The Truth About Cars » Polo The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 14:03:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Polo Inside The Industry: TTAC Finds The Missing Etymology Of Passat, Golf, Scirocco, Polo Fri, 24 May 2013 11:01:52 +0000 Polo-cat

German launch catalog for the Polo

Where did the names of Volkswagen’s Passat, Golf, Scirocco, Polo come from? What is their meaning? For four decades, it was shrouded in mystery. Forty years later, a famous former Volkswagen CEO, Dr. Carl Hahn, and his illustrious former sales chief, “WP” Schmidt, help TTAC get to the bottom of an unsolved question,

Some of the worst performers in the truth department are the gossip press and the automotive media. A good deal there simply is fantasy. Knowing well that no-one will complain or check, bogus new product plans are being published.  The large-scale availability of cheap 3D rendering software (here is how it’s done) and of WordPress turns this disease into a pandemic.

Most of these lies come and go. Some stay and turn into history. A dark chapter of automotive history falsification is about the names of the new generation of cars that, in the early 1970s, rescued Volkswagen from the brink and that helped turn VW into the powerhouse it is today: Passat, Golf, Scirocco, Polo.

There is so munch nonsense written about those names, that we had to go to the very top, and ask the people who decided these names 40 years ago.


German launch catalog for the Passat

Before the Volkswagen Passat came out in 1973, all Volkswagen were sold by the number: VW 1200, VW 1303, VW 1600 and so forth. Then came a car called “Passat.” Although nothing was ever officially published, everybody in Germany was convinced that the car was named after the same named trade wind. It had to be.

A year later came two new cars, the Golf, and the Scirocco. The latter is another famous wind. It is called Qibli in Africa, it changes to Scirocco in Italy, and after it crossed the Alps, it is called Föhn and becomes famous for causing headaches and distracted driving in Munich and surroundings.

In Germany, and especially at Volkswagen, everything supposedly goes according to plan and has a system. There was no system announced, so a system was fabricated. Passat, Scirocco: It had to be winds. But where did the Golf fit in?

Even before the Golf appeared, a German auto magazine wrote that the car, following the supposed wind logic, was originally named “Blizzard.” According to the report, an Austrian ski manufacturer with the same name objected, and instead, the car was named Golf.  Or so the apocryphal history says. That story has been written in many books and magazines, and it is wrong. If you believe the story, you have been snowed.


German launch catalog for the Golf

A little research in the annals of the German Patent and Markenamt would have shown that, before the Golf arrived, the name “Blizzard” was trademarked for products like floor cleaners, perfume, even for socks. There was no entry for cars. In 1973, there wasn’t even one for skis.

The ski trademark was registered half a year after the introduction of the Golf, on October 31, 1974. Most likely by a now highly alarmed Blizzard ski maker, who had not bothered before, and who had read the stories about them allegedly blocking the name for the Golf.  What’s more, the Blizzard trademark for cars remained up for grabs until 1979, when a company called Toyota Jidosha Kabushiki Kaisha of Toyota, Aichi, Japan, took the Blizzard trademark in Germany. Yes, that Toyota. The mark was used for a luckless Toyota Blizzard, a small Daihatsu-built pocket Jeep. Toyota abandoned the mark in 2010, if you want Blizzard for a car, you most likely will get it.

After Passat, Golf, and Scirocco came the Polo. Its naming still causes great apprehension: Where is the wind? Future cars by Volkswagen had wind names (Jetta, Santana, Vento, Bora,) therefore, members of the media decided that all Volkswagen cars must have wind names, somehow. This leads to the fact that today, Wikipedia, while citing reliable sources, can claim that “the Golf name is derived from the German word for Gulf Stream and the period in its history when VW named vehicles after prominent winds.”

Never mind that a gulf stream is no wind, but an ocean current, the Internet is convinced that the Golf is named after the Gulf Stream. According to Wikipedia, the Polo is named “after Polar Winds.” The latter is said without sources, but by now, the story of Polo and Polar Wind has been copied so many times that it is very easy to find a polar wind source for Wikipedia, even if it is a circular reference – nobody will find out.

