product planners are a bunch of blithering idiots, and we hate/ignore our dealer base.”

    How could you NOT know that CUVs and SUVs are a significant part of the US market; this changeover didn’t just happen, and it’ll STILL be two more years until they have useful product in this space?

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Let’s see…

    They don’t have a viable crossover presence in a market where crossovers are king. They sell something called a Tiguan, which isn’t at all competitive with the market. They also sell the Toe-rag, which apparently is a Porch[sic] Cayenne, but no one knows/cares.

    Their sedans are crappy decontented versions made in Latin America that just scream “CHEAP!” Their most recent ad campaigns involved a condescending Brooke Shields telling people they’re not good enough to own a rebadged Chrysler minivan and how the new Jetta is SOOOO CHEAP!!!!

    Most Americans know VW as those guys who sell that new Beetle, which looks just like the old new beetle. And the only people who care are those who think that the Mini doesn’t openly advertise their sexuality enough.

    AUDI must be terrified by any comparisons that their cars share parts and platforms with VW, given these horrid ad campaigns and mismanagement of a brand.

    German cars, at least in the US, have a reputation of being driver oriented, well-made, and elegant. VW also has a history of being inexpensive due to the gawdaful Rabbit they dumped on us in the 80s, and the forgotten and worthless Fox–just to name a few. So their sins DO reach back a few decades, and Piech’s assertions that they don’t understand us seem to be a longstanding failure.

    I don’t know how what they have to do to fix things, since I’m not a corporate genius with lots of economic degrees, but as a start they should try to sell well-made, well-engineered, Euro-spec cars, even if they cost more to fix their QC image. And for the love of God, rebadge a few of the Auto Union crossovers until they can get some VW exclusive models.

    …also, no one gives a damn about diesels.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Errr… the current US Passat is not a “crappy decontented version made in Latin America”, it is a model designed specifically for the US market (as in, there is no better version to strip content from) and is made in Chattanooga.

      And they tried the “well-made, well-engineered, Euro-spec cars” plan and the completely profitless failure of that idea led us to the current US Passat and Jetta, which are selling better than the Euro-spec versions ever did, and they sell at a profit.

      • 0 avatar
        FJ60LandCruiser

        And they’re crap.

        They look and feel like the Altima 2.5S they get placed alongside at the rental lots in airports. I’ve driven two over the last 3 months because Dollar has been snapping up Jettas.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          I wouldn’t be as harsh as FJ60, but the Passats I’ve sampled weren’t very impressive at all from any standpoint, except that they’re big and well priced. That’s about it.

          • 0 avatar
            Sigivald

            I haven’t been in a modern VW of any sort, but I must say that – like the Audis they’re related to – they *look* really nice.

            Which matters.

            A lot.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      I’ll add a couple-

      re: diesels. VW’s diesel fuel economy has steadily gone DOWN in the past decade, while gas FE across the board has gone UP. When I got my 2004, it had the PD engine- 38 city/ 46 highway. It was “only” 100HP, but we know TDI’s are all about the torque. But VW fell into the “BIG NUMBAS” trap and feared that Amurricans wouldn’t buy 100HP cars. Now the TDI’s are more powerful and far “torquier”, but get the same MPG as Japanese (and some american) gasoline cars. Now the price delta (between a TDI and gasser, AND between 87 octane and diesel) is so high that you will never recoup the purchase price difference unless you drive to Jupiter and back. VW could have had 50-60 MPG cars (maybe even higher!) on the road today, but they chased MO POWA instead of MO EMPEEGEES. Low 40’s just isn’t spectacular anymore.

      “American edition” Passats and Jettas: Sure, the lower price worked for a while, but the honeymoon’s over. Here’s why that is failing: VW has been considered “affordable upscale” for a LONG time. Perhaps one of the reasons consumers have endured the reliability demons is the feel of a premium car for much less $$ than a “luxury brand” car. What did people use to say, 85% Audi at 65% Audi price? So they make the volume models cheaper to compete with Accords and Civics… Now they have removed the “premium feel” and thus the incentive for consumers to take chances on “legendary” German reliability.

      My opinions, of course.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        VW was correct – very few Americans will buy a 100HP sedan. VW only gets away with 140HP in the 2.0 diesel because of the 236ft/lbs. Unfortunately, due to the tightened emissions regs, the diesel option has required ever more complex and expensive technical solutions and, given the price disadvantage of diesel vs regular, I suspect that they’ve missed the boat as a viable option in the USA.

        It also doesn’t help that this technology is (at least coming from VW) failure-prone and (as per VW tradition) frightfully expensive to repair.

        • 0 avatar
          kvndoom

          I guess they had to make a decision 10 years ago and they chose wrong. I wonder how it would have turned out if they had fought the prius for the MPG crown instead. That Polo would have been hard to beat!

          But I do agree on maintenance costs and repairs/reliability. As much as I loved my 2004 (and never had any real problems before I let her go), I still haven’t been able to make myself pull the trigger again on 10 years.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Yep, correct.

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      VW’s have lost their Farfegnugen. It’s that simple.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      VW was smart to get out of Audi’s way, and to court the emerging global middle class with a real People’s Car. Developing the concept of stealth-wealth, and catering to the niche upper-middle class American market was a myopic strategy. It reflected a very brief moment in recent history when US middle class incomes were surging and the USD was all-powerful.

      VW is taking a beating in the US market, but they don’t have strong offerings in the CUV/SUV marketplace, and they haven’t streamlined powertrain costs by moving to turbo-only engines.

  • avatar
    993cc

    Okay, Herr Piech, understand this: (and I say this as an enthusiastic Tdi owner) Americans love cars, but expect their car to take care of THEM, not vice versa, and they REMEMBER the bad experiences longer than the good ones. The fall off of sales is just what many here predicted as new customers bought VWs and learned first hand of their sub-par reliability. I really like having a Tdi, but won’t recommend one to a friend. What does that tell you?

    Back up your dealers so they can afford to give no hassle, no arguments warrantee service. Then extend the warrantee.

    Provide better training to your service techs. The first rule of TdiClub is: Never…take your car to a dealer for service.

    When a reliability problem is identified, redesign the part. Why, when my MAF sensor/driver’s door light switch/window regulator/hatch window washer/BLOODY TURBOCHARGER! fails-AGAIN- is the replacement part just as failure prone as the last one?

    The continuous improvement of the Beetle is what put VW on the map here. Remember “few things in life work as well as a Volkswagen”? Neither can the car-buying public.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      OUCH! And that last paragraph in a nutshell is what Piech needs to hear. But won’t, at least not from his arrogant engineers/designers/executives.

    • 0 avatar

      Never take your car to the dealer was the mantra of all and every car clib I was in. I would say it’s not unique to TDI WVs. Another thing, my town has 2 Jeep dealers. I had exceedingly unpleasant service experience at one of them, twice, so I switched to another one, which was okay. These days it’s impossible to avoid dealers entirely, because they have the computers that talk to the car’s electronics.

      • 0 avatar
        Tostik

        I have a couple of friends who I consider to be smart, but they take their cars to a dealer. I knock 10 points off their IQ for that.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          Depends on the car and the dealer, and the trouble of finding a good independent … for a car that hopefully is *generally reliable*.

          Got a weird specialist car? A 40 year old Mercedes? Sure, don’t take it to the local dealer, which won’t know or care.

          (When I had my w115 Mercedes, MB Portland actually *referred* me to my local independent as more competent to work on my car.

          I think they also didn’t want pitch black oil leaking on their nice polished concrete floor…)

          • 0 avatar
            Tostik

            I guess I’ve just always found good independent mechanics. They are out there, and when you find them, they’re generally a lot cheaper, and usually more competent.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      The best thing I can say about my Jetta TDI was that it was really convenient last year post-Sandy being able to fill up at all the stations that had signs: “No Gas – Diesel only”. It did not make up for the $1200 labor I paid for a new turbo, or the $6000 a new cat/DPF would have cost had I kept it.

      My daughter still loves her TDI ‘Treg, but having the second NOX sensor fail within 6000 miles – and being told it’s covered by neither the powertrain OR the emissions warranties, $600 please, is starting to dampen her enthusiasm. Especially when the service dept. states that VW paid for the first one “by mistake”.

      VW is not big enough to grow without repeat sales, but they still do everything in their power to discourage them.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Okay, that’s … impressive.

        I’d sure never look back at a manufacturer/dealer network that told me a sensor that failed twice in *6,000 miles* wasn’t going to be a warranty replacement.

        • 0 avatar
          jpolicke

          Well, it wasn’t the same sensor; first the “after” sensor died. Replaced under warranty. 6000 miles later the “fore” sensor followed, essentially the same part with a different length wire. So I guess VW gets a point for consistency.

          Feels a bit awkward, since after 2 years of OK service with my Jetta, daughter decided to go with the diesel Touareg. It wasn’t until year 3 that the turbo failed, followed shortly after by the cat/DPF. Now I’m hoping that the big V6 TDI is more durable. Things aren’t looking good.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    As an American I have difficulty understanding what VW is supposed to be.

    For 25 years or so – we were led to believe that the Teutonic engineering behind every VW resulted in a driver’s car that was fun to drive and more affordable than a BMW or Mercedes.

    Then one day, the Golf briefly becomes a Rabbit again. Later a Jetta appears geared toward the Camry crowd.

    The TDI niche won’t grow beyond a certain point – but I hope its profitable for them.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Imagine how crappy VW’s sales would be without any TDI options? They’d be the next Suzuki/Mitsubishi. 1/3 of Passat sales were TDI in October and it was something like 24% of all models sold were TDI. So figuring they’ll sell 400000 cars this year in the U.S., they’d be selling about 300000 without any diesel options, which is pretty sad. I like my TDI wagon but the only reason to get one is if you’re doing long drives on a regular basis. Gas engines have come a long way in the past 17 years the first TDIs showed up in North America. And TDI economy has indeed dropped due to upping the size of the engine and adding the DPF which ends up using fuel for DPF regens.

      I really don’t understand what’s so difficult to comprehend about the U.S. market. Hyundai definitely has it figured out and they don’t even sell a pickup. But they’ve identified all the other areas to have cars available in. With the amount of global resources VW has available you’d think someone would clue in and at least get a decent CUV ready for the NA market. At least VW finally decided to drop the 2.5 engine. I had a loaner Passat with it last week and the FE display was telling me I was getting 16 MPG average at one point and I was being gentle! Hopefully the 1.8TSI helps their sales some.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        I guess the first thing our German friends should understand about the US is that diesel fuel is taxed more heavily than gasoline here . . . the complete opposite of the situation in Europe. Given that diesel fuel is about 10% more expensive than regular here, there goes 10% of your fuel “saving” from the diesel. Secondly, with gasoline-powered smallish cars achieving between 30 and 40 mpg, in terms of dollars-per-mile, the fuel economy advantages of the diesel oar negligible in dollar terms. What the TDI buyer is getting today, over, say, a Mazda 3 SkyActiv is mostly bragging rights.

        VW stying, inside and out, has always been “austere,” which appeals to some tastes. But “austere” and cheap appeals to few tastes. And, with most people financing cars, competing straight up on price at the expense of quality is often not a successful strategy. For $30 more a month, the buyer can drive off in something other than a hairshirt.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          While the state taxes obviously vary from state to state the federal tax on diesel at an extra $.06 per gallon does not account for the price difference. In fact on average states tax diesel at a lower rate than gas since the national average gas tax is $.495 while the average for diesel is only $.053 higher at $.548.

          The difference comes from the increase in demand for diesel. From a given barrel of crude you get a fixed ratio of gas to diesel via straight distillation. If you want to produce a different ratio you need to use more expensive methods to produce the one you want in higher quantity.

          In my state the state gas and diesel tax are the same yet diesel averages about 15% higher than regular gas or about $.60 per gallon more currently, 10 times the tax difference. It gets even worse around this time of the year, I’ve been seeing $.80 and higher price differences, when consumer driving goes down and the demand for diesel goes way up, some due to heating oil demands but mostly to get the junk from China from the ports here to the store for the Christmas shopping season.

          • 0 avatar
            Les

            The mandate for lower sulfur in diesel has an effect to, the costs of refining low-sulfur road diesel are being passed-on to the customer.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    If VW wants to be more than a niche product in the US, they might have to build cars that provide some semblance of quality and value. There isn’t much point in making low quality cars that are supposed to appeal to broke status seekers when you can lease a new Jaguar for $399 a month.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    Boy a lot of hate for VW this early in the morning. Personally I drive a A3 and love it. Everyone I know who has a VW or Audi loves them. Personally I could care less about advertising and SUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      fredtal –

      I’m a VW/Audi fan, an A3 owner myself. Love the car. The only VW I would consider these days is the new MK7 GTI: nothing else in the product stable even remotely interests me. IMO, that’s VW’s biggest problem at the moment – they have nothing that is unique or that differentiates them from anyone else in the marketplace.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      We adore our ’08 A3. Incredibly useful city car for people w/o kids, eats up highway miles, and no complaints at all about reliability. (We’re clearly not alone: For a car people said “nobody buys”, drive around San Diego or D.C. a few days.)

      However, no matter how fun to drive the new MQB based car might be, I won’t even waste my time looking at it. Mini-sedans seem pointless to me, and VW/Audi have made it clear we’ll never see the 5-door.

      It’s so depressing that VW/Audi have achieved the worst possible market placement in the US by ineptly chasing percieved American tastes while failing to offer a compelling European counter-arguement here (S4 Avant, anyone?)

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        sproc –

        We will be getting the Sportback e-tron model late next year and my little birdies tell me that the product planners here are close to getting approval for the diesel Sportback as well.

        I’ll +1 you on the S4 Avant – but my bigger gripe is the killing off of the manual transmissions. The A4/S4 and R8 will soon be the only US spec offerings with manual transmissions and I would put money on the B9 A4 killing it off entirely considering you cannot purchase an S4 in Europe with a manual any longer. Oh, the irony that we still get it as an option!

        • 0 avatar
          sproc

          Great news on the Sportback, thanks! I do mourn the manuals (my car is a 12 yr-old RSX-S with the original clutch). However, the DSG is really impressive and makes traffic and city driving vastly more tolerable.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        “We adore our ’08 A3. Incredibly useful city car for people w/o kids, eats up highway miles…”
        Problem is, that doesn’t exactly describe most American car buyers.

        • 0 avatar
          sproc

          Completely agree, and I’m sympathetic to family hauler requirments. However, there are lots of industries were carefully cultivated niche markets breed success, loyalty, and perhaps even converts.

          Cult of Diesel aside, VW swung for the fences with a wiffle ball bat, but can’t seem to fathom why it’s not working.

    • 0 avatar
      ellomdian

      In the last 2 and a half decades, it hasn’t been terribly difficult to sell Audi’s to Apple-set aspirational buyers, and for the most part, VW buyers have been potential Audi buyers with either less money or more sense. That you don’t care about SUV’s (reasonable, but blaming the customer is a terrible strategy) or advertising (patently false, because there are half a dozen less image-conscious options that would give your poverty-spec A3 a run for the money) doesn’t matter because you already drive the damn Thing with Rings.

      The issue the VW brand currently faces with its stated sales goals worldwide, in the US, isn’t an expansion of their Audi demographic – the luxury set is insanely competitive for the return – but the expansion downward, where the volume is.

      And the biggest issue with your typical Chevrolet-cross-shopper is that they will remember shit from 30 years ago that happened to that friend that one time. VW makes a few nice products, but nothing terribly compelling to sell at CamCord levels.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Once upon a time, around 20 years ago, there were three distinct generalizations you could make:

    American cars were cheap and crappy…but also cheap to fix.

    European cars were expensive with decent reliability…but pricey to fix

    Asian cars were cheap and good, but numb…and rarely needed fixing.

    Guess which business plan won America?

    VW tried to blend lower-priced “Europeanness” by upping the quality of the designs and interiors to match many of the more expensive brands. But in the process, they cut a lot of corners in other areas — and in the meantime, just about ALL of the competition achieved a level of reliability on par with Japan from a decade ago. Reliability (and I use that term in the “American sense,” not in the European sense that “My Golf is more reliable than my neighbor’s Peugeot, therefore it is a great car”) has become an absolute, a given. Before that, safety became a given and nearly killed Volvo.

    What’s left of the brand? They spent 10+ years trying to be a budget Mercedes under Piech, and they’ve spent the past 5-7 years trying to become the European Toyota. Two entirely different missions, but both of them hamstrung by the inability to stand up to normal daily (American) usage and low levels of care.

    Our family has had a nearly unbroken string of VWs since the mid-50s, so we’ve seen all the ups and downs. Today, to remain competitive in the mainstream, you simply can’t offer cars that require special care — in the US, that means reducing reliance on synthetic oil, no 93 octane, and no $100 wiring harnesses that should cost $6.92 at Pep Boys. Enough of those experiences and people will flock to the competition.

    Oh, and something about product mix…but if you don’t get the above right, forget your product lineup.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      I very much doubt many new-car buyers will check on the need for synthetic oil (let alone the price of wiring harnesses). People don’t think that far out, and most buyers probably don’t even understand the difference between dino oil and synthetic oil.

      • 0 avatar
        ash78

        Nope, they won’t … but repeat buyers will disappear. VW’s entire plan seems to be attracting new buyers faster than repeat buyers churn off.

        Not a great long-term strategy, especially when you consider that VW used to have one of the strongest repeat buyer stats in the business (not like Subaru, but still good).

        • 0 avatar
          th009

          Maybe some repeat buyers who keep their cars a long time. But few people do their own maintenance these days, or check prices at Pep Boys.

          I know I don’t, and we keep our cars for close to 10 years. (And for me personally, I would use synthetic even if the car didn’t require it, for the small incremental cost.)

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        Camrys and Mazdas want synthetic oil too now. The insane pursuit of marginal fuel economy improvement at any cost means 0w20 and you can’t squeeze that out of dinosaurs.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        I suspect most new-car buyers either go to the dealer or JiifyQuickOilChange for their oil.

        Both of which will say “these require synthetic oil”.

        Now, some buyers will insist on The Wrong Oil and screw themselves … but I don’t think the set of “people who buy new VWs” and “people who do their own oil changes but don’t check to see what kind of oil it needs” have *significant* overlap.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Premium buyers don’t care about 93 octane fuel requirements. Though your point hints that you don’t view VW as premium, and I agree. They’ve sold the premium image down the river with their rental-grade Jettas.

  • avatar
    lon888

    VW has a real issue with delivering new cars to the dealers. When I went shopping for my new GTI nobody in Sept 2011 had a 2012 model on the lot. I had to order my car and it took about 4 weeks to get it. Also, trying to get eexactly what you want is nearly impossible with VW. I had to take my third color choice unless I wanted to wait another 6 months for delivery. With the Asian cars you can literally go to the dealer 1 week after reading about a new car and get exactly what you want. VW’s dealer network is certainly lacking in many ways.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      I don’t understand why everyone needs immediate gratification. I have factory-ordered all but one of my new cars since 1986 (the exception being a dealer demo that fit the bill) to get exactly what I want. So I have to wait three months — I simply plan ahead when buying a new car.

      • 0 avatar
        FractureCritical

        VW does not permit factory orders of anything. Some dealers will tell you otherwise, but it’s not true, they just look up the pipeline for a car simiar to what you want and try to route it to themselves.

        • 0 avatar
          th009

          Volkswagen corporate certainly allows. And the dealers are able to order cars they want, so they can order one for a customer, too. The Golf Rs were factory orders as a rule.

          The dealer may, of course, try to dissuade you from this and sell you a car that is already on its way.

  • avatar
    Caraholica

    Wow, I cant believe the humility, Dr Piech must be mellowing out.

    Here’s a news flash for you sir: A VW is not a premium priced product in the US. Yes, the GTI and TDI have their charm but automobiles here sell on value and dealership experience and the de-contented german driving thing is not a sufficient differentiator for the Camry/Fusion/Malibu crowd. Check out a new 4 cylinder accord and your latest Passat, which one has the best chance of going 200k miles with NO repairs like my 2006 Odyssey has?

    Visit a Honda dealer and then one of yours, surely you have done this? If you can find a VW dealer you will find they are not happy places, and might even have a salesman intent on scaring the crap out of you in a turbo Beetle. Honda dealers are friendly, almost all of them, VW dealers are the opposite, most likely because VWOA is quite adversarial with them, especially on service issues. We dont have to deal with that and we wont.

    Nevermind the really weak product lineup: Tiguan? come on. Toureg-dont want a tank. Golf, Jetta, Passat- low rent offerings suitable for the low rent lease and financing deals that sell them. Dont get me started on quality-get out of basement if you want to play here.

    VW used to be what Honda’s were in the 80’s: Jewel like small cars with stellar quality, intriguing personalities and lots of fun for a reasonable price. Dont try and take us upmarket with the VW name, we wont go.

    Finally, good luck! I love VWs and would have a house full of them, if they measured up. I really hope they will.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    VW needs to find that spot where they have some products with both mass appeal and those that cater to niche and/or ethusiast markets. The current Passat struck a chord with the marketplace…at least temporarily. Their minivans, SUVs and crossovers did/do not.

    If VW is smart, they will hire North American talent to deliver the mass market products which North Americans desire and allow the talent to dictate to Germany what North America wants. Meanwhile, they should bring to North America what nobody else here has…the Amorak compact pickup truck with a diesel & manual transmission option and the small Polo with a diesel option. Americans are embracing diesels again and VW needs to exploit that.

    But, as a former VW owner, I know that this won’t happen.

    BTW, VW, here are a couple of hints:
    – Don’t even think about sending the US a revamped Phaeton
    – Choose names that are memorable. I’ve heard co-workers totally butcher the idiotic names that you call your vehicles. Your advertising got them talking about the product, but they can’t even walk into a dealer to ask more about it.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      VW needs to understand US consumers can barely tolerate VW reliability and wildly expensive repairs.

      But it’s not as simple as bringing every car they make, to every market they sell in. Cheap (low margin) and or expensive cars to build, will cannibalize their own, more profitable car lines.

      And Americans are not really embracing diesels, except for a few niche buyers.

      • 0 avatar

        Germany has expensive fuel. The ownership costs of owning a car are way higher than we get. We consider a 328 the “small” engine. Germans consider it a fat gas eater, and the 335 is proof you have too much money. It is safe to say that the cars they sell us are “export” models, even if they arent’. Drive the Autobahn end to end and count the sport utilities….you won’t need three hands. They are just too expensive to run and park. You can’t easily run an x5 in germany…and there aren’t many of them.

        Germans maintain this jewel of a car to a high degree. If you take the ownership cost of a base 3 in Germany vs here, in Germany you get a Golf. Euros get all those “really cool” cars because they sell there….here we expect a bigger car and chassis. You don’t see gas engine BMW cars in Germany….you don’t see gas engine MB…everyone now gets diesels…

        Americans don’t maintain cars at all. Sitting in my tire shop, listening to folks complain about brake jobs (!) I see how the Japanese did get this right….make it run forever, because here in the US, they won’t maintain it. Germany has TUV, England has MOT inspections, and we either torture folks with emissions or have no inspections whatsoever.

        Germans buy cars for cash (really) and will wait for the car to be produced. We expect “off the shelf” and roll today.

        The worlds are different..just different. I love driving in Germany, but when you see a quart of oil is 20 euro, and parts at a dealer are MORE expensive than here in the US, it is a shock. My rental 320d stickered for 56k euro….we also get the cars a lot cheaper than in the home market, never mind the mild decontent we see.

        • 0 avatar

          Speedlaw, as a resident of Germany I would agree with a number of things you have written–particularly the expensive fuel and the inflated list prcies! And not many SUVs here either. While there are a lot of diesels on the road the price differential is significant enough that diesels are only recommeneded for people who drive a lot. Diesels do represent 49% of the national fleet so have yet to be in the majority. And while many Germans do not finance their cars but pay cash, a very signficant number have cars supplied to them by their employers. German tax law works to support the German car industry. Incidentally, I recently had a new Golf rental car and picked up a friend who has a new3 A3 diesel company car and we were both surprised at how much quieter and smoother the gas Golf was. It also returned fuel consumption of 6.7 l/100 km (35 mpg)during 350 kms of highway driving at speeds of up to 180 km/h.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          This was a good point:

          “…we either torture folks with emissions or have no inspections whatsoever.”

          I remember when Ohio introduced E-check statewide. So many people hated it, it’s now down to 3-4 counties in the entire state. Lower populated counties at that, and I couldn’t point you to where they are.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      VW is a niche automaker trying to break into the broader US market. A diesel, manual, compact pickup and a diesel Polo aren’t exactly keeping with “mass-market appeal.”

      But yeah, the Phaeton was a stupid idea (if a spectacular value vs. the Bentley it was based on.)

      • 0 avatar
        MLS

        The Phaeton debuted before the Bentley, and both were loosely based on the Audi A8’s platform, with steel substituted for much of the Audi’s aluminum.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          The A8 was an insanely light car for its size (I had LWB), and having V8 and AWD. I’m still very impressed with the A8 I sold over three years ago.

          My dad still sees it driving around town. I sold it because I feared an imminent big$ repair, but apparently I was wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      My point is that VW needs two strategies: mass market and niche. The specific vehicles that I mentioned are the niches that they could exploit in the short term. Mass market products will take more time as they learn North American tastes.

      Regarding diesels…VW, Mercedes, and BMW don’t seem to have any difficulty moving all that they bring here. (If I recall correctly, the TDI take rate was 30% on the Jetta.) We will see what Ram, Jeep, and Chevrolet will do in the months ahead.

  • avatar
    carrya1911

    I’d wager that the average American drives more than the average European or Chinese citizen. The car is central to the American way of life for the majority of the citizenry. The majority of us take a part-time job before we’re even out of school to: Buy a car.

    Because it’s central to our lifestyle and because it’s an absolute need for many, we tend to prize reliability over most other considerations. I didn’t buy a 2013 Accord because it was the most engaging driving experience I’d ever encountered. I bought it because a 4 cylinder Honda with a manual transmission is something I’m relatively sure will survive 200,000 miles without breaking a sweat. Plus the car isn’t bad looking and with Honda’s recent work on the interior it’s actually pretty nice and comfy on the inside.

    We drive. A lot. We need a car that will eat the miles reliably with a minimum of maintenance. Some enthusiasts may have a car they like to lavish all sorts of time and attention on, but often they have a toy that they do that with while the majority of the miles they drive are in some sort of appliance transportation.

    First and foremost our car has to work as transportation because to us a car isn’t a toy or a status symbol…at least not primarily. It isn’t an occasional use item.

    Someone who shoots < 1,000 rounds a year at a bullseye can afford to go out and buy a royal blue Colt Python revolver and lavish upon it all sorts of time and attention on it because it's an object of desire and functions beautifully for that purpose. Lots of people love the lines and fit and finish on those old Colt revolvers even though from a mechanical standpoint they weren't nearly as good as the more pedestrian S&W.

    The person who has to fire a lot more rounds per year and who on any day can find themselves needing to fire some of those rounds at someone who is trying to kill them has very different priorities in a sidearm. First and foremost it needs to work. Day in, day out, regardless of the weather or the last time it was cleaned or if the preferred ammunition is available, it needs to reliably go bang and launch bullets with reasonable accuracy.

    It may be ugly.
    It may not be particularly pleasant to shoot.
    It may have absolutely no pride of ownership whatsoever.

    …but if it works, people will buy it. Because people *need* it to work. I own some guns because they are beautiful objects with magnificent construction, but I rarely carry or shoot them.

    I carry other guns primarily because they are reliable launchers of bullets.

    The typical American would rather buy a reliable and reasonably comfortable (if uninspiring) Toyota Camry than a more engaging but maintenance intensive VW.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Don’t understand the U.S………no kidding. Whose bright idea was is not to put the new 1.8T into the Passat. Great, let the cheaper Jettas get the better engine. After years of Toyotas and Hondas, I am outraged if anything breaks in the first 90,000 miles. Apparently from the above, VW can’t make the cut. Phaeton, just what I want, a$70K car so I can stand in line at the VW dealer to wait for service….then to find the only Phaeton tech is off that day. Too bad that no one at VW has thought of finding an American experienced in U.S. sales and then listening to him/her.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Well, the new engine is being produced in a new plant, and during ramp-up, it had to start somewhere; there simply wasn’t enough production to put it in both the Jetta and Passat. (Not to mention the Jetta plant is a lot closer to the engine plant than the Passat plant.)

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      Don’t worry, the base Jetta S still comes standard with that archaic 2.0 liter, 100hp engine first used in German tractors in the 50’s.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I’m guessing your average Phaeton buyer would SCHEDULE service, and thus the technician would be there. No line either.

      You have to think like someone with money if you’re going to make these kinds of statements.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    I’ve beaten this horse in other threads. At the core the issue is Volkswagen “giving us what we want” without really understanding what sells their cars in the US. Giving us the equivalent of a beige box driving experience but without the reliability and brand equity of a Honda or Toyota is suicide. Volkswagen missed that one by a country mile and should be deeply embarrassed by it.

    Volkswagens used to excite buyers and that excitement brought them into the showroom. About the only “exciting” Volkswagen left in the US is the GTI and the Beetle is their only unique offering (the wifey desperately wants a convertible…and a baby. Not terribly compatible wants).

    They completely missed the CUV boat: the Tiguan is clearly being pressed into service as the only available option, but it is horribly outclassed by the CRV, RAV4 and Escape.

    To add insult to injury, Audi is about to eat the top end profits from Volkswagen’s lunch in the form of the upcoming A3 sedan. If the last two months’ sales results for the Merc CLA prove anything, this market segment will be massive. The CC, priced at $30k+ is on its deathbed here and the A3 and CLA should put the nail through that coffin.

    So it all seems a complete wreck, no? Well yes, it does, but I also think that Volkswagen is realigning things – albeit very slowly. The lack of competitive CUV is inexcusable and VWs glacial pace and inability to properly read the US market gave us the woefully underclassed Passat. Good car…five years ago.

    Audi’s house is in far better shape. They’ll hit the 200,000 mark by 2015 without question, especially considering the new product onslaught between 2014-2016: A3 sedan, e-tron, new Q3 (the biggest volume driver), B9 A4/A5/Q5, facelift and then new A6/7/Q7 and additional crossovers in-between.

    Volkswagen? Who the hell knows – especially when Winterkorn has to come to the lion’s den to offer the dealership network a new Phaeton (?!?!?!) when everyone is asking for a competitive set of crossovers.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      My wife has a MINI and a baby. The baby has been in the MINI 2x. We’ve put 21k on the Prius v since the baby came along… 1,500 miles on the MINI in the same timeframe. The good news is that I get to commute in the MINI whenever I want now.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      What VW SHOULD be giving us is reliable Euro-mobiles – cars with European flair and driving dynamics, but without the European prices and reliability hassles.

      Now, I don’t know about you, but it sounds like an automaker’s already doing that – Ford.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        FreedMike –

        See, here’s the problem: what the heck does it mean to say “cars with European flair and driving dynamics”?

        I ask that rhetorically, not as an insult. Fact is, that phrase “european handling” really doesn’t mean much any more to most people.

        I’ll take a new Mazda 6 or Accord over the new Passat any day of the week.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          @hreardon:

          Put differently, when I think of a European car, I think “driver’s car,” even if it’s not a M-B S63 AMG – a car with precise steering and intuitive handling.

          Fords have that now; VW seems to have actively engineered that OUT of their cars (the GTI and Jetta GLI excluded), which seems self defeating to me. This is NOT a brand that can just sell indefinitely on an old perception of quality, like Toyota can – they need something distinctive. There’s nothing distinctive about VW product these days, and that includes the driving experience. And that’s why I think they’re failing.

          If I were them, I’d bake as much driving fun as I could into the product. That’s something VWs are known for, and when they put their minds to it, they produce GREAT driver’s cars. Go back to basics.

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      Well said!

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      “Giving us the equivalent of a beige box driving experience but without the reliability and brand equity of a Honda or Toyota is suicide.”

      VW’s are significantly different from the Japanese beige boxes because VW/Audi/Porsche has some of the most unique turbo technology in the business. The Japanese will not sacrifice reliability to chase turbocharging, and VW will be able to exploit an advantage. The American manufacturers also seem interested in offering turbocharged engines. First manufacturer to achieve respectable reliability and eliminate maintenance/repair horror stories is the victor. I’m not betting on VW, though I think they have a reasonable strategy. If I were to render a guess, GM will make reliable turbocharged engines by avoiding the pitfalls of superlative metrics, like hp/liter. If their dash design remains unchanged, reliable turbos won’t help sales figures.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        “Japanese will not sacrifice reliability to chase turbocharging, and VW will be able to exploit an advantage. ”

        You highlighted exactly why Japanese cars are selling better at this point in time. People care MORE about reliability than they do about a “unique turbo technology.”

        Yeah my VW, spends lots of time in the shop, but let me tell you bout that special turbo.

        Not.

  • avatar
    DJMiller

    It seems to me that at this late date if one follows maintenance schedules to the letter, any automobile should be able to make it to the 100,000 mile pole without any sort of mechanical or electrical failure. Any other happenstance is inexcusable.

    It also seems to me that VAG STILL hasn’t managed to suss this and make an honest effort to move in that direction; as it stands, a brand new 2013 Jetta is no more durable and/or reliable than a 1993 Jetta. Couple this with the instantaneous dissemination of information o’er the 10,000 Internets (amongst other folk who’ve arrived at the same conclusion about VAG’s wares), and it is no surprise that their sales have slumped in a growing marketplace.

    In the interest of being completely up front, I would love to own a VAG product, as I find the Passat & A4 quite appealing…but cannot bring myself to do it. I’ll leave that to folks who know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.

    • 0 avatar
      cdnsfan27

      VW’s are reliable if maintained correctly, which is why VW now includes maintenance.

      • 0 avatar
        993cc

        How does one correctly maintain a sensor? What preventative maintenance will keep the seat heater switches on my car working? Is replacing the turbo actuator part of scheduled maintenance? It isn’t listed as such, yet Tdi owners seem resigned to it every two years or so. When the fuel lift pump fails, what did the owner do wrong? If the antenna fails, does that mean I was using the radio irresponsibly?

        None of the routine problems I have with my Tdi are attributable to maintenance neglect, even if I had been neglectful, which I haven’t.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          If you don’t know how to change your own window regulator fluid or perform the annual service on the electrical wiring, then a Volkswagen may not be right for you.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          This has always bothered me too.

          I hear the “you just need to take care of it” stuff a ton about Audis, Cadillacs, BMWs, and RX-8s.

          What does “maintained correctly” mean? Follow the owner’s manual? Follow the super secret maintenance schedule on forums?

          It seems to mean “if something broke on your car, fix it and don’t complain”.

        • 0 avatar
          993cc

          @cdnsfan
          “Sorry to hear that you have both had issues with your VW’s. I wish that were not the case and I hope that they are reliable from here on out.”

          I have only listed components that I have had to replace more than once. In no case was the replacement part in any way redesigned to make the part more reliable, so I have no realistic expectation that my car will be “reliable from here on out.”

          Don’t get me wrong. I want to see VW succeed. I LIKE my VW. It’s great to drive and offers a combination of ability and efficiency unavailable anywhere else. I’m committed to keeping it going, and I am resourceful when it comes to learning to repair the “routine” failures myself. But I am an outlier. VW cannot expect the broader North American market to tolerate this level of design failure.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Grrr…Arrgh! In the great Lebenskampf of manufacturing dominance it appears the Japoreans are superior to the Aryans. A certain flatulent Heinie must be spinning in his grave.

    How long before a VW deahwatch?

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Two unrelated ideas for VW.

    One – you need to pay your dues in the SUV market. A solid offering at a cheaper price that gains a good reputation would then allow for growth. Toureg is now dead due to over pricing in the past.

    Two – Americans are taller and heavier than Europeans yet it seems your seats have shrunk. This goes for Audi as well. I am under 6’3″ and 205 lbs and I don’t fit in an A4 or A5. Do you sell well in Scandinavia either?

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      I don’t think Americans are generally taller than Europeans. Heavier, yes. (I’m about 6’2 and 170 lbs, and that’s pretty much the middle of the “normal” range for BMI.) I fit comfortably in an A4, or a VW, or a BMW.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        I believe we are taller. I notice it a lot in Italy, a bit less in Germany.

        When I was 180 pounds, I drove a Miata. I barely fit, and was only comfortable because I was youthful. I fit in our A5, but I quickly become uncomfortable because the seat is too small.

        I see a lot of my over 40 neighbors driving 1 series and 3ers, but only petite ladies and kids buy the A4/A5 around here. So if your competition is selling to all age groups, and you are hindered with the over forty and has more money buyers, how do you think you will do?

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        I can still feel the creases in my ass from my last test-drive in Volkswagen seats.

    • 0 avatar
      cdnsfan27

      We are not taller and heavier than Germans

  • avatar
    Pch101

    VW has what appeal that it has in the US because it’s a niche marketer. That naturally places a constraint on how many sales that it can reasonably expect.

    Toyota and Honda have both done well with adapting to the US market. In contrast, VW dumbs down its cars for Americans, and then wonders why that it can’t sell many of them. That sort of arrogance failed them in the 70s, and it isn’t doing much for them now.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Good point: there’s a difference between dumbing down a product and adapting it to US tastes. Volkswagen seems to take this paternalistic, bratty approach to our market: “fine, you want a big cushy Passat and aren’t willing to pay for our superior engineering? Here’s your Chattanooga car – now shut up.”

      I can also envision the product planning meetings between the US and German counterparts:
      Americans: “Hey, we need a CUV that benchmarks against the Honda CRV.”
      Germans: “The CRV is junk. It is tinny. It has hard plastics. Our Tiguan will be superior in every way.”
      Americans: “Customers shopping for these don’t care about soft-touch plastics, they care about a commuter car that has a high seating position, is roomy, gets decent gas mileage and only requires an oil change every 3,000 miles for it to run 150,000 miles.”
      Germans: “Bah. You know not of what you speak. Our Tiguan has the 2.0TFSI motor.”
      Americans: “We don’t care about that.”
      Germans: “You should. And, it will priced at a Volkswagen premium to demonstrate to all the value we bring to the market.”
      Americans: “We can add. Americans won’t pay $30,000 for a Tiguan in the numbers you want.”
      Germans: “Then they are fools for not buying our obviously superior product.”

      Rinse, wash, repeat this conversation for just about every model in their lineup.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        //Americans: “We don’t care about that.”
        //Germans: “You should.”

        It’s like all the snobs from autoblogs are running an industry :-D

        • 0 avatar
          cdnsfan27

          VW is damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. They made as someone pointed out an 8/10th Audi at 6/10th the price, and nobody bought it, now they sell German flavored Malibu’s and Impalla’s, and they aren’t selling either. I am partial to the GTI and have heard rumors that the Scirrocco is coming back but there are not enough enthusiasts out there to keep VW in the black, they need bread and butter vehicles. Golf sells well in Canada, not here where hatches are considered cheap. VAG is doing well with Audi and Porsche, VW is a mess!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        We Germans aren’t all smiles und sunshine.

        http://i.imgur.com/z1eY2wg.png

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    Liebe Herr Dr Prof-Eng Piëch…

    Germans don’t really understand Americans? Gee, there’s a surprise! Who knew?
    How long did it take BMW to figure out that we weren’t kidding about cup-holders? And how many sales did they lose as a result?

    Maybe some of the VW management staff should live here for a while. It would do them good.
    And then maybe they should take a good look at their Japanese or Korean rivals to see why the Corolla, the Camry, the Accord, the Civic, the CR-V and the Elantra (pathetic as they may be otherwise), are selling like hotcakes. And now, the new American cars as well…

    My son had a VW “Jetta” as a business car: Little by little every bloody illumination system and electronic device began to fail. Not happy.

    Look, Dr Piëch, – – –
    Americans are attracted to high-reliabiltiy vehicles. They don’t want to mess with them.
    They like trucks and truck-like things.
    They like cross-overs.
    They like practicality.
    They like stylish, with a little “pizzazz”. Always have.
    They like gasoline engines, and they are not drawn easily to diesels.
    They like low to medium prices at reasonable quality, not high prices at high quality.
    And they absolutely loathe expensive repairs….

    So, you want to know why VW’s getting to be the largest car maker in the world by 2018 is a pipe dream?
    Just live here for a while, and you may mind find 100,000,000 Americans who are happy to tell you that it’s nonsense…..as they drive away in their Japanese, Korean, and American-made vehicles…

    ————-

    • 0 avatar
      fredtal

      yea that’s what we need more boring cars and suv, be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Clearly Volkswagen listened to NMGOM because that’s why we have the new Passat and whatever else is in the pipe.

        Part of the issue is that Volkswagen is fighting the last war: the market has become insanely competitive in the past five years.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          “The sad truth is that Americans like boring”

          Yeah, like boring furnaces that heat all winter, boring AC that never lets you down, boring sewer systems that don’t back up, boring antibiotics that just keep killing bugs, boring cops and EMTs that always show up when there’s a wreck… yep, please make mine boring. Thanks.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        fredtal – – –

        The sad truth is that Americans like boring, if it comes along with reliability and courtesy when visiting dealerships…. then, let’s face it, boring sells quite well, thank you.

        CAUTION: Begin Rant – – –

        Even I (of all people), who owns and enjoys two BMW’s, just bought a Jeep Wrangler with solid-axle suspension, and I LOVE IT. It is the antithesis to the European-car, independent super-suspension for getting around curves and corners at 1.00 g’s. But how often does anyone ACTUALLY use an F1-style suspension system to anywhere near its limits anyway? Especially when sitting in traffic waiting for the light to change?

        Corners? What corners? Who cares? Europe has corners. We have mostly straight or low-curvy roads. Maybe the Yurps should figure out how to build straight roads, and take the pressure off their over-priced suspension systems? (^_^)…

        The horrid truth is that in my touring drives, there have been remarkably few routes that I have trouble handling in my 1996 Dodge pickup truck, as opposed to my BMW Z4 3.0si…. Sad, eh? So why in blazes would I ever buy a troublesome VW??

        OK: Rant is Over. You’re safe now – – –

        ……. _ ____
        …,” /l ,[____], ”
        ……..l–L-olllllllo
        …..()_) ()_)—-)_)
        ========================

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          “Even I (of all people), who owns and enjoys two BMW’s, just bought a Jeep Wrangler with solid-axle suspension, and I LOVE IT. ”

          LOL! Wait ’til you take if offroad and use that 4wd to go where angels fear to tread.

          Better yet, slap some 31″ tires under it and take it mudding.

          For a screaming good time call Jeep!

          • 0 avatar
            NMGOM

            highdesertcat – – –

            Yup, you’re right And for me, “Jeepie” was a return to my past.
            Used to have a 1967 Jeepster Commando in school.
            Was a blast on-road, off-road, snow, mud, sand, water, air…(^_^)
            Air(?). OK, so I drove a little fast over moguls sometimes…

            ————-

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            NMGOM, confidentially…..

            I have been toying with the idea of buying myself a Wrangler, (nothing fancy) just to howl around in.

            We (the family) bought my grandson a Wrangler last year, nothing fancy, a soft-top, with a stickshift and Pentastar V6, in Dozer Yellow, but I had so much fun driving it when I visited him this past June after he got out of the Marine Corps, that I had pangs of envy.

            The damn thing is a babe-magnet even when a crusty old dude like myself is driving it.

            It took me back to MY younger years. And since by balance is FUBAR and I can no longer ride a motorcycle without fear of falling over, a Wrangler would do wonders for the kid in me.

            Now THAT would be GNARLY!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “Germans don’t really understand Americans”

      Never have….. “Nüsse?!”

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      NMGOM, I’m half German, born in Huntington Beach, CA, and I understand Americans quite well.

      That said, I wouldn’t drive, much less buy, ANY VW product after our disastrous experience with a 1982 Quantum.

      That said, their Sign-Then-Drive campaign is a pretty good deal if someone is only going to keep the car for the length of the Lease period.

      VW/Porsche/Audi vehicles must all be feminine because they’re all High Maintenance.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      I’d hope BMW didn’t lose too many sales over cupholders.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        MLS – – –

        It was HUGE. It took 4-6 years for BMW to get the message, and even then, they were flimsy, nominal add-ons. Like the ones in my 2006 325i and 2007 Z4.

        ————-

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    “The German automaker has also been slow to the SUV and CUV party, two critical segments in North America.”

    I thought Volkswagen was late to the SUV/CUV party when the Touareg went on sale in 2003.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    What’s killing VW in this market is very simple: it’s Ford. They’re selling far better Euro-mobiles to Americans than VW is.

    I really have no idea what VW’s identity is anymore.

  • avatar
    mjz

    I used to work for the VW/Audi ad agency back when I was a young whippersnapper in the 80’s. The stories I could tell (like the Head of Advertising who was literally an accountant prior to his promotion and had absolutely NO clue what he was doing, but I digress). The basic problem was, and apparently still is, that German management tends to be preposterously ARROGANT. They KNOW what is best, and you WILL like what they give you. No questions asked and no advice needed or taken. A perfect example of this is Piech INSISTING that they try to sell the Phaeton here yet again. Really? What part of the first disastrous attempt at selling a $60,000 plus VW here did you fail to understand? Remember when Toyota/Honda sent their engineers here to study how Americans use their minivans and incorporated their findings (like a multitude of cupholders) into their products? VW would send in their engineers who would scold their subjects about why it is bad for them to be drinking 32oz Big Gulps in the first place, and therefore they don’t need ANY cupholders in their vehicles. It’s this kind of thinking which will keep VW from EVER being a mainstream player in the U.S. market.

  • avatar
    kenwood

    Is anyone else picturing him with an axe saying “heeeere’s Ferry?”

  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    As a an owner of several VW’s and Audi’s, I can say with confidence that the #1 problem with VW is that the service SUCKS. I have never been to a half-way decent VW service department and corporate is beyond miserable. no american in the history of ever will by a product that the maker does not stand behind. Americans are the home of the Yankee Traders, we invented the idea of schilling crappy product “Let the buyer beware”. You’re not pulling our own crap on us, we’re not that stupid, even in Mississppi (where most people can’t acutally spell Mississippi)

    Second, does VW even look at other maker’s product? do they really see themselves as competitive? The Tiguan? really? It’s got less interior space than a Fiat convertible and it costs more than Venza. The Venza will comfortably 3 car seats or enough lumber to build a garage for the Tiguan (ok, that’s a pretty small garage, but still)

    And Audi, Audi makes me want to scream. They actually have some of the best relibility numbers out there, and the service departments kiss your hind quarters enough that you just know they all took salad tossing class. Schit breaks, Schit gets fixed, they say sorry and I say thanks. Automotive service the way the Almighty intended.

    But then they go and screw it all up with mediocre product that all looks dead identical with outdated technology. Now I know they have all this fancy map crap with MMI whatever. I don’t care. My $40k A4 can’t stream Sknard, and the $15k corolloa of the same model year I rented can. that PISSES ME OFF.

    And the engines. Yes, I realize it’s an all-new 2.0T that puts out the exact same horsepower as the previous 7 generations. Who cares? I know Audi can do better: I can get three diffferent motors in the Q5 and only one in the A4. Why can’t I get the 3.0T? and where are my ala carte options that used to be in abundance? Do I have to spend an extra $4k for the prestige package so I can spend $500 more for rear window shades? where is my manual transmission, you dirt bags?

    Why is Audi steadily marching towards being the company that will sell you four completelty identical looking sedans that only come in automatic and are available in a wide variety of the color grey? Didn’t this bite Toyota in the bum a while back? How is this a buisness strategy?

    done ranting.

    • 0 avatar
      cdnsfan27

      I love your quote about Audi service, the factory reps would be proud. Now to address your product rants as an “Audi Brand Specialist” I can tell you that you can get the 3.0 in an “S4″, you can stream your music digitally and a la carte costs more to build and stock. Sorry you hate silver/grey but that is what we stock because that is what the customers ask for. Your new Audi can be ordered in other colors. Please join the chorus asking Audi USA to import the stick shift A3! Thank you foir being a loyal Audi customer.

      • 0 avatar
        FractureCritical

        the 272 hp 3.0T option for the Q5 is a $3,200 premium.

        the only way to get 3.0T “option” for the A4 is to get the 333 hp S4, which over a similar Premium Plus equipped A4 is almost an ELEVEN THOUSAND DOLLAR premium.

        I completely fail to see how you rationalize this. Why isn’t this 272 hp motor available in the A4 the exact same way it is in the Q5. Why for $5k, I could have the black optics package and the 3.0T in an A4 and save myself all that money over an S4, but have a car that is otherwise physically identical, but a smidge down on horsepower.

        oh, wait, I just figured it out, didn’t I?

        and yes, I did special order my A4, and it took 6 months to get, never actually showed up, and the dealer had to look all over the eastern seaboard to find me a comp, in the only color they could find, black. yay.

        And it was an extra-cost metallic black over the free black, which is a concept only a German could come up with.

        if you know of a way to stream bluetooth over my 2011 A4, please tell me how.

        I love all three (3!) of the Audis we own and the service the dealer has been providing is stellar, but decontenting, deoptioning, and Henry Ford attitude of ‘any color you want as long as its black’ is seriously starting to make other brands look more appealing.

    • 0 avatar
      turf3

      Well, what I know about Audi is that I showed up at a dealer on a Saturday afternoon, a middle aged white guy dressed in a polo shirt and khakis, clean shaven, wife in tow, driving onto the lot in a 5 year old Toyota Camry. It was a rainy day and we were the only people in the building. We walked around the showroom, opened doors, sat in cars – no one came up to say “hello”, nothing. Walked outside, walked down the used car line, no response. I guess showing up looking like someone who wants to buy a car and has the money to do so isn’t good enough for Audi. I said to my wife, “I’m not going to BEG these jerks to sell me a car”, and we left. I guess we didn’t look enough like junior executive and trophy wife to get the attention. It will take a lot to get me back there.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        I have to say that I had nearly the same experience. Our VW/Audi dealer has two shops adjacent to each other. A VW rep will practically greet you at the door, but go next door and an Audi rep has to be procured by asking, and generally waiting because they are busy. They are more like car brokers than the standard sales clerks.

        Once we got the guy, he was top notch. Knew the product, listened to my wife’s comments and questions, and was very professional. He actually had an assistant who was also very professional as well. Once we started haggling, he didn’t screw around, but instead came back with an offer very close to what I suspect was the best we would get anywhere. I am unusual in that I won’t generally haggle over a couple hundred dollars on a 40k car if the guy treats me right and he seemed to figure that out.

        Given the trouble of waiting versus getting stuck listening to an idiot, I was happy in the end.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        Dude, I would KILL to have that experience in a car dealership, on any given day. Most of the time I won’t even get out of my car. Now I even lock the doors because, no lie, one of the lot lizards actually tried to open my car door once!

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      They used to teach the spelling of Mississippi with a little mnemonic: Em-Eye-Ess-Ess (pause) Eye-Ess-Ess (pause) Eye-Pee-Pee-Eye.

  • avatar
    Dan

    The VW badge is, to me, exactly what the Hyundai badge was 10 or 12 years ago: a promise of a cheap car that’s going to break.

    Fixing this isn’t theory. Hyundai already did it. Build cars that aren’t going to break, put a great warranty on them to prove it, and sell them cheaply enough – even at a loss for a while – to force buyers to take notice.

    Chrysler did it too. Put money in making the cars look and feel nice enough to get a 2nd look even if you don’t trust the reliability. VW did this 15 years ago, which was eating the seed corn to a degree since those cars made Chrysler build quality look like a Lexus.

    And then there’s the VW way: the arrogance to ignore the lessons of others and go pee on the electric fence for themselves.

  • avatar
    lawrence

    aaaaannnd as we speak the VW USA website has been down for the last 15 minutes. Big fat 504.

  • avatar

    Can anyone explain why they’re not selling Amarok in the U.S.? I do not buy explainations about localizations and regulations. We’re dealing with the people who brought the diesel into which you do not pee to the American market. Surely they could localize Amarok if they only wanted.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      In Germany, the base model is priced at about $35,000 (not including VAT), and it only goes up from there.

      Production volumes for this vehicle won’t be very high. And Americans won’t pay anything close to those kinds of prices for one.

      In other words, it’s lack of demand, particularly when the price point is taken into account. They’re better off selling them somewhere else, where the level of interest and revenues per vehicle are both higher.

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      I suspect that that the Amarok is a victim of our country’s archaic Chicken Tax.

      I sat in an Amarok at a trade show in Germany this past April. I was very impressed with the truck. It would fit my needs perfectly. It’s price in Euro is going to be similar to other compact pickups. As I was climbing out of it, a contractor from Connecticut approached the truck. He started asking questions of the booth personnel…What is this? What engine? What’s it cost? Why don’t we have it in the States? “I’d buy it if I could get it.” My thoughts exactly.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Given the choice between a Toyota or Nissan pickup and a VW priced several thousand dollars above them, the VW simply has no chance. Americans won’t pay European prices for a compact pickup.

        VW branding is quirky. That’s not so bad for selling some Euro-style sedans, but far from ideal for reaching the average American truck buyer. VW seems to have figured that out.

      • 0 avatar

        They already build in NAFTA countries, isn’t it enough?

  • avatar
    JKC

    I think the rest of the B&B have put it well. Americans are by and large not interested in cars that cost an arm and a leg to keep running, no matter how much “German engineering” is inside.

    The frustrating thing is that VW almost had the formula nailed 10 years ago. The Mark IV Golf/Jetta and the B5 Passat were beautiful, fun-to-drive cars. The fact that they were in aggregate about as reliable as a used Trabant (and were “supported” by a dealership network of uncommon greed and venality) has led to the marque’s diminished standing today.

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    Im going to do something completely different here and not bash VW. In 2008 I bought a new Rabbit for my daughter. The price was great at only 17K and almost 90,000 miles later I have replaced two failed items on the car…..one headlight bulb and one tailight bulb. It still handles better, hauls more stuff, and is more stable at high speeds than anything in its class from Japan or the US. The only maintenance has been a oil change every 10K, new tires at 65K, and new rear brake pads at 80K.

    I was so happy with the Rabbit that I also bought a 2012 Jetta Sportwagen TDI as a daily driver for myself. While the fuel economy is only marginally better than the latest gasssers, the torque it makes is in a whole different league. We have a 2 1/2 mile long, 7% grade in our area that we have to climb all the time. My JSW TDI practically idles up the thing at 80 while all those gas Hyundai’s struggle to even keep up with the speed limit on the grade.

    I will admit that the new Jetta (sedan) and Passat are not cars that I would buy, my Rabbit and JSW have been superb for our needs.

  • avatar
    davant

    I also own a SportWagen TDI (2010) and I love it. It is not perfect but does so many things well: great seats, huge cargo hold, excellent visibility, fun to drive, excellent fuel economy, clean styling, nicely-assembled interior, perfect steering wheel and I could go on and on. I guess I am not the typical North American because VW seems to have nailed the perfect car for me. I anxiously await the 2015 Jetta/Golf SportWagen and will happily give VWoA more of my dollars for another of their products.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Considering the New, New Beetles are selling well I think they know what Americans want, cars with a fake aura of nostalgia with perceived value thanks to inflated prices (Beetles cost more than Golfs), “MANLY” marketing, and for the Camry buyers they have the ultra decontented Jetta, which is just a sedan New-New Beetle…

    Yea they don’t have a certain segment of CUV, so what? They have a lifted Golf for that, or a 4wd Golf, which is just a Jetta, which is just a New-New Beetle…

  • avatar
    JD321

    Ferdinand Piech knows VW can never make money in the USA. VW just can’t compete at a profit. This is why they have no viable CUV competitors. They can’t produce a profitable CR-V competitor and never will.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    The old VW strategy of sending some Euro cars to the US was probably the best.

    Those cars were top of the line for the Euro market, and some people in the US will like them, and they’d have a premium feel to them here for the class they are in. The US is a small market in this world anyway nowadays. Then if gas prices rise to $8 a gallon, VW can sell its A3s, Golfs and Passats in the US in large numbers based on its in tact reputation, and start to rake in the billions.

  • avatar
    Brian P

    Former owner of a’96 Passat TDI and then a ’06 Jetta TDI here. Took both of them well beyond 400,000 km before selling. Both were good cars. The ’96 had a few things go wrong that shouldn’t have, the ’06 was solid. But I am not buying a new VW TDI.

    1. The cars are bland. The Passat looks like the last-generation Impala. If I want a car that looks like an Impala (which I don’t), I’ll buy an Impala. Too bland. Too anonymous.

    2. VW’s early-on “blame the customer” attitude when HPFP’s started failing on 2009+ Golf/Jetta. Testing whether the fuel contained gasoline or biodiesel by pouring it in a styrofoam cup? Come on, that’s no way to treat your customers. These should have been fixed right from day one no questions asked. (I realize that later on, under pressure from NHTSA, they have been fixing them, even out of warranty, and I realize that the Passat has some design improvements that have made it better – but see point 1 above.) VW is still insistent that this is from misfueling. They should have done their validation testing on fuel actually available at the pump in USA, regardless of specs! And, Bosch (fuel pump manufacturer) should have been told, in no uncertain terms, FIX THIS, yesterday if not sooner.

    3. The intercooler-freezing issue … and yet, someone buying a 2013 Jetta in a cold-weather area is still getting the original (freeze-prone) intercooler design. Why was this fix not incorporated in the production line – at least on cars destined for cold-weather areas, if not all of them?

    4. Cheapening. Jetta – No fuel gauge (LED/LCD bar graph). No temp gauge (idiot light). Axle rear suspension and drum rear brakes (I realize that they’ve fixed this but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place). Cheap-feeling interior materials. My Mk5 Jetta had a great interior. Don’t go backwards!

    5. Dealers! And I suspect that the problem is often not really the dealer, but rather the attitude that VWoA gives the dealer.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    I more or less fit the VW target. I didn’t buy one. Here’s why:

    Infamous dealers. Spotty reliability. Interesting cars, though.

    Ford sells 100K warranties for their Ecoboost for $900. VW can do the same for their trick cars. If not, why not?

    VWs require extra care in maintenance. So sell maintenance contracts at a price that guarantees your cars consistently get the care they need. Have the owners fill out a short, but carefully prepared survey for the price of signing up for the discounted maintenance contract. At the right time, have a demographically correct new car there for an impromptu test drive when the old car comes in for service.

  • avatar
    boosted_sled

    sell me an Up

  • avatar
    mjz

    VW made it’s mark in this country with the original Beetle. It was an inexpensive car that was well engineered and virtually bullet-proof. It developed a cult-like following and a legendary reputation for durability and quality. It sold like Big Gulps on an exceptionally hot day in Hades. The current crop of VW’s (Jetta/Passat) are perceived as cheap, not inexpensive. The engineering is competent, but not game changing. The reputation for reliability and durability is nothing but a fond memory. Toyota and Honda (Hyundai/Kia too) now occupy the brand positioning that VW pioneered. They have truly lost their way in the big automotive forest, and don’t know where they are or how to find their way back to where they started from.

  • avatar
    lightbulb

    The issue for VAG is really about their product line than any other contributing factor. If you look at their product line as a whole they are not competive against the market leaders. Why? Because they really don’t want too understand the market. VAG cars are not price competive,and have a rightfully earned reputation to be more expensive to maintain.The Asian manufacturers have been successful since they listened to what Americans want in a vehicle. A affordable, decent fuel economy, no thrills box that will reliably get them from point A to C. These are the reasons they are so dominate in North America. The American big three, while not know for reliablity or being fuel efficent still sell well because they are the home team, and cater to the mid-American demographic with trucks and large cars. also people know they can cheaply fix them if something goes wrong. In recent years they have brought in cars from their European and Asian divisions that have help them compete better in the market. VAG is only now trying to market it’s cars to other demographics, other than middle class suburban customers who live on the coasts or in larger metro areas.

  • avatar

    I don’t think VW gets Brazilians all that well. They did way back when there was no competition and the Beetle ruled the streets. Since the 90s VW has been playing catch up and is very slow to react to others’ moves. Colors in a metallic finish on small cars? Late. 4 doors on small cars? Late. After switching over to 4 doors, keeping on offering 2 doors as a cheaper option? Late. Offering more content for less price? Late.

    The only thing they have done that the market laps up recently is offer bigger wheels on the cars and they were the first in flex cars.

    Seems there’s some arrogance going on here too and a degree of do what I say sonce I know what’s best for you going on here too.

  • avatar
    GaryM

    Lightbulb is right- most people buy cars the same way they buy appliances and really don’t care much about performance. I buy VW’s because they are fun to drive, something you can’t say about the majority of cars on the market. My ’13 GLI is fast, loaded with features and handles beautifully. My wife’s ’11 Tiguan is fast, comfortable, responsive, is incredible in snow and the base “S” model has most of what you need at a price competitive with CR-Vs and RAV4s.

  • avatar
    mjal

    I just bought a ’13 VW CC 6-spd manual and absolutely love it. It’s the first German car I’ve bought new after many years of Japanese sedans. I carefully shopped it against the Mazda6 and Honda Accord (4cyl Sport) and felt the VW was more comfortable, faster, quieter (especially against the Mazda), and better finished. The overall feel of the car just felt, to me, more premium than either of those sedans. The two Japanese cars did handle better, but the VW excels at highway cruising. Now, I’m keeping my fingers crossed on the reliability front. For a discounted price of a little over $27K, though, it feels 9/10th’s as good as my brother-in-laws A7, which stickers for $75K.

    • 0 avatar
      Tostik

      Just had a Mazda6 as a rental. I thought it was a piece of junk. OK, maybe a very reliable piece of junk, maybe. The seats were terribly uncomfortable, the suspension was way too stiff, but still managed to lean in a hard turn–a signal accomplishment by Mazda in suspension systems. But I would have to say the transmission shifting was perfect–it always gave you the gear you needed. I hope your VW CC is a lot better than the Mazda6.

  • avatar
    RHD

    What a terrific thread. If VW is reading this, they had better take it to heart. Hey, guys, this is tens of thousands of dollars of free market research being done for free here. You could make (literally) millions by taking into account what people are telling you.
    Most of my points have been made by others, so I’ll just add that Americans don’t speak German, we speak English (and to a lesser extent, Spanish).
    “Fahrvergnugen” is a big, long, nonsensical work that doesn’t mean anything to almost all Americans. All it does is emphasize that VWs are German cars, which we already know.
    “Das Auto” does the same – it tells us nothing – while bringing to mind “Das Boot” and similar ideas which have absolutely nothing to do with cars. A slogan has to emphasize some real or perceived quality of what you are trying to sell (look at Pepsi, Coca Cola and McDonald’s slogans, for example.) Honda’s used to be “We keep it simple”. That did not apply to the underhood vacuum lines, but it was friendly, clean and added to the commonly held idea that their cars were economical and dependable.
    I grew up in VWs, and my first car was a VW. Now I don’t have any reason to go near a VW showroom. Maybe you could give me a good reason to do so, and eliminate the reasons why I would want to stay away.


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