The Truth About Cars » Volkswagen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 27 Apr 2015 21:34:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (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 » Volkswagen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Canada Loans €400M to Volkswagen for Chance at Supplier Table http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/canada-loans-e400m-volkswagen-chance-supplier-table/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/canada-loans-e400m-volkswagen-chance-supplier-table/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 11:35:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055073 As Volkswagen plans to expand in Chattanooga and Puebla, the Canadian government is loaning €400 million ($433.8 million USD) to the German automaker in exchange for possible future supplier business. Export Development Canada, a Crown corporation (an entity owned entirely by the Government of Canada), announced the “financing is designed to create opportunities for qualified small and medium-sized […]

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Volkswagen Chattanooga Tower

As Volkswagen plans to expand in Chattanooga and Puebla, the Canadian government is loaning €400 million ($433.8 million USD) to the German automaker in exchange for possible future supplier business.

Export Development Canada, a Crown corporation (an entity owned entirely by the Government of Canada), announced the “financing is designed to create opportunities for qualified small and medium-sized Canadian companies to win new business with the global automotive giant as they grow their operations in North America.” The loan is being extended to Volkswagen with “market-rate interest and administrative fees.”

“There’s no doubt Canada needs Volkswagen more than Volkswagen needs Canada,” said Phil Taylor, spokesperson for EDC, to the Windsor Star.

The financial agreement gives smaller Canadian companies exposure to Volkswagen as they tool up their North American operations for future product. Suppliers can register their products or services on a website run by EDC.

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BREAKING: Piëch Resigns Chairmanship, Winterkorn Continues as CEO at VW http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/breaking-piech-resigns-chairmanship-winterkorn-continues-ceo-vw/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/breaking-piech-resigns-chairmanship-winterkorn-continues-ceo-vw/#comments Sat, 25 Apr 2015 17:26:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1054273 While Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn wears bruises from the conflict, Ferdinand Piëch has paid the ultimate of price and resigned his chairmanship with immediate effect. According to Reuters, the ongoing row between CEO and Chairman at Volkswagen eased this past week, but when the group’s supervisory board put their support behind Winterkorn, the 78-year-old grandson of Ferry Porsche was […]

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"It wasn't Domino's. Someone delivered Wiedekings head." Piech and Winterkorn.  Picture courtesy handelsblatt.de

While Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn wears bruises from the conflict, Ferdinand Piëch has paid the ultimate of price and resigned his chairmanship with immediate effect.

According to Reuters, the ongoing row between CEO and Chairman at Volkswagen eased this past week, but when the group’s supervisory board put their support behind Winterkorn, the 78-year-old grandson of Ferry Porsche was left “isolated” in a five-to-one vote. Sources told the newswire service Piëch’s decision to not support Winterkorn put his own position in jeopardy. Piëch’s wife, Ursula, also resigned her positions within the company.

Piëch will be replaced by Deputy Chairman Berthold Huber in the interim. A vote on when a new Chairman will be chosen has not been announced.

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Marchionne Isn’t Finding Any Potential Dates For Marriage http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/marchionne-isnt-finding-potential-dates-marriage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/marchionne-isnt-finding-potential-dates-marriage/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 19:09:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1052385 Though FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne is still looking to merge his company with another automaker, no one is all that willing to tie the knot. Despite Marchionne’s quest to consolidate the industry by leading by example, he’s managed to strike out in some way with Ford, General Motors, Peugeot, Renault-Nissan and Volkswagen. Regarding GM, CEO Mary […]

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2016 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus

Though FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne is still looking to merge his company with another automaker, no one is all that willing to tie the knot.

Despite Marchionne’s quest to consolidate the industry by leading by example, he’s managed to strike out in some way with Ford, General Motors, Peugeot, Renault-Nissan and Volkswagen.

Regarding GM, CEO Mary Barra stated Thursday that her company already had plans of its own and that it wasn’t interested in consolidation with another automaker, according to Detroit Free Press:

We laid out a comprehensive plan that takes us through the early part of next decade. We’re already in that top tier. We have a well-articulated plan and we are not going to entertain anything that would distract us from achieving that plan.

Meanwhile, a proposed tie-up with Volkswagen came to naught, though Marchionne stated such a thing was never in the cards in the first place, despite claims by VW Group chairman Ferdinand Piëch of having met with FCA officials to discuss buying a part or all of FCA.

Though there are still other smaller automakers Marchionne could pursue in the spirit of consolidation, like Mazda and Tata, there’s the issue of his own company’s performance as of late. Already stuck with large debts, Forbes states profitability is a major issue among shareholders regarding the automaker. In the U.S. alone, the issue stems from its pursuit of sales volume over profit via aggressive incentivizing. As a result, margins remain at 4 percent and pre-tax earnings have climbed a mere $2.7 billion, even with revenues doubling by $40 billion since the start of the new decade. Thus, no company would likely consider consolidating with FCA.

As for why Marchionne is banging the drum of consolidation, especially as far as his company is concerned, it comes down to survival in the face of competition from outsiders like Google and Apple. The arrival of non-traditional companies like the two tech giants could force automakers to keep up with the pace of change such companies would set the further the latter group digs into the former.

For now, though, the FCA CEO laments the difficulty in finding a partner, going as far as to provide Bloomberg with a metaphor about the search earlier this month:

One of the most difficult things to do is to get the turkey to invite himself to Thanksgiving dinner.

[Photo credit: FCA]

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Volkswagen Takes Silver In Quarterly Sales Amid Lingering Leadership Battle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/volkswagen-takes-silver-quarterly-sales-amid-lingering-leadership-battle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/volkswagen-takes-silver-quarterly-sales-amid-lingering-leadership-battle/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 16:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1052129 While the dust-up between chairman Ferdinand Piëch and CEO Martin Winterkorn lingers on, Volkswagen looks to take silver on the global sales podium in 2015. Amid reports from German press agency dpa regarding Piëch’s desire to replace Winterkorn with either Porsche’s Matthias Mueller or Skoda’s Winfried Vahland prior to VW’s annual shareholder meeting early next […]

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2013 Volkswagen Up

While the dust-up between chairman Ferdinand Piëch and CEO Martin Winterkorn lingers on, Volkswagen looks to take silver on the global sales podium in 2015.

Amid reports from German press agency dpa regarding Piëch’s desire to replace Winterkorn with either Porsche’s Matthias Mueller or Skoda’s Winfried Vahland prior to VW’s annual shareholder meeting early next month, the chairman denied the allegations to German newspaper Bild, Automotive News Europe reports.

Piëch said he had agreed to support Winterkorn following a meeting with board members in Austria last week. However, broadcasting network NDR says the chairman doesn’t feel bound by the agreement, and is seeking support from the Porsche and Piëch families to oust the CEO. The two families hold 50.7 percent of VW voting rights, a factor that could sway the state of Lower Saxony and German unions to vote in favor of Piëch’s chosen champion for the role. Both groups, though, stand firm behind Winterkorn and the board’s decision.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen is closing in on its immediate goal of becoming the second largest automaker in the world by the end of 2015. According to AutoGuide, the automaker sold 2.49 million units from its family of brands between January and March 2015, edging out General Motors for the second spot on the sales podium by 70,000 units; Toyota retains the gold for now. The figure is also a 1.8-percent improvement compared to 2014.

[Photo credit: Volkswagen]

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Volkswagen Jetta GLI: Reviewed! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/volkswagen-jetta-gli-reviewed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/volkswagen-jetta-gli-reviewed/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 14:30:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1045378 This is not a GTI. This is not a GTI. This is not a GTI. Cross your tees and line your elles, this is not that darling of the #millennial boot-scoot generation: the My First Big Boy Car Volkswagen GTI. It’s not a GTI with a trunk, either, despite everything you might think. The GLI certainly […]

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VW Jetta GLI front

This is not a GTI. This is not a GTI. This is not a GTI. Cross your tees and line your elles, this is not that darling of the #millennial boot-scoot generation: the My First Big Boy Car Volkswagen GTI.

It’s not a GTI with a trunk, either, despite everything you might think.

Nice Touch Alert: the red line framing the grille extends into the headlights. Clever!

Nice Touch Alert: the red line framing the grille extends into the headlights. Clever!

The GLI certainly makes a good first impression. Split-spoke wheels with just the right-sized tires, too much sidewall, a hint of red from the front grille—there’s a nice touch, Volkswagen, how the red line continues into the headlight housings. Subtle, sophisticated: a very Grown Up Car. Junior pulls into the office park on his first day of his post-college job and he knows his bosses, safely ensconced in their corner offices, are watching. Just to see what kind of young upstart they hired. Let’s get lunch—PF Chang’s? Great. We can take my car!

DSC03813

Nice wheels. Nice new grille. Open the door and imagine four plaid seats, just like the GTI—how cool would that look? Instead, the GLI only receives V-Tex Leatherette, patterned in carbon-look and framed in red piping, for a look resembling Darth Vader’s softball uniform. I appreciate the honesty inherent in a cloth interior, but we have believed for decades that even faux leather looks expensive. Even when this doesn’t.

DSC03818

Darth Vader’s softball team would be called “The Empire Strikes Out.”

And yet, the illusion is over by that first turn out of the parking lot. Because that exhaust note is the GLI’s most characterful asset, carrying an unmistakable presence: it growls and rips and sounds edgy, exuberant. Coupled with the turbo pssht! when shifting through the DSG transmission, and it’s the GLI again with the first impressions, especially the impression that there’s a serious performance car lurking underneath all that sophistication.

Even when there isn’t.

VW Jetta GLI rear

Angeles Crest Highway looks pretty good in the mornings.