I know it differently. I did every launch campaign, I supervised the writing of the catalogs (all pictured here) of the four models, I wrote some myself. All, except those for the Passat. That car was already done when I arrived on my job as Volkswagen copywriter in 1973. No system for the name was ever announced, neither officially nor confidentially. The briefing documents said everything about engine, displacement, they espoused the “Negativer Lenkrollradius”-  but nothing was said about the etymology of the names. Each car had a name, that was it, we were not supposed to ask where it came from, we never knew who created the name, or why. Never ever did anyone think or even joke about the Golf being named after the Gulf Stream, or the Polo after the Polar Wind. Sure, at the agency we joked about “The new  popular sport, Golf.” Sure, the GTI had a golf ball as a shifter knob, and plaid seats. Those were puns, no proof of a meaning.


German launch catalog for the Scirocco

However, who would believe a former copywriter? I decided to go straight to the source.  Volkswagen has a great new and well-funded department, Volkswagen Classic. It is responsible for Volkswagen’s history.  If anyone knows for sure how these names came about, then it’s the people in charge of Volkswagen’s history.

I asked Eberhard Kittler, spokesman of Volkswagen Classics, whether there was a system to this name madness, whether all Volkswagens of that time were named after winds, or the Golf after the Gulf Stream, or the Polo after the Polar Winds.

Kittler had no idea. That allegedly widely known part of history has no presence in Volkswagen’s history department.

Kittler went through the archives, he pulled old internal marketing plans. He found “no conclusive records.”

Herr Kittler continued digging. He reached former, long retired members of Volkswagen’s sales and Marketing departments. They had never heard of a system, or of any official etymology of these names.

Kittler contacted Dr. Carl Hahn, the famous Volkswagen of America Chief who approved the famous Volkswagen ads of the late 50s and early 60, and who was CEO of Volkswagen from 1982 to 1993. Hahn did not know either. “At that time, I was at Continental, doing tires,” Hahn told Kittler. “But if anyone knows, it’s WP Schmidt.”

WP Schmidt was sales chief at Volkswagen when Passat, Golf, Scirocco, and Polo came, and he was so for 27 years. Schmidt is a living legend at Volkswagen. Matters as important as the naming of a car had to cross his table, and had to be approved by “WP.”

Doing research on behalf of TTAC, Hahn contacted Schmidt. “Prof. Hahn asked  Schmidt what was behind the names of Polo, Golf, Scirocco and Passat,” reported Kittler yesterday. “Schmidt did not know about anything behind the names.”

After a thorough review of the documentation, and interviews with prominent witnesses, no support for any of the naming theories was found.

Kittler confirmed that there are many “legends and speculations” about the names, for instance that “Polo could have been a riff on Marco Polo, to hint on Volkswagen’s global vision.” However, as far as the man in charge of Volkswagen’s history is concerned, these explanations came after the fact.

The quest for a meaning is as powerful as nature’s abhorrence of a vacuum. We may have to accept that some things in life are meaningless.

Passat-cat Scirocco-cat Golf-cat Polo-cat ]]> 19
Let’s Get Small: Volkswagen Plans Midget SUVs Mon, 07 May 2012 10:39:41 +0000 At the Beijing Auto Show, Volkswagen dropped jaws with a W12 motorized monstrosity of a Bentley SUV and a 600hp off-roadable Lamborghini. While these super SUVs are good for headlines, much slighter specimens will produce volume. Volkswagen plans SUVlets based on the Polo, and is working on pocket SUVs based on VW’s midgetmobile, the Up! If you think Volkswagen’s Tiguan is small, you’ll assume that the target group for the new class of minus-sized SUVs is ants.

Germany’s Handelsblatt has it on good, albeit anonymous authority that Volkswagen wants to round out its SUV portfolio with models based on the Polo and the even smaller Up! Officially, Volkswagen neither denies nor confirms the rumor. Says a Volkswagen spokesperson:

 “We are looking at everything. SUVs are very interesting. Our modular concept allows more derivatives. No decision has been made yet.“

The paper expects the entry-level SUV to cost “significantly less than €20,000.”

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Review: 2011 VW Polo 1.2 TSI Mon, 14 Jun 2010 17:30:08 +0000

Polo players don’t drive German superminis, in the same way Dustin Hoffman never pulled over near a Hollywood studio in a Chevy Celebrity. So, who does drive a Polo? The same people who drive a Golf – only ten years younger, with a bank account ten grand shorter. And until last year, these people have been a little alienated from the VW customer circle – with a new Golf recently introduced and the older Polo getting a little long in the tooth.

Enter the fifth generation Polo. Unlike the MK6 Golf, here’s a car that wasn’t rushed into production: the MK4 Polo was introduced in 2002 and succumbed to irrelevancy over its last years, as the entire European B-segment was stirred by new models and powertrains.

If there’s any comment to be made on the exterior of the MK5 Polo, it’s déjà vu. Take off your glasses, and it’s a Golf – complete with the corporate two-bar grille and spider-leg emblem. It’s as chunky looking in profile as its mature sibling and has the same underwhelmingly dramatic roof line. Glasses back on, and several elements distinguish the junior VW from the Golf: different pentagonal backlights, a cut-out C pillar, an edgy front diffuser spawning speed bump phobia and what appears to be a serious eating disorder.

Underwhelmingly-impressive is the expression you’re looking for. Like the Golf, the Polo is very much a classless car – one that would look just as natural in an Amsterdam suburb as in Munich’s old city, as unprovocative in red as in pearl white and as classy as a teenager’s first car as a grandmother’s last.

Just like the previous Polo, the fifth-gen Polo pushes the interior quality bar further up the scale. Whether this interior is the best in B-segment territory depends on your definition of best: there’s little doubt that this is the most ‘big-car’ interior in the class, but there’s also no avoiding the feeling that it’s just a little dull and expected.

Many – if not most – knobs and controls come straight from the Golf, and seeing as Volkswagen has seemingly unlimited access to that soft-touch material mine, there’s acres of that too. Everything you touch or move – from the door knob to the gear lever – feels like German engineers have spent sleepless nights perfecting its pitch, sound and feel. If you really choose to nitpick, there are harder-than-expected plastics in the door area.

Like its slightly anemic-looking outside proportions imply, the Polo doesn’t shock in spaciousness. Two adults will find sufficient room in the back seats; the third one should consider other transportation options. At 280 liters, the trunk isn’t particularly commodious, but it’s easy to load and has a useful storage compartment underneath. There are numerous additional storage spaces inside the cabin, including two closeable hatches beneath the front seats.

So far, so Volkswagen – solid, impressive, boring. But this particular tester has one interesting ace up its sleeve: the powertrain. Replacing the old model’s 1.6 gas engine and 6 speed Aisin gearbox combination are a direct-injected and turbocharged 1.2 liter TSI engine (oddly featuring only 8 valves) and a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox. On paper, it doesn’t sound like there’s much difference: the horsepower count remains similar – there are around 105 of them – and there’s only one cog joining the party. Even the autojournos’ favorite cliché, torque, only takes a modest 1.34 pound-feet boost to just below 12 pound-feet.

The secret lies in power availability: the old 1.6 needed no less than 3,800 revs to achieve the maximum torque. The turbocharged four pot only needs 1,500 of those – and that’s enough to cut 0-60 time by about two seconds.

On the road, the new engine proves to be a refreshing surprise. Let anyone who doubts the viability of a microscopic turbocharged engine drive this Polo, and he will return fully converted. There’s more than enough power to make progress anywhere across the rev range once the turbocharger kicks in at somewhere around 1,500 rpms, and when pushed to the limits you’d be hard pressed to tell you’re driving something that’s supposed to resemble a 1.6 engine, never mind a puny 1.2.

The engine also rewards the driver and passengers with smoothness unmatched by the gruff and agricultural 1.6. This is where my ambivalent feelings about the DSG gearbox kick in (see what I did there?). Seven speeds are a lot of ratios to choose from, and this particular gearbox doesn’t hesitate to showcase all of them. Left to its own devices, it will upshift as soon as it can – leaving the TSI’s generous power band and constantly requiring one or two downshifts to maintain acceleration. Even in traffic-jam speeds, it’s not uncommon to reach the third and fourth ratios.

The seven speed DSG is also nowhere as smooth as the older 6 speed. This is because the newer version uses a pair of dry clutches instead of wet ones. This setup still hasn’t reached all DSG models since it’s only rated for weaker powerplants – currently, the SEAT Ibitza Cupra and Polo GTi, at 178 bhp, are the strongest models to utilize this particular setup.

You can’t put any blames on shifting speed – but in slower speeds, the gearbox feels somewhat shaky and sluggish, and off the line response is met with a surprising delay. This still remains a very good slushbox – but it’s one you’d have to get used to. It functions better in S mode – where the seventh ratio is disabled, throttle response is made sharper, gears are pushed further up the rev range and braking is met with numerous downshifts – and a neat throttle blip between them. There are no steering wheel shifters, but commanding in manual mode is still pleasurable with instant response from the ‘box and a satisfying feel from the lever itself.

The tiny engine idles surprisingly loudly and with an alarming degree of vibrations. Inside the Polo, however, you’d be hard pressed to tell the engine is even on at all. This is a recurring theme: the baby VW is a quiet cruiser and refinement is at the top of the class. Ride quality is also good – with a slightly harsh initial suspension travel, you’re not likely to confuse it with French hatchbacks of yore, but even the most daunting bumps are dealt with resounding comfort and softness. The front seats are comfortable and supportive, but have an annoying bulge in their upper parts, which forces a slightly artificial back posture.

The surprises end with the driving dynamics. The Polo is a car which pushes you not to push it: the electro-hydraulic steering is number, lighter and longer than I recall from the Skoda Fabia. It’s still in ‘acceptable’ territory, but at no point reminds you of anything remotely sporty. The brake pedal has a slightly awkward travel with a very strong initial bite and less than stellar progress further down the line.

Dynamic challenges are met in a composed manner and with sufficient grip, but not with much pleasure. That’s really a shame, because even other B-segment cars from VW – like the SEAT Ibiza – feature naughtier driving dynamics and more driver involvement, not to mention competition from cars such as the Ford Fiesta.

Greater men than I have already deemed the Polo to be the European Car of the Year. It’s not very surprising to find that the fifth-generation Volkswagen Polo is a very good car. It’s equally as unsurprising to find that it has a class-beating cabin and a class-beating powertrain.

“Unsurprising” and “underwhelmingly-impressive” then, are the recurring ideas behind the Polo. The Polo, like some people, is an example of a textbook execution. Compare it to a person, and you have a very intelligent and pleasant individual which you won’t want to take out for a beer.

To an automotive enthusiast, this may sound like criticism. To Volkswagen’s ears, this is a pat on the shoulder: creating a mini-Golf is exactly the idea behind the new Polo. In that, they’ve succeeded immensely: the transition from Polo to Golf is now as smooth and obvious as ever.

Volkswagen proided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

This review was made possible by

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Volkswagen Releases Russian Polor Bear Into The Wild Thu, 03 Jun 2010 11:17:42 +0000

Designing a product for local tastes is a tricky affair. Just getting the name right is a hassle. Everyone remember the Toyota MR2? Not the French. They remember the Toyota MR. Why? Because “MR2″ in French would have sounded like “Em-Ar-Deux” (“Deux” being French for “two”). And “Em-Ar-Deux” sounded very close to “merde” which is French for…..let’s not go into that. So, if getting the name right is a chore, you must do your car research with care  if you want to pander to local needs. I mean, get that wrong and you could end up in deep Em-Ar-Deux. But Volkswagen reckons they’ve found what the Russians want …

The Moscow Times reports that Volkswagen is building a car designed for the Russian market. When they say “design for the Russian market”, they mean it. Or so they say. The car will be based on the Volkswagen Group PQ45 platform (VW Polo, Seat Ibiza, Audi A1, etc) and built in their Russian Kaluga factory. The car will be priced at 399,000 Russian Rubles (about $12,500).

Actually, the Moscow Times has been had. Or they have been overcome by national pride. That through and through Russian car is a Polo. Volkswagen said yesterday in a presser released in Germany that they launched on Russia a Polo “developed specially for the Russian market, bearing in mind its specific climate and street conditions.”

What makes this car particularly “Russian” is the standard feature of a higher than normal ground clearance. The reason for this is that the car can better negotiate Russia’s potholed roads, says the Russian trade rag Za Rulyom.

Volkswagen’s Russian Director, Dietmar Korzekwa, is confident this vehicle will be such a big hit on the Russian roads (presumably because of the potholes), that they plan to sell 10,000 of these vehicles in 2010 and 30,000 in 2011.

There is more that turns this Polo into a polor bear that thrives under adverse conditions. Volkswagen can hardly say that they built it for the crappy roads and for the mediocre gasoline found in Russia. To avoid another German-Russian conflict, the press release turns into a masterpiece of diplomacy:

“The specific demands of Russian drivers and the climate and street conditions in Russia have both been carefully taken into account during the new Saloon’s development: long-term tests were conducted in different climate zones, and the street conditions in the most variegated regions in Russia were examined. The available petrol qualities were tested repeatedly as well. Thus the vehicle has been equipped with an up-to-date and reliable engine that is ideally suited to those operating conditions prevailing in Russia, a galvanised, non-corrosive body and a wheel suspension geared to bad roads. Particularly robust paints were used for the car’s paint job, and the chrome parts are also highly resistant to aggressive agents.”

I guess they didn’t mean KGB agents.

What will also help is that the car qualifies for Russia’s cash-for-clunkers program, whereby you can apply for a subsidized loan for cars costing less than 600,000 rubles.

Maybe Volkswagen can do a car designed for the UK? Culturally, that should be easy. Any upstanding Volkswagen exec or engineer drives in the left lane only.

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Announcing The Double-Blown Hot Hatch Polo GTI You Can’t Buy Mon, 10 May 2010 09:01:34 +0000

The long awaited Polo GTI is not long awaited anymore. Except if you live in the U.S.A. Then you can wait until the proverbial cows come home. Or until someone at VeeDub has an epiphany and sends the thing stateside. (I still remember how long it took them to introduce the original Golf GTI to the U.S. Forever. We begged them. “There is a 55 mph speed limit,” they said. “They buy Porsches,” we said. “That’s something else,” they said. “They buy muscle cars,” we said. “Stop bugging us,” they said. And how long did it take them to decide to bring a civilian version of Polo to the U.S.? What, 35 years?)

The textbook example of engine downsizing that gets 180 hp out of its twincharged (turbo and supercharger) pintsized (1.4 liter) TSI engine, while making owners of gas stations increase their anti-depression medication with a 40 mpg US rating (estimated) is being officially launched today in Germany. In style: At the Nürburgring.

Wanna race? Picture courtesy Volkswagen AG DB2010AU00149 DB2010AU00162 DB2010AU00163 DB2010AU00164 DB2010AU00242 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

That little critter combines trackworthy performance with that new word, “sustainability.” The 2626.8 lbs light VeeDub accelerates to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 6.9 seconds and reaches a top speed of 229 km/h (142 mph.) In the sustainability dept., combined fuel consumption is 5.9 L/100km (40 mpg U.S.)—equivalent to CO2 emissions of 139 g/km, 25 percent lower than the previous model.

According to Volkswagen’s press release, power is transferred to the front wheels via an extremely efficient 7-speed dual clutch gearbox (DSG) as standard equipment. An electronic transverse differential lock (XDS) reduces the tendency to understeer. ESP is standard, including Hill Climb Assist.

Now we don’t want all that power get to your head. That’s why you will be surrounded by a whole network of airbag, including combined head-thorax side airbags, belt tensioners, belt tension limiters plus belt warning, head restraints designed to avoid whiplash trauma (each in front), three rear head restraints as well as Isofix points on the rear bench seat for suitably fitted child seats. In case you want to take junior to the Nordschleife.

Dealers are standing by to take your order – in Germany.

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Pick Your Polo Poison Fri, 19 Feb 2010 18:18:49 +0000

Before you choose, remember, this Polo GTI won’t be coming to the United States when the nameplate arrives sometime next year. In fact, no three-door hatch is planned for America at all, since VW has decided to go the Echo route and only sell sedan-bodied Polos stateside. Well, with one exception…

A “Polo Plus” for plus-sized Americans is planned. “It’s more like a cross between a compact minivan and a hatchback. In other words, it’s more like the Honda Fit,” says VWoA’s Stephan Jacoby. This 2011 Cross Polo, which will take a bow at the upcoming Geneva Auto Show, could just be a preview of the model VW has in mind. You know, without all the expensive, high-tech European engines.

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