The GLI shares its 2.0-liter TSI turbocharged engine with its hatchbacked brother, producing 210 horsepower, with the full brunt of its 207 lb-ft of torque ready to go at a mere 1,700 RPM. Below that, it positively bogs when coming off a stop. Then it’s wait, wait, wait, hold on, whoosh!

It sounds best in second gear. Of course, Angeles Crest Highway, where these photos were taken, is a third gear kind of road…and once you lift off the throttle, anywhere below 4,000 RPM, the GLI is as quiet as ever. The dual-clutch DSG snaps off shifts with near-imperceptible quickness, fast as ever. Volkswagen claims “upgraded brakes” on the GLI, but at least the calipers are painted red. They work powerfully.

VW Jetta GLI wheels

Red calipers add BRAKE horsepower. Get it?

And here’s the shocker of the century: the whole chassis tends toward understeer. The XDS Cross Differential is an electronic system, available across the Golf lineup, and applies the brakes to inside wheels—VW-speak for torque vectoring, and without it the GLI might feel even sloppier. But as it stands now, it lacks precision. The ride is relatively well composed, with little body roll, but there’s a lot of road noise. The steering is weighty, not as sharp, not particularly involving— not much to feel, no resistance to bear, heavy as hell at a crawl, but numb and inconsistent when on the move. Compare this to the GTI, whose steering is consistent at any speed—probably why it feels so gratifying as a result.

At least you can get it with a manual. The esteemed Mr. Kreindler and I both recommended that you do.

DSC03820

Our Jetta GLI SEL rang in a hair over $30,000, reigning at the top of the Jetta food chain. And yet, it still comes with the built-to-cost sensibility the motoring world griped when it came out: harsh door panels, hard-knock plastics, a bouncy trunklid, a tiny screen the size of a pack of Orbit.

But for the same price, there’s a four-door GTI. And that’s the full package: the MQB platform is new, the interior is new, the touchscreen is new, the suspension is newer, certainly. I think this is what sums it up about the GLI: go to Volkswagen’s website and look at their models. Go past the lease deals on a stripper Jetta or Passat (with manuals!). Look past the Beetle, the Eos (they still make those?), the Golf. Take a look: the GTI is its own standalone model, now, proof of serious intent from Volkswagen. On some college campuses, the GTI is so popular that your average incoming freshman can walk from one side of campus to another, entirely on the roofs of GTIs, without ever touching ground.

If you’re a sporting gentleman, get that. If you’re practical, get that. If you “drive tastefully,” get that with the plaid seats. Because America’s cheapest sports sedan—the GLI SE starts at $26,920 with a manual—is more cheap than sport.

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Volkswagen Gearing Up For Battle Over CEO Position http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/volkswagen-gearing-battle-ceo-position/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/volkswagen-gearing-battle-ceo-position/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 14:30:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1043418 Disparaging remarks uttered by Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech have led to speculation that the legendary auto exec is positioning himself to oust VW’s current CEO, Martin Winterkorn, a one-time ally of Piech who has overseen substantial growth during his tenure. Under Winterkorn’s leadership, VW Group’s sales and profits have both increased dramatically, and the automotive […]

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A grim Winterkorn. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

Disparaging remarks uttered by Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech have led to speculation that the legendary auto exec is positioning himself to oust VW’s current CEO, Martin Winterkorn, a one-time ally of Piech who has overseen substantial growth during his tenure.

Under Winterkorn’s leadership, VW Group’s sales and profits have both increased dramatically, and the automotive conglomerate is positioning itself to be the world’s #1 auto maker. But Winterkorn has also come under fire for VW’s continued struggles in the United States (particlarly with the Volkswagen brand itself) and the slow progress of a low-cost car for emerging markets.

In remarks to German media, Piech says that he has “distanced himself” from Winterkorn, a cryptic comment that echoes his past remarks that have led to the undoing of the careers of past VW executives. But this time, Winterkorn has the support of both the German government and VW’s organized labor union. Together, these comprise roughly a substantial bloc on the 20 seat supervisory board, while the Porsche family, which traditionally aligns with the Peich-controlled seats, has thrown its support behind Winterkorn.

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Review: 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-volkswagen-e-golf-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-volkswagen-e-golf-video/#comments Sat, 11 Apr 2015 19:24:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1037841 Because I live in California, it seemed only fitting that my first taste of the new Golf arrived in electric form: the 2015 VW e-Golf. (Why e-Golf? Because “Golfe” just sounded silly.) The Golf isn’t just the first Volkswagen EV in the US, it’s also the first VW built on the new MQB platform which […]

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2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-001

Because I live in California, it seemed only fitting that my first taste of the new Golf arrived in electric form: the 2015 VW e-Golf. (Why e-Golf? Because “Golfe” just sounded silly.) The Golf isn’t just the first Volkswagen EV in the US, it’s also the first VW built on the new MQB platform which promises reduced weight and lower development costs. While MQB isn’t a dedicated EV platform like Nissan’s LEAF, it was designed to support electrification from the start rather than being converted like the Fiat 500e. While that may sound like a quibble, the difference is noticeable as the e-Golf feels like a regular VW that happens to be electric. The e-Golf also demonstrates just how rapidly EVs have evolved since the LEAF launched in 2010.

Exterior

Volkswagen has always been a company that prefers restrained elegance when it comes to design and the new Golf is no different. While some described the look as boring, I generally appreciate design evolution more than design revolution because the latter leads to products like the Aztek. The downside to VW’s design evolution is that the Golf doesn’t look all that different from the last Golf, but VW owners tell me that’s how they like it. Park it next to the last VW hatch and you will notice a difference. The 2015 model is longer, wider and lower than its predecessor with a longer hood and a shorter front overhang. The result is a more grown-up hatch than ever before that also schleps more stuff than ever before.

For EV duty, VW swaps in their first US-bound LED headlamps, and (according to a product announcement released when we had the e-Golf) will swap them back out if you opt for the new starting trim of the e-Golf which is coming soon. We also get a revised DRL strip of LEDs curving around the front bumper that gives the electric version a distinctive look in your rear-view mirror. Finishing off the transformation are blue accents here and there, EV specific wheels and unique badging. From a functional standpoint, the electrically heated windshield (ala Volvo and Land Rover) helps reduce energy consumption by heating the glass directly instead of heating the air and blowing it on the glass.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior.CR2

Interior

Changes to the new interior are as subtle as the exterior. It was only after sitting in a 2012 Golf that I realized that parts sharing appears to be somewhere near zero. Although the shapes are similar, everything has been tweaked to look more cohesive and more up-scale. The console flows better from the climate controls, infotainment screen and knick-knack storage all the way to the armrest. The dashboard design is smoother and more Audiesque and the door panels have improved fit and finish with slightly nicer plastics. Keeping in mind that the Golf competes with the Hyundai Elantra GT, Ford Focus, Mazda3, Chevy Sonic, and Fiat 500L, this is easily the best interior in this class.

When it comes to the e-Golf things get murky. Since most auto companies have just one EV model, the electric Golf competes with a more varied competitive set spanning from the Spark EV and 500e to the BMW i3 and Mercedes B-Class Electric. In this competitive set, the VW still shines with an interior that isn’t that far off the B-Class or the i3 in real terms. The only oddity here is that the e-Golf does not offer leather in any configuration. The new base model gets cloth seats which are comfortable and attractive but the top end trim we tested uses leatherette which is attractive but doesn’t breathe as well as leather or cloth. Breathability is a problem the Spark’s leatherette seats also suffer from and is especially important in an EV where you frequently limit AC usage to improve range. Kia’s Soul EV is a stand-out in this area by offering real leather and ventilated seats which consume less power than running the AC.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-0031

Infotainment

The redesign of the Golf includes a refresh of VW’s infotainment lineup. Sadly however, this is the one area where revolution would have been preferable to evolution. The VW infotainment software, even in our up-level unit with nav, still lags behind the competition. The unit features expanded voice commands, finger gestures (like scrolling), snappier navigation software and a proximity sensor to clean up the interface when your digits aren’t near the screen. Most of the system’s graphics have been improved and the media interface is more attractive than before. Sadly however the system still lacks the ability to voice command your media library and the screen is notably smaller than the huge 8-inch screen in the Kia Soul.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior Gauges

Instead of giving EV models a funky disco-dash like most EVs, VW keeps the four-dial analog cluster  and monochromatic multi-information display with a few changes. Instead of a tachometer we get a sensible power meter showing how much oomph you are commanding. Instead of an engine temperature gauge VW drops in an “available power” gauge that tells you how much power you can draw from the battery pack. In cold weather, or when the battery is too hot or too cold the discharge rate will slow.

I appreciate the simplistic gauge cluster, it’s classier than disco-dash in the LEAF while displaying essentially the same information. On the downside, the rest of the e-Golf’s systems lack the EV-specific features we have come to expect in EVs and hybrids. The extent of the EV information in the infotainment system is a single screen that shows your range. Most of the competition provides insight into how much energy your vehicle’s systems are consuming, how much additional range you’d get by turning your AC off or how long your battery would take to charge on various power sources. In fact the only way you’d know how long the e-Golf would take to charge is by plugging it in and reading the display that flashes the time to charge briefly. For more information VW directs you to their smartphone app, but those looking for a more integrated solution should look elsewhere.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Motor-001

Drivetrain

Powering the e-Golf is a 115 HP synchronous AC motor capable of delivering 199 lb-ft of torque at low RPMs. That’s 55 fewer ponies, but the same amount of torque as the regular Golf’s 1.8L turbo engine. Logically the performance is lazy when compared to the turbo Golf thanks as much to the single-speed transmission as to the added weight of the e-Golf’s battery pack. 60MPH happens in a Prius-like 10.03 seconds, about 2-seconds slower than the TSI. Because the MQB platform was designed with EVs and hybrids in mind, the large 24.2 kWh (estimated 21.1 kWh usable) battery fits entirely under the vehicle with no intrusion in the passenger compartment and little overall compromise in terms of cargo capacity.

Early reports indicated that VW was going to liquid cool the battery pack like GM does in their EVs but the production e-Golf uses a passive battery cooling system instead. VW engineers tell us that the lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) cells from Panasonic lend themselves well to packs of this nature and it ultimately helps them reduce weight and complexity. Like most manufacturers VW will warrant the pack for 8 years and 100,000 miles against capacity drop larger than 30%. This means that your EPA range starts at 83 miles and would have to drop to around 53 miles in that window to get it repaired or replaced.

Charging is always a concern with EV shoppers so VW dropped in one of the faster chargers available (7.2kW) which can charge the battery in three hours if you have an appropriate 240V EVSE. Should you have access to one of the new SAE DC Fast Charge stations (also known as CCS), you can zip from 0-80% in under 30 minutes. On the downside, finding a CCS station proved a little tricky in the SF Bay Area where the older competing CHAdeMO standard is more common by at least 5:1. On the up-side if you can find a station it’s unlikely to be occupied since there are few vehicles on the road that support the new connector.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior Gauges-001Drive

According to VW, our e-Golf tips the scales at a svelte 3,391 lbs with 701 of that coming from the battery pack. For those that are counting, that’s only 300lbs heavier than the carbon fiber and aluminum BMW i3 REx which is significantly more expensive and actually has a smaller battery and 359lbs heavier than the Golf TSI. I should also mention that the Golf also scores better in crash tests than BMW’s light weight EV. In addition to being light for an EV, the weight is more evenly distributed than in the gasoline Golf. VW has not released exact details, but the pre-production Golf EV had a perfect 50:50 weight balance and that’s likely true for the 2015 e-Golf as well.

Although VW puts 205-width low rolling resistance tires on the e-Golf, it actually handles better than the base Golf TSI. Some of that is because the TSI gets 195s in base form, but the lower center of gravity and the improved weight balance play a large role as well. This means that unlike other EV conversions, the electric Golf isn’t the least fun trim, it actually ends up middle of the pack between the base Golf and top end TSI and TDI trims. The improved balance is obvious in neutral handling where the EV plows less than the base Golf. The added weight has a positive impact on the ride which seemed a hair more refined than the TSI a dealer lent for comparison. Steering is typical modern VW: moderately firm and accurate but lacking any real feedback.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Charging Connector

Pricing on the e-Golf initially started and ended at $35,445 due to VW’s one-trim strategy. If you qualify for the highest tax incentives available (state and local) the price drops to an effective $25,445. That’s only a hair more than a comparable gasoline model (the e-Golf SEL Premium’s feature set slots between the TSI S and TSI SE model) but higher than many of the recent mass market EVs. To solve this VW announced the arrival of the “Limited Edition” which cuts $1,995 from the price tag by de-contenting. Cloth seats replace the leatherette (I actually think that’s an upgrade), the LED headlamps are dropped and steel wheels replace the 16-inch alloys. None of those changes are a deal-breaker for me, unfortunately however the last thing on the chopping block is the heat pump. Heat pumps are much more efficient than resistive heating elements so this will mean reduced range in colder climates.

The e-Golf is less of a compromise than the 4-seat Spark and a better deal than the 4-seat i3. Nissan’s LEAF provides a little more passenger and cargo room for less, but the trade-offs include lackluster handling, fewer features and a much slower charger. When cross-shopping Fiat’s 500e you realize just how large the Golf has grown over the years. As you’d expect in a segment that is evolving this rapidly, the toughest competition is found in the other new model: the 2015 Kia Soul EV. Priced from $33,700-35,700 (before incentives) the Soul is slightly more expensive than the VW but you get considerably more for your money. The delta is most pronounced in the Soul EV + which gets real leather, cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, power folding mirrors, an 8-inch touchscreen, and about 20% more battery capacity for $225. Highlighting Kia’s deft hand at cutting the right corners, you will notice that the Soul forgoes LED headlamps, the heated windscreen and has a slightly slower charger. As impressive as the e-Golf’s curb weight is, the Soul EV manages to be a hair lighter at 3,289lbs despite the bigger battery, this weight reduction and deeper gearing allow the Soul EV to scoot to 60 one second faster. This leaves me with a split decision, the e-Golf is the better car but the Soul is the better EV with a longer range, EV focused infotainment software and niceties like the cooled seats and heated steering wheel that extend range by reducing your HVAC consumption. If VW adds a third model sporting cooled seats, real leather and drops back in the gas-Golf’s power seats, they’d have a solid alternative to the Soul EV and even the Mercedes B-Class. Just be sure to check with your tax professional before depending on those EV credits and rebates.

Volkswagen provided the vehicle, insurance and a charged battery for this review.

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 3.44 Seconds

0-60: 10.03 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 17.2 Seconds @ 82 MPH

Average Economy: 4.3 Mi/kWh

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Capsule Review: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0 “Quebec Special” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/capsule-review-2015-volkswagen-jetta-2-0-quebec-special/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/capsule-review-2015-volkswagen-jetta-2-0-quebec-special/#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2015 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1041193 Reader iMatt shares his experiences with the Volkswagen Jetta 2.0 “Quebec Special” Is the old 2.0L engine really as bad as the internet believes? I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d need to buy a second vehicle to compliment the Honda Fit shared by my girlfriend and I. That time finally […]

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Reader iMatt shares his experiences with the Volkswagen Jetta 2.0 “Quebec Special”

Is the old 2.0L engine really as bad as the internet believes?

I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d need to buy a second vehicle to compliment the Honda Fit shared by my girlfriend and I. That time finally came with a forced relocation at work and after taking many months to decide what I wanted in my next vehicle, I decided my top two priorities were value and comfort, neither of which being the focal points of the Fit.

I opted for a base model 2015 Jetta with the 2.0 L engine and 5 speed manual transmission with nary an option, not even A/C (ironically). Price after fees and taxes came to just over $17 000 CAD. Standard equipment did include amenities that were once optional such as cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, a trip computer, a back-up camera and a touch-screen head unit.

The plain exterior is a familiar sight nowadays, even with some minor tweaks for 2015. I appreciate the understated styling compared to the more stylized competitors such as the Mazda 3 or the Corolla. The Jetta just seems to have a more mature and refined air to it. My biggest complaint is that the base steel wheels look cheap and a tad undersized, luckily that’s easily remedied should I choose to do so.

The interior design reflects that of the exterior. I have to say though, I was surprised at how nice it feels. Hard plastics abound (don’t care) but materials are nice where they count. The instrument cluster and center stack are a joy to use on a daily basis, although I do lament the lack of an engine coolant temperature gauge. The gear shifter and steering wheel have nice shapes and so-so plastics but don’t offend. The 6-way adjustable driver’s seat is comfortable for my smallish frame but provides less thigh support than I would like. On the other hand, there is a fair bit of side bolstering. Larger people may find the narrow seats uncomfortable. The trunk is large as is the backseat.

My favourite attribute to the interior is the driving position combined with the low cowl. It reminds me a little of older Honda Accords providing excellent forward visibility with easy access to controls.

When I was researching this car, I could hardly find any actual reviews of the entry level engine. Even still, in most summaries, auto writers have no issue labeling it as an outdated boat anchor and as the engine to avoid at all costs. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one to try it out.

Starting with the facts: Displacement is a tad less than 2000 CCs. Output is rated at 115 HP @ 5000 RPM and 125 lb-ft @ 4000 RPM.

Initial impressions on the test drive were that the old engine is entirely adequate for normal use in town – I would even dare to say more than adequate. There’s enough torque to keep you ahead of traffic from stoplight to stoplight if that’s your thing. I found you still have to be mindful of being in the optimal gear. This engine won’t pull you out of wrong gear situations like other more powerful cars will.

The bulk of the 3000 kms I’ve put on the car thus far have come from mountainous highway driving on single lane roads. The grades are steep, corners sharp and in this region of Alberta, the pavement beat to a pulp from the plentiful heavy industrial traffic.

On rare stretches of straight and level road, the Jetta has no issues maintaining speeds of 80 – 90 MPH in 5th gear running around 3000 RPM – something that I was entirely not expecting. Passing on two lane highways is also drama free and can easily be done in 4th gear. Obviously you won’t get the effortless blast of acceleration afforded by more powerful cars, but it’s not the real world slug “enthusiasts” would lead you to believe it is.

Climbing steep grades of 7% or more will require a downshift to 4th gear, if not 3rd in some cases. Under no circumstances was I unable to maintain the posted speed limits.

Under all driving conditions, the engine has proven to be quiet and relaxed, able to do it’s job at relatively low RPMs; quite the opposite from the rev happy and noisy 1.5 L in the Fit. It even has a pleasant and unique sounding growl to it that I don’t normally associate with a 4 cylinder engine. At idle and at low engine loads, you can feel slight vibrations coming through the steering wheel. Personally, I like to be reminded I’m piloting a machine with moving parts compared say to any modern V6 sedan with an engine so isolated, you can’t even tll if it’s running. The mechanical feel is part of the driving experience, perhaps explaining why I’ve been partial to older Hondas for so long. I honestly and surprisingly have not been disappointed by this “boat anchor” of an engine.

The gear shifter is easy to use with somewhat notchy shifts at times but is still substantial feeling unlike a Honda Civic’s for example. I was a little let own and liken the feel to that of an old and tired Mazda 626 I used to own (note: 5000 km later, it seems to have loosened up a bit with a smoother action). Clutch take-up is lighter than what I was expecting but still heavier than the aforementioned Civic’s. It is easy to use and provides for no surprises.

Back on the winding roads, the ride and handling of the Jetta don’t egg you on in a playful way the Fit or a Mazda 3 do. It turns out the Jetta drives a lot like it’s styling suggests it would. The ride is on the stiff side of smooth and composed. Only twice on a 200 km stretch of bruised and battered highway did I bottom out the suspension travelling at higher rates of speed. The car feels very stable in most conditions. The same trip in the Fit was always a white knuckled affair – in a more fun but sore back kind of way. To get the same thrills in the Jetta, you’d have to travel at a pace that could land you in a lot of trouble.

Approaching the Jetta’s handling limits is smooth and predictable. Body roll, while present, is minimal and mid corner frost heaves don’t upset the balance of the car. Steering inputs are met with crisp responses but like I said earlier, the car just doesn’t change direction as eagerly as some other sporty feeling cars. Pushing the relatively high cornering limits, you can feel the moment the front tire begins to rollover onto its sidewall, not exactly fun but there it is. The steering has a lighter feel than I was expecting as well, lighter than what I would like.

The upside to the more sedate handling is a very competent highway ride. On one occasion, on these same torn up and bumpy roads, I asked my partner how fast she thought we were going without looking at the speedo, she knew why I was asking ;). Her guess was a good 30 MPH less than what our actual speed was. Somehwat faint praise, but it gives you an idea this car doesn’t feel like a cheap econobox out on the highway. Adding to the experience is a low wind and road noise level.

The brakes work. I can tell you that moderate braking from highway speeds or down steep grades is smooth and drama free. I haven’t attempted any emergency stops in reverse yet so I can’t comment on whether the rear disc brakes feel like a noticeable improvement over the old drums.

Fuel economy has been reported by the trip computer at around 8.0 L/100 KMS (29.4 MPG). This was in a driving style as explained above at temperatures ranging from -10 C to -25 C (14 F to -13 F). In my opinion, that is fantastic.

As I wrap up this review, I’ve noticed a few patterns emerge from my thoughts and reflections. The words drama free and comfortable continue to pop up throughout. I would like to reiterate that although this car and powertrain are fairly comfortable, especially for the price, it may not be ideal for lazy drivers or people who simply don’t like to drive. The powertrain does require attention to ensure you’re always making the best of the limited power available. For example, if you don’t like to plan your passing maneuvers, have trouble maintaining a constant speed even on small grades or just all around don’t pay attention to your driving, I would suggest you step up to a more powerful car.

If you’re like me however and take pleasure in anticipating the road or traffic ahead, enjoy interacting with your vehicle (and no, I don’t mean having it read your emails to you) and will sometimes go for a drive just for the sake of driving, then this car can provide a great driver’s oriented compromise.

In this neck of the woods, people (men) are quick to tell me all the time I NEED a pickup truck out here – that I’m crazy to travel on any highway in a 2wd drive vehicle. Some go as far as to say that cars shouldn’t even be allowed on the highway. I gladly point out my girlfriend got by just fine this past winter commuting within the city limits in our winter tire equipped Fit without so much as ever getting stuck.

Point being that cars are far more useful and capable than people give them credit for. The Jetta’s measly 115 HP isn’t so measly on it’s own merits and suits my needs just fine. Could I have afforded the payments on a more powerful version or even a shiny new pickup truck? -Certainly, but aside from bragging rights and rollercoaster acceleration, I’ve got other priorities at this point in my life. (Spoken like a true Canadian -DK)

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Volkswagen Opening Engineering Center In Chattanooga http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/volkswagen-opening-engineering-center-chattanooga/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/volkswagen-opening-engineering-center-chattanooga/#comments Wed, 08 Apr 2015 10:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1039529 Volkswagen is launching an engineering center at its factory in Chattanooga, Tenn. to help improve the automaker’s fortunes in the United States. Chattanooga Times Free Press reports hiring for the facility has begun, with the aim of bringing aboard 130 engineers and technicians — some of whom coming straight out of local and out-of-state universities […]

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Volkswagen Chattanooga Tower

Volkswagen is launching an engineering center at its factory in Chattanooga, Tenn. to help improve the automaker’s fortunes in the United States.

Chattanooga Times Free Press reports hiring for the facility has begun, with the aim of bringing aboard 130 engineers and technicians — some of whom coming straight out of local and out-of-state universities — by 2017, with 70 more to be hired later on.

Speaking of 2017, Volkswagen also hopes to have a new building near the factory for the engineering center, which will be housed in a vacant building on the factory grounds in the meantime. Though building costs and size haven’t been determined, VW Group of America executive vice president Dr. Matthias Erb says the new center “could have its own vehicle test track and crash facility.”

Erb adds the Chattanooga center will also be the hub of coordination for all of the automaker’s R&D, design and engineering units in the U.S. and Mexico — currently handled in Michigan and Ohio — as well as help Volkswagen better serve consumers’ needs and bring new products to market sooner for the North American market.

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New York 2015: Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Alltrack http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen-alltrack/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen-alltrack/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 23:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1033969 While we’re still waiting on powertrain specs for the Golf Alltrack, we know this – it will have AWD. The Haldex system and a 20mm raised ride height are they key specs we know right now. Jalopnik is claiming that a DSG will be mandatory but both gasoline and diesel engines will be offered. The […]

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While we’re still waiting on powertrain specs for the Golf Alltrack, we know this – it will have AWD.

The Haldex system and a 20mm raised ride height are they key specs we know right now. Jalopnik is claiming that a DSG will be mandatory but both gasoline and diesel engines will be offered.

The base Sportwagen is a great car.  Now, is this better or worse than an Audi Allroad?

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Bark’s Bites: The Good, The Not-as-Good, and the Ugly: Part One http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/barks-bites-good-not-good-ugly-part-one/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/barks-bites-good-not-good-ugly-part-one/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1031993 Thanks to our Question of the Day series, we’ve had a myriad of discussions here lately about manufacturers who have “lost their way” and whatnot as of late. My contention is that every large-scale manufacturer on the market today does things exceptionally well—the market is too competitive for them not to. Any OEM that doesn’t have […]

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Thanks to our Question of the Day series, we’ve had a myriad of discussions here lately about manufacturers who have “lost their way” and whatnot as of late. My contention is that every large-scale manufacturer on the market today does things exceptionally well—the market is too competitive for them not to. Any OEM that doesn’t have a claim to at least one niche is doomed to failure (cue the BAILOUT discussions). However, each company also has some things that they do badly—and some have things at which they are complete failures.

In preparation for this week’s New York International Auto Show, let’s take a look at what each player in the market does very well, does moderately well, and, frankly, doesn’t do well at all. This first installment will focus on the smaller volume competitors.

In reverse order of market share thus far in 2015:

DAIMLER

The Good:

Mercedes continues to be the leader in the Luxury Flagship category. The S-Class is not only the consistent volume leader in its segment, it’s the benchmark for any luxobarge that wants to try to compete. The S-Class generally outsells the A8 and the 7-Series combined in any given month.

The E-Class is Daimler’s bread-and-butter car. A friend of mine had been lusting after an M5 for literally years, but when he had finally completed his residency and was ready to buy one, he decided to go in a different direction. “The E63 AMG was just better,” he told me (I’m still bugging him to do a Reader Ride Review). And while the performance version of the E-Class has become an absolute beast, the regular old E350 is still the “I’ve made it” car in most office parks around flyover country. It, too, outsells the competition by a 2:1 ratio most months.

The Not-as-Good:

Merc has never seemed to be able to get the whole SUV thing down. My pops had an ML class up until about a year ago when it was stolen from his gym’s parking lot. He was actually pretty relieved—he replaced it with a Grand Cherokee and has been much happier ever since. For whatever reason, the GL and the M just don’t have the panache of the X3 and X5. Mercedes’ SUV/CUV offerings aren’t bad, but they shout “stay-at-home Mom” much more than the offerings from the other Germans do. Since personal anecdotes are clearly the most important thing when ranking vehicles, I’ll just point that a colleague of mine nearly jumped out of his shoes to tell me that the GL he was driving the other day was his wife’s car, not his.

How do you solve a problem like the C-Class? No matter what Daimler does with it, it continuously lives in the shadow of the 3-Series. Back when I was doing a little entry-level German performance sedan shopping a few years back, I cross-shopped the C 300, the 335i, and the A4/S4. My friend who was tagging along made the following comment: “Everything about the C-Class just feels…old.” While there’s plenty to like about the C-Class, there just doesn’t seem to be any reason to pick it over the competition unless you’re a Mercedes brand junkie.

The Ugly:

The CLA. The CLA. God, the CLA. Have you ever seen another car that screams, “Hi, I’m an idiot!” on the road like the CLA 250 does? The BMW 320i and the Audi A3 can be defended as choices—particularly the A3. The CLA is a perfect car for a Delta Delta Delta whose daddy is footing the lease bill. For everybody else, it’s a wretched choice. And if you’re going to come back at me with “What about the CLA45?” then I can only assume you’ve never heard of something we in America like to call the MUSTANG GT.

MAZDA

The Good:

MX-5. It’s an icon, and I don’t think that I really need to expand much on one of the three most popular cars at TTAC. No matter what they’ve done with the newest generation, it’s guaranteed to be good.

The CX-5 is the only car that you can recommend to virtually anybody and be assured that they’ll like it. Younger people like the sportiness. Families like the versatility. Older people like the size and the ride height. Everybody likes the price. It’s the best car vehicle in its segment. Doesn’t sell like it, though.

The Mazda6 wins every comparison test it enters. Seriously. It’s the undisputed champion of the mid-sized sedan segment. It’s the best-looking, the best-driving, and the only car in CamCordima land that lets people know that you actually cared about your vehicle choice. Yet nobody, and I mean, nobody actually buys it. Every other vehicle in the segment outsells it by at least 5:1.

The Not-as-Good:

Somebody get our Managing Editor some Tums for this one, because I’m gonna have to put the Mazda3 here. Is it a very good car? Absolutely. Does it deserve to be priced the way it is? Absolutely not. While the 3’s base price is competitive, once options start being added, it gets very expensive, very quickly. For example, to move up from 155 HP to the 184 HP 2.5 liter engine with an automatic transmission, you’re looking at an MSRP of $27,415. That’s kinda insane. It’s hard to find a trim level of the 3 where the Focus, Elantra, Cruze, or Civic don’t make a little more sense. If it’s driving dynamics you’re after, I can see why you’d go for the base manual transmission car, though. Cut the price by a grand on each trim (and real-world pricing is close to that), and it goes back up to the “good” category. [No disagreement here. In Canada, it is priced much more aggressively than in the United States. My car is equivalent to a 2.oi Touring, which goes for $21k USD. I paid the equivalent of $16k USD.-DK]

The Ugly:

Mazda does everything well, save one thing: marketing. They have the worst dealer network in America—many of them are leftovers from the Ford partnership, and you can guess how many Ford stores focus on selling Mazdas nowadays. Their advertising strategy can be flat out baffling. I got my Mazda CX-7 back in 2008 because they advertised a $199 a month with zero down 36 month lease. I have no idea what a CX-5 leases for today, and neither does anybody else because Mazda never advertises it. I’m not sure how Mia Hamm or Penn and Teller help Mazda sell cars, but by the tumbleweed blowing through Mazda dealerships lately, I don’t think anybody else knows, either.

VOLKSWAGEN AUTO GROUP

I’m going to differentiate between Vee Dub, Porsche, and Audi here.

VOLKSWAGEN

The Good:

The GTI is pure wizardry. It’s like VW took all of its R&D budget and just decided, “Screw it—let’s make at least ONE good car.” The new GTI is Volkswagen at its purest—a small (for today’s standards), affordable (again, for today’s standards) car that at least makes one question whether or not the Fiesta ST is the best smiles-per-dollar value. It’s good that the GTI is so good, because…

The Not-as-Good:

Not only do I not have anything else to put in the “Good” category, I don’t have anything for the “Not-as-Good” category either. I could probably put the Golf R somewhere in this category, but I haven’t driven one, so I can’t say. I also suspect it will be rendered moot by the arrival of the Focus RS in the States.

The Ugly:

Volkswagen has made some truly bizarre decisions regarding its lineup for the US market. I don’t even consider any of the VWs in the rental aisle, anymore. The Passat, Jetta, and Golf are so far behind their competition that I honestly don’t know how VW stores are keeping the lights on. Why is it that the interior quality is so good in the GTI and so abysmal in the Jetta? I had a 1994 MK III Jetta once—I believe it might have been the first one sold in Ohio in 1993. It wasn’t a fast car. It had roll-up windows. It had wheel covers. But at least it had character. Volkswagen has managed to do the impossible—along with all of the other decontenting, it has removed all of the fun and personality from its cars.

AUDI

The Good:

Audi seems to be doing the “entry-level luxury” thing better than anybody else. The A3, while it shares the MQB platform with the rather drab Golf, shines in comparison with the 320i and the CLA 250, perhaps because it seems truer to the Audi brand than either of its main competitors do to their own. If I were in the market for such a vehicle, there’s no doubt that the A3 would be the pick.

Along those same lines, the S3 are RS7 are both compelling choices in their respective categories. In fact, if I could buy any car on sale in America right now, I would likely choose the RS7 ( I even made it the star of a short story once).

The Not-as-Good

The Audi Q line has always struck me as a bit…odd. I get the feeling that the folks at Audi know that they need a CUV/SUV line for America, but that their hearts just aren’t in it. I like the vehicle, overall. They drive well, they’re well assembled—I even knew a guy once who used a Q5 to tow his S2000 to autocrosses. I’m just not sure who the audience is for these things.

The Bad

The A4 isn’t what it once was—well, actually, that’s not true. It’s exactly what it once was. The A4 seems like it’s stuck in a time warp, riding on a platform that is going on seven years old. The only reason to choose the A4 over a 328i or C300 is price, and I think Audi knows it.

PORSCHE

The Good:

I haven’t driven a Porsche in aggression since about 2008 (except for when I drove David Walton’s GT3 for about five miles and missed third gear every. single. time.), so I might be a bit out of date here. That being said, I have heard nothing about the Cayman GT4 that doesn’t make it seem like it’s the second coming. So that’s good.

I trust the guys at R&T when they say that the 991 is the best new Performance Car for 2015, too.

The Not-as-Good:

The Cayenne is probably the vehicle most responsible for the shark-jumping of the luxury SUV craze. Once Porsche did it over a decade ago, it no longer seemed (quite as) strange for manufacturers like Lamborghini, Bentley, and others to make a crossover. It’s still Porsche’s best selling model, even if it doesn’t seem as ubiquitous as it once did—certainly it has lost some sales to its own internal competition, which leads me to…

The Ugly:

The Macan is just a straight-up cash grab by a manufacturer whose nameplate used to actually mean something. I find it hard to believe that Porsche is willing to sully its once-proud name for 600 units a month of Macan sales, but apparently, they are.

But even the Macan makes the Panamera look bad. Panameras are really only sold in three parts of the country—LA, NYC, and Atlanta (to Porsche executives). With the exception of a mild facelift in 2013, the Panamera has been essentially the same since launch, making it look old and tired in comparison to cars like the RS7, the BMW M6 Gran Coupe, or the CLS63 AMG. And in order to get a Panamera that will compete with those cars on the track, you’ll need to step up to the Panamera Turbo, which means you’ll have spent enough money to buy almost two RS7s.

 

See? It’s not that easy to simply exclude a manufacturer. It will get even harder in the coming days, as we move into some higher-volume automakers. Next up: A trio of Japanese companies (Nissan, Honda, and Subaru) as well as the Korean conglomerate of Hyundai/Kia.

 

 

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Volkswagen Bringing Aggressive Crossover Styling To USDM Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/volkswagen-bringing-aggressive-crossover-styling-usdm-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/volkswagen-bringing-aggressive-crossover-styling-usdm-market/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 10:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029713 Feeling its style isn’t metal as it could be, Volkswagen is unleashing a more aggressive language for its upcoming compact and midsize crossovers. Automotive News reports the crossovers’ styling will take cues from the T-Roc and Cross Coupe GTE concepts, including sharp-angled character lines, notch-tooth grills, and imposing faces. Design boss Klaus Bischoff says the […]

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Feeling its style isn’t metal as it could be, Volkswagen is unleashing a more aggressive language for its upcoming compact and midsize crossovers.

Automotive News reports the crossovers’ styling will take cues from the T-Roc and Cross Coupe GTE concepts, including sharp-angled character lines, notch-tooth grills, and imposing faces. Design boss Klaus Bischoff says the new language is needed to help make a stronger impact in the United States market, considering that the automaker’s 2 percent market share pales in comparison to the double-digits it enjoys in Europe, China and other global markets.

Bischoff admits that the more conservative Euro-centric approach to design had been the company’s philosophy “for a long time,” adding that while it did work in Europe, it didn’t seem to be “the remedy for the rest of the world.”

The first model to wear the new design language will be the seven-passenger midsize crossover — pulling cues from the Cross Coupe GTE — set to leave Chattanooga in 2016. This will be followed by a redesigned Tiguan and a Golf-based crossover — the latter taking its style from the T-Roc — both due in 2017.

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A New VW Van? We’re Trying To Remember The Flop That Was The Volkswagen Routan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-vw-van-trying-remember-flop-volkswagen-routan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-vw-van-trying-remember-flop-volkswagen-routan/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 11:21:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1027545 TTAC’s managing editor, Derek Kreindler, used an interesting phrase last Friday. “Well, this ought to erase memories of the Routan,” Derek wrote. Memories? Of the Routan? Who has memories of the Volkswagen Routan? Hardly anyone, that’s who. Because even by the standards of minivan flops – and there’ve been more than a couple – the […]

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2009 Volkswagen RoutanTTAC’s managing editor, Derek Kreindler, used an interesting phrase last Friday. “Well, this ought to erase memories of the Routan,” Derek wrote.

Memories? Of the Routan?

Who has memories of the Volkswagen Routan?

Hardly anyone, that’s who. Because even by the standards of minivan flops – and there’ve been more than a couple – the Routan’s failure to capture market share ranks up near the top with the Hyundai Entourage and Buick Terraza. That’s right: two Rs, one Z, Terraza. Like a terrace. Like a terrace you almost jumped off after first spotting one in the wild.

In its best year on sale in the United States, Volkswagen reported 15,961 Routan sales, a 9% year-over-year increase compared with 2009 that preceded four consecutive years of decline. All-time, between the latter part of 2008 and the early part of 2014, VW USA reported barely more than 60,000 Routan sales; 60,197 to be precise.

Between 2008 and 2014, the same vans from Chrysler and Dodge generated 1.61 million U.S. sales.

chrysler van sales chartOf course, the Town & Country and Grand Caravan were more readily available. But why wouldn’t they be? Consumers could visit their local Chrysler or Dodge dealer and spend less on the same product. Those are the vans people will want, not the Volkswagen, so the plant didn’t spent nearly as much time slapping VW badges on grilles as they did Chrysler and Dodge logos. Turns out, minivan buyers didn’t want to appear as though they fell like Andre Agassi for Brooke Shields’ tricks. German engineering, Brooke? In the words of TTAC’s founder, Robert Farago, “Well, some German engineering. Done in America. Presumably by Americans.”

And then, I might add, put into practice by Canadian auto workers in Windsor, Ontario.

But rather than rehash the fact that 2007, the Hyundai Entourage’s best year, was kinder to the Hyundai than the Routan’s best year (2010) was to the Volkswagen, or the fact that Buick sold 4327 more Terraces in its best year, 2005, than the Routan did in its best year, let’s just applaud Volkswagen USA for even considering the importing of a genuine Volkswagen van. They’ve had some success doing so in the past, you may recall.

They’ve also shown us some stunning concepts, including the Microbus and the Bulli.

Sure, the minivan segment is stagnant, but the fast-growing commercial van market can be thoroughly explored. No, we’re not product planners – although with a toddler and a big dog I may wish I was a minivan product planner – but we do recognize that Volkswagen USA may need to expand its portfolio if any kind of success is to be met in the coming years.

http---o.aolcdn.com-hss-storage-midas-e5d1c9474f6c099abe418721a512d550-201718780-VW-T6-TeaserYou can quite rightly argue that niche products like the disallowed Scirocco and Polo GTI are nothing more than low-hanging fruit for malcontent North American VW enthusiasts, vehicles which lack the possibility of adding measurable long-term benefit to the product range. But at what point does Volkswagen consider the possibility that the automaker is harming the brand’s own image with their own fans by keeping products away from North America, thus hampering the success of products that are actually sold here?

Surely a return to the brand’s illustrious van heritage would do the brand favours. While also erasing memories of the Routan, even if only a handful of people actually possess Routan-centric memories.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Volkswagen’s Next Van Could Preview Future Product For United States http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/volkswagens-next-van-preview-future-product-united-states/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/volkswagens-next-van-preview-future-product-united-states/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 17:08:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1026089 Well, this ought to erase memories of the Routan. Hot on the heels of news that VW may bring a van or a pickup to America comes a preview for their new van, dubbed the T6. Ubiquitous in world markets, the VW vans don’t follow the traditional American minivan formula, but are available in endless […]

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http---o.aolcdn.com-hss-storage-midas-e5d1c9474f6c099abe418721a512d550-201718780-VW-T6-Teaser

Well, this ought to erase memories of the Routan.

Hot on the heels of news that VW may bring a van or a pickup to America comes a preview for their new van, dubbed the T6. Ubiquitous in world markets, the VW vans don’t follow the traditional American minivan formula, but are available in endless configurations for personal or commercial use. With the rise of the Ram ProMaster, Ford Transit and Mercedes Metris, perhaps there’s a case to be made for European-style vans from VW?

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Dispatches do Brasil: How Volkswagen Lost the Market, Part II (1990s to present) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/dispatches-brasil-volkswagen-lost-market-part-ii-1990s-present/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/dispatches-brasil-volkswagen-lost-market-part-ii-1990s-present/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 13:45:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1025401 And then came the 90s. With democracy finally back, a new Constitution, and new economic ideas and policies forcing the market open, the slow pace of the 80s suddenly gave way to much friskier times. General Motors was the first to make use of the opportunities, they would import systems and brought on the best […]

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Lula Inauguração

And then came the 90s.

With democracy finally back, a new Constitution, and new economic ideas and policies forcing the market open, the slow pace of the 80s suddenly gave way to much friskier times. General Motors was the first to make use of the opportunities, they would import systems and brought on the best Opel had to offer. The Corsa was launched and soon had long waiting lists and people paying over list price. It followed Fiat’s plan, a small car with lots of color and accessory options. Two door and four doors. Soon, sedan, station wagon and a pickup version. All highly successful, all putting pressure on the Gol and derivatives.

Fiat reacted and launched the Palio. The Palio gave birth to the Siena sedan, Palio Weekend station wagon and the famous Strada pickup. What did Volkswagen do? They killed the Voyage (the Gol-derived sedan) and ceded that market that was just about to explode to the Siena and Corsa sedan. They finally redesigned the Gol, giving it the same rounded design as Palio and Corsa, but insisted on their mistakes. Again, and inexplicably, that first round Gol only came with two doors, kept the longitudinal engine. Not only that, but there was no more Voyage, and the Parati station wagon was only offered with two doors. That led to a total Palio Weekend dominance of that market. In time it would outsell the Parati 2-1.

The 90s also brought forth the first rumblings in Brazil of Volkswagen reliability woes. As both Fiat and GM small cars gained better and better market recognition for their quality, Volkswagen’s reputation started to sag. Unfortunately for them, this hit at the core of their line, the Gol. The Gol 16v and Gol Turbo were launched to great fanfare. Sporting new engines, they had lubrication issues and most people were loath to keep a Gol 16v past 50,000 km. Meanwhile, both GM’s Family I and Fiat’s FIRE engine lines would go on to great acclaim, being that Fiat cars would routinely beat VW’s in mechanic’s recommendation surveys.

On the regulatory front, Volkswagen seemed to have forgotten how to play. In the 90s, due to new petroleum discoveries, prevailing low prices and maker interest, Brazil would ease up its ethanol affliction and go gasoline. In an effort to keep consumption low, the government cooked up a different taxation regime. Instead of taxing cars based on horsepower figures, the basis would now be displacement. This created a new category, the 1.0 L car. At first, this cars would be exempt from some taxes and at launch they cost the equivalent of US$7,500. As it so happens, Fiat had an engine just like that ready for launch and no more than 4 months after the new tax scheme was announced, the Uno Mille was launched. In the beginning as Spartan as could be (non-reclining front seats, no glovebox cover, 4 speed) and only 48 hp; it was nonetheless a great success.

Other makers scrambled and put forth on the market the best they could. GM launched a 1.0 Chevette dubbed Junior, while Ford foisted a 1.0 Escort, christened Hobby. In a testament to how weak-sauced these ideas were, they were abandoned when their makes got around to launching the Corsa and the Fiesta. Volkswagen? They lobbied hard and got a special exemption for the, wait for it, Fusca. Yes, the Beetle. It made a comeback and was produced. In the 1990s. Though it appealed to older and nostalgic folk, the car was basically a laughingstock for most non VW enthusiasts and even some VW apologists were aghast. After two short years, the car was again pulled, quietly, from the market while VW finally launched 1.0 L Gol.

In the late 90s and early 00s, Volkswagen made a comeback. They launched the Fox and the Polo. However, these again underlined some fundamental problems at Volkswagen Brazil. The Fox was so Spartan at first it hurt. It also came at a time when other Brazilian small cars were vastly improving their interiors. It had an embarrassingly small instrument cluster that was gimmicky and unloved. And again, it was launched as a two door and stayed that way for more than a couple of years. It also began chopping off owners fingers. This happened because the car has rather large and heavy seats and when an owner would try to collapse them back into place, unfortunately the natural position of his hands would be exactly in the place the seat clumped down and fastened. As the scandal hit the press and the press was out for blood, VW defended itself by saying that in the manual it showed how it should be done. The press countered by showing the exported Foxes had plastic protections on the metallic bits, a more detailed manual and a fabric strip to slow the seats moving back into their position. Meanwhile, the Polo was expensive and unapologetic for that as well as easily robbed.

The Volkswagen stance on denying anything wrong continued in those areas, too. This made for a great show. And hammered away at VW’s reputation in Brazil. As time wore on, insurance on Volkswagen cars became pricier and pricier. So much so that the press finally picked up on it. It would seem that at that time all of VW’s Brazilian line was easily robbed. All it took was sticking a screwdriver into the key hole and turning it the other way. That would not only unlock the car, but also turn off the alarm. Besides that, unlike the competition, Volkswagen ignition system was the basic stuff. Meanwhile, other makers in Brazil had some sort of key recognition technology, making the cars harder to start (and rob) if the system didn’t recognize the key. It got so bad that the Parati had insurance quotes of half the car’s asking price. Volkswagen’s answer? The British gentleman, president of VW do Brasil at the time, suggested that Brazilian car robbers had good taste. It would take VW more than ten years to change the system and mark from the factory major systems in their cars… At the same time, the Palio Weekend killed the Parati and the Strada pickup trounced the Saveiro (Gol-derived pickup).

In 2003, Volkswagen reacted. Taking a page from their history, they invited then President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to their factory to reenact the famous Juscelino Kubitschek picture. All for the launch of the first flex fuel car. According to them the first in the world (the Ford T would beg to differ). As has been said, history can only be repeated as a farce or as comedy…

However, despite dubious claims, the car did set the trend. 12 years later, all cars in Brazil are now flex fuel and VW got a respite. In another important aspect, they were uncharacteristically quick. In an era when manuals cars are slowly being replaced in Brazil, Volkswagen was the first to launch a mono-automated gearbox in Brazil. This system does away with the clutch, though the mechanical bits are still there, but it shifts for you. Not only that, but its system is better calibrated than Fiat’s so it shifts better. And it’s less expensive than a true automatic.

The Gol too has been modernized. Sitting now on the last generation Polo’s platform, it was launched to great success and gained more distance between it and main rivals Uno and Palio. In the crucial 1.0 L category however, the car had problems right off the bat. Volkswagen erred on the oil specification and the new EA engine would die prematurely. Also, there were problems with the windshield and how it was affixed. Owners would park their cars for the night and the next day would find them in the garage would broken windshields. Though the problems were eventually solved, amid no mea culpas from Volkswagen, this opened the doors a bit more for the competition.

As noted in the beginning of this series, VW once had a market participation of around 70%. As competition grew, Volkswagen showed an unwillingness or incapability of adjusting. Of course, keeping that mark is impossible, but I believe that as result of that, VW was used to setting the template and selling anything it launched. This characteristic has led to its downfall. In 2014 it was third in Brazil, and the Gol lost the sales title. What is the cause of this?

Some have suggested a managerial attitude that borders on arrogance. In a related, but not quite the same reasoning, some think there is a cultural ethos that impedes the company from seeing the writing on the wall and adjusting. Exactly what is so hard about painting your car in metallic colors (like in the 80s)? Or offering up 4 doors when that is clearly what the market wants (a trend that began in the 80s in Brazil and VW only adapted to, with exceptions (!) in the 90s)? Or simply paying attention to the market and not downgrading your car’s finishing (Fox and Gol G4) when everyone else was upgrading?

In the last couple of years, Volkswagen has finally started revamping its Brazilian line. The Polo is gone, and the Golf G4 has finally ended production (Brazil skipped 3 generations of the Golf) and the G7 is now a reality. The Gol G5 (and now 6) has finally joined its peers in terms of build and layout, rendering a good, competitive car, while most of the kinks seem to have been worked out. The up! has come to substitute the Gol G4 and is finally gaining some traction in the market moving into the top 10. However, it could be cannibalizing the more expensive Gol as in February 2015 the Gol placed 8th in monthly sales, and that would be its worst month in 32 years. Also, happily, until now, nothing catastrophic has happened to VW’s all new three-cylinder engine powering the all important Fox, Gol and up! 1.0s.

However, as I have noted before in many articles on the Brazilian car market, our market is undergoing a major change. Private consumers are rejecting entry-level base cars in favor of better equipped cars. Most cars sold to private buyers come with AC, power windows and steering. Not to mention some have the so-called nice-to-have features that do not condemn a deal if not available, but surely move the car faster (especially if modestly prices, most especially if it is part of the car). Chevrolet’s Onix success is no doubt in large part do to one such feature. It comes with a multimedia center in almost all versions. Meanwhile, all Fiat’s Unos and Palios (except those destined for fleets) come with air-conditioning and power steering.

As always, Volkswagen do Brasil has been slow on these fronts. This sort of equipment is optional on most of their small car line and au contraire to competitors’ the lower priced models made for ad purposes seem to be the standard. In 2015, Volkswagen only has to look at its own sales numbers to see how much this new reality is true. The Fox, more expensive than Gol or up!, but better equipped than either, is their best seller so far this year.

The market has also changed in other ways. The Voyage is a smallish sedan when other sedans that compete directly with it are larger (Renault Logan, Fiat Grand Siena, GM Cobalt). Volkswagen has no small CUV à la Ford EcoSport, Renault Duster, Jeep Renegade. It has no minivan, Fiat Idea, Chevrolet Spin, Nissan Livina.

Hubris. The waste of many a good man. Let’s hope Volkswagen can avoid this trap or else the expression that Volkswagen is as Brazilian as feijoada will become as outdated as their leadership in Brazil.

Lula Inauguração

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Dispatches do Brasil: How Volkswagen Lost the Market, Part I (1950s-1980s) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/dispatches-brasil-volkswagen-lost-market-part-1950s-1980s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/dispatches-brasil-volkswagen-lost-market-part-1950s-1980s/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 17:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1024817 There are a couple of things that mark Brazilians of all stripes. Football (the “real” world type) is surely one. There are many others. “Feijoada” is something almost every Brazilian loves, and the “caipirinha” drink has been a constant forever. However, things change. Brazilians now drink more beer than “cachaça” that is the basis for […]

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JK Fusca

There are a couple of things that mark Brazilians of all stripes. Football (the “real” world type) is surely one. There are many others. “Feijoada” is something almost every Brazilian loves, and the “caipirinha” drink has been a constant forever. However, things change. Brazilians now drink more beer than “cachaça” that is the basis for caipirinha and the city of São Paulo boast more sushi bars than Tokyo and eats more pizza than Rome, Milan and Turin combined.

In terms of cars, things change as well. Elected in the mid 1950s, President Juscelino Kubitschek determined that Brazilians would build and buy their own cars. He did so by launching his “Plano de Metas” (Objectives Plan) in 1956 that promised to make Brazil grow 50 years in half a decade (his mandate). Actually, this was deepening of the course Brazil had been following since after the Second World War and as a reaction to a then largely agricultural based economy devastated by the effects of the New York Crash.

The plan followed the substitution of importations ideal. Brazil would not depend on others anymore. As such Petrobras was created, the steel industry (on a grand scale) was re-launched, the road network was incredibly grown, an “interiorization” of Brazil was promoted, agriculture was modernized to produce more food and open up new frontiers, locally built heavy machinery was incentivized and so on. By the time the above mentioned President was elected, several bottlenecks were identified and his plan sought to address them and deepen the process.

And by golly it worked. Sticking to motor vehicles, from 1957 to 1968 the car fleet exploded 360%, buses skyrocketed 194% and trucks boomed by 167%. In this context, and due to its success, Volkswagen become unequivocally associated in Brazil and became Brazilian. Though a late comer here (installed in 1953 while Ford and GM have been present here for more than 90 years), Volkswagen was a key player and made very good use of the Plan’s attention to motorizing Brazilians. In fact, the President attended the launch of the Fusca (Beetle) and his famous photo in the factory on-board a convertible Beetle became “the” image of the inauguration of the Brazilian car industry and many think of that as the first Brazilian car.

That picture of course hides as much as it enlightens. The Fusca was not the first Brazilian-built car and that Fusca was the only convertible one ever built in Brazil. Nonetheless, the image stuck. Also, undeniably, the Fusca was (almost) perfect for Brazilians at the time. It sold so much, that to many it is the car that put Brazilians on wheels. 53% of cars sold in Brazil in 1967 were Fuscas. In the late 60s and early 70s almost 3 in 4 cars sold in Brazil were “Volks” (as we say here). Over this time VW do Brasil would add a number of Fusca-derived cars to its stable, the Brasilia, TL, Karmann Ghia, SPI and II. On the commercial vehicle side, the Kombi (Bus) dominated and was many a working Brazilian’s car. The first non-Beetle related Brazilian VW was the 70s Passat.

The Beetle was the leader from its launch until 1980. Only the following year would it relinquish the title to the Fiat 147 that would lead until 1983. From 1984-1986, a non-small car, the Chevrolet Monza would be the leader in a historical fluke that punctuates how deep the recession was in those days (only rich people were buying cars), while a Volkswagen, the Gol, would take the top spot in 1987 and only let go of it in 2014. In 27 years, the Gol would outsell the Fusca by a very large margin and would lose the monthly crown only a few times, to rivals from Fiat (Tipo, Palio and Uno).

The ongoing success of the Gol hid a salient fact. Volkswagen was and is not the most sold car brand in Brazil anymore. Hasn’t been for more than a decade. During the last few years, it actually became closer to falling to number 3 than regaining number 1 (as it did last year when GM outsold it).

So what happened?

In the text until now, there are a couple of tips. If you read carefully you will see passing mentions of a couple of other brands. In a nutshell, Fiat happened.

In the 50s, Volkswagen had the right product at the right time. The Beetle and Kombi were cheaper than the others in their respective arenas and by force of numbers and simplicity grew a reputation for ruggedness and reliability that could not be overcome. So from the 50s to the 70s a comfortable pattern emerged, Volkswagen on top, selling cheap cars, General Motors and Ford battling it out for second place. Those three together combined to weed out the less strong, like Ford buying out Willys Overland, DKW being absorbed into VW and Chrysler resisting until the 70s when the hard knocks of the oil crisis, Brazilians’ growing preference for Euro cars and Lee Iaccoca’s retrenchment into America led to it being sold in Brazil (VW picked up the spoils). From that time, only Toyota survived as an independent maker here, but it only made in very small numbers a version of the first generation Land Cruiser, called Bandeirantes, for 40 years and refused to jump into the middle of the fray.

In 1976, Fiat came to Brazil. Making use of generous incentives from the state of Minas Gerais (which extended credit lines, donated land, etc. with the understanding that Fiat would buy back the state’s participation after a period), they built what would become the second largest factory in the world today producing almost 3,000 cars a day. The endeavor was so successful that Fiat paid off the state before the deadline.

The car Fiat launched was the 147. In a market closed off to imports, the impact of that car cannot be understated. Front wheel drive, diminutive dimensions, crumple zones. All quite shocking. Of course, the jokes came fast and thick, but the little car shook them all off. It was also the first car that spawned a family. Up till now, most cars were sedans and some offered a station wagon variant. The 147 started off as a hatch, but Fiat managed to build a sedan, station wagon, delivery van, passenger van and pick up off of the same project. It also followed in Volkswagen’s footsteps and played the regulatory game well. It was the first mass produced car to run on ethanol just as Brazil was swinging into an all out ethanol strategy. That is a crucial development and led to its leadership in the early 80s.

Of course, the car had some problems. A cranky gearbox, an aversion to water (due to a badly placed distributor that could and did get wet driving over large puddles of water, a very common thing here), a need to keep an eye on the timing belt, but soon these characteristics were absorbed and people could see the strong points, more space inside than competitors (transverse engine), a nice trunk, economy, resistance.

In 1984, the Uno was launched. It took the best of the 147 and added to it. It was bigger, with a larger boot, more comfortable, less noisy. It also gave rise to a large family, including the very successful Fiorino van and pickup variants (that slowly and surely ate away at the Kombi’s commercial vehicle dominance). Volkswagen meanwhile seemed intent on remaining “deitado em berço esplendido” (lying down on a splendid crib, as the song says and is so often repeated when referring to Brazil as a country). It kept on producing the Beetle and derivatives. The Passat died. Volkswagen was torn between following the market and keeping its until then perceived selling points (and stressed and stressed ad nauseam in their ads). Air-cooled engines, rear-mounted engines, back wheel drive.

In 1984, Volkswagen finally hit upon a solution. They launched their Gol. Aggressively-styled, it looked like VW had finally made it into the 80s. It was front-wheel drive, had decent interior dimensions, engine in front and a real trunk. However, in signs of what VW would later do by displaying an unjustifiable stubbornness, which contributed to their downfall, the engine was longitudinally-mounted (robbing internal real estate) and…air-cooled. Only the 1986 version, finally launched with a larger engine and water-cooled, would the car take off and the Gol would go on its 27 year joyride.

That would be the 80s for you. A slow, apparently grudging VW renaissance with the Gol spouting a family (very successful), GM in second holding on, while Fiat would slowly pass Ford and become in reach of the larger Volkswagen and GM while Ford would wither into a lagging fourth place. In a closed market, changes were small, but meaningful. Fiat began painting their small cars in metallic shades. Bright reds, blues, green. Even black (a color until then apparently reserved only for larger cars). They built their cars with four doors. Changed the wheel covers every year. In a stagnant market, all the moves, big and small, caught a lot of attention. But it was not only that, their small cars offered AC, power windows before anyone else. There was also some financial trickery. In a time of rampant inflation, VW would raise the prices of their cars fist. The next day so would GM and Ford. Fiat would stave off the increase for a week or two. This meant that for sometimes half a month, their cars would be significantly cheaper, sometimes by 20 or 30 percent.

There was also the issue of Autolatina. Ford was by the 80s the sick man in the Brazilian car-scape. Unable or unwilling to sell their euro Fiesta here, they had the ancient Corcel family and the Escort. None competed on price and Ford engines were weak in comparison. Ford struck a deal with Volkswagen. In return for VW engines, they would build and label some of their cars as Volkswagens. As VW was the controlling partner, they kept the best to themselves. They launched Escort-derived VW versions, while Ford got the engines and a Santana-derived luxury car. Neither fared well. The VW faithful largely reneged the Escort based Pointer and Logus. In an inexplicable decision, the hatch Pointer only came with four doors, while the sedan Logus with two. That as much as anything else explains the flop of these cars. And VW’s unwillingness or incapacity to bend to market desires.

 

 

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Volkswagen Considering Trucks, Vans For US Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/volkswagen-considering-trucks-vans-us-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/volkswagen-considering-trucks-vans-us-market/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 13:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1024977 Long ago, Volkswagen once sold (non-Chrysler) vans, utes and trucks in the United States. Those days may come again. According to Bloomberg, VW North America light commercial vehicle boss Eckhard Scholz said the automaker was looking into bringing a van and/or a pickup into the U.S. market to help bolster its overall range, as well […]

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Long ago, Volkswagen once sold (non-Chrysler) vans, utes and trucks in the United States. Those days may come again.

According to Bloomberg, VW North America light commercial vehicle boss Eckhard Scholz said the automaker was looking into bringing a van and/or a pickup into the U.S. market to help bolster its overall range, as well as drive more sales on its way to catching up — and one day, surpass — both Toyota and General Motors.

Potential models include the Amarok pickup, as well as the Caddy, Crafter and T5 vans and minibuses. VW’s global light commercial unit sold 445,000 models around the world last year, compared to the 366,970 models from the automaker’s USDM range over the same period. Overall global sales in 2014 came to over 10 million units.

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A Modest Proposal: Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen 2.0T http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/modest-proposal-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen-2-0t/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/modest-proposal-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen-2-0t/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 17:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1024161 A Modest Proposal is a new feature where we advocate for more exciting variants of existing cars. Unlike other columns that do the same, we’ll take a look at products that actually stand a chance of making the business case, and how that can be met. I know, I know, not as fun as asking […]

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jetta20tfront

A Modest Proposal is a new feature where we advocate for more exciting variants of existing cars. Unlike other columns that do the same, we’ll take a look at products that actually stand a chance of making the business case, and how that can be met. I know, I know, not as fun as asking for cab-over rear drive vans and station wagons. If you want that, you’re in the wrong place. -DK

With the introduction of the MKV Volkswagen Jetta, VW re-introduced the much-loved GLI as a full member of the range (rather than the late cycle special edition of the MKIV). But in Canada, it took the GLI a full model year to be introduced. Canadian customers got a model dubbed the 2.0T that featured the same 2.0T engine, a sports suspension and 17″ wheels. Among from the 2.0T were the the 18″ wheels, low profile tires, bodykit and plaid fabric seats, all of which came on the GLI. It was basically a “normcore” GLI, and it ended up being the car that replaced my father’s 2003 BMW 530i.

In retrospect, it couldn’t have been a more perfect car for my Dad. It had all of the GLI’s sport bits (suspension, engine, the option of a DSG gearbox), but nothing overly juvenile (hard ride, big alloys, aero kit). It was astonishing value, costing thousands less than an equivalent Acura TSX, while offering performance more akin to the Subaru Legacy 2.5GT – but without the spartan interior.

Driving the Golf Sportwagen, particularly the 1.8TSI version, made me long for a version like the 2.0T. It would have just enough power and handling capabilities to be a a lot of fun in spirited, everyday driving. At the limit handling would be dialed back due to the need for a bit more comfort than you’d get from a GTI or Golf R, not to mention longer-wearing tires, but the stock chassis and suspension setup is most of the way there. The old 2.0T, at least in the first few years, was only available fully loaded. You got your choices of colors and transmissions, but that was it. In return for spending big bucks on a Jetta, you got everything VW had to offer at the time. This kind of packaging presumably cut down on assembly complexities and let VW make money on a smaller car by loading it with margin-rich features. I think the same formula would work on the Sportwagen as well. The 1.8TSI engine is adequate for the Sportwagen, but if you want more real world grunt, you have to step up to the diesel – and that’s not always an appealing option for American consumers.

Why not just go all out and make the case for a Golf Sportwagen R? Well, this is called “A Modest Proposal”. We’re here to discuss combinations and variants that stand a chance of making it into the lineup with minimal fuss and maximum payoff for the auto maker. A Golf R is a lot closer to $40,000 than the $30,000 price tag of a loaded up TDI Sportwagen. No matter how many people on the internet are clamoring for one, it pales in comparison to the number of people that would buy one. On the other hand, a 2.0T variant that doesn’t need all-wheel drive, can be built in Mexico and sold for somewhere just south of $35,000? Not nearly as exciting, but a lot more realistic.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 12:45:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1020681 At the launch event for the Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen in Austin, Texas, a chat with one gentleman from Volkswagen AG turns to a discussion of old Saab rally cars and his affinity for Swedish cars. The future of Saab seems up in the air, but in his mind, Volvo’s is more clear-cut. “These next few […]

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TSISE1

At the launch event for the Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen in Austin, Texas, a chat with one gentleman from Volkswagen AG turns to a discussion of old Saab rally cars and his affinity for Swedish cars. The future of Saab seems up in the air, but in his mind, Volvo’s is more clear-cut. “These next few months will be crucial,” he says, as talk turns to the launch of the XC90, “this is their last chance to turn things around.”

By the end of the event, I’m convinced that VW has built a better Volvo than Volvo itself.

Last year, Volvo re-introduced the station wagon to American consumers on account of popular demand from the Volvo faithful. Apparently, the longer, larger and infinitely more practical XC70 isn’t a true station wagon thanks to a slightly higher ride height and a bit of cladding. Talk about the narcissism of small differences.

What we got was the V60, which is a fine car to drive, but a poor station wagon, when examined in the context of what a Volvo station wagon traditionally is; practical, with plenty of room for people and cargo, prioritizing utility over beauty. Again, the XC70 is a better wagon, but the Puritancial enthusiasts among us refuse to accept it as a wagon. The V60 is the inverse of that formula. As much as I liked driving it, it is simply too impractical and too expensive to recommend to most people.

The best solution now comes from Volkswagen, which offers something that fills the role of a traditional station wagon while costing literally half as much as a V60. The Golf Sportwagen takes the MQB platform of the Golf, GTI and Golf R and stretches it out a bit to create a proper wagon profile. The end result is a vehicle that keeps its car-like profile, while offering more cargo space than a Mazda CX-5 or Jeep Cherokee (30.6 cubic feet with the seats up, 66.5 with the seats down). Like every other MQB car I’ve sampled, there’s plenty of space in the back for passengers too. Certainly more than the V60, not to mention the Cherokee, which is unfortunately lacking in room for anyone over 6 feet tall.

On the road, the Golf Sportwagen has the minimum amount of engagement required to keep a keen driver engaged. As Jack said, the basic Golf is a remarkably composed car for something with a giant hole in the body structure. Extrapolate that to the wagon, which has a bigger hole in it, and you get an idea of what you’re dealing with here. There’s more body roll than one would like to experience in corners, and the steering is a bit light on both weight and feel, but having driven two examples with different wheel and tire packages, I suspect that good rubber would help remedy some of these issues. On the whole, it still sits on the right side of “fun to drive”.

The new 1.8T engine isn’t bad, but the diesel is a true gem. Like any diesel, it falls off towards the upper end of the rev range, but the low-end torque more than makes up for it. It’s also remarkably smooth for a compression-ignition engine, and only when you’re outside can you hear the signature “clackclackclack” that lets you know it’s an oil-burner. But that’s a small price to pay given the numbers: 150 horsepower, 236 lb-ft of torque and 31/43 mpg city highway (42 mpg if you opt for the DSG). For me, the diesel is the obvious choice. I like the low-end torque and the refined feel, but the TSI engine has a fair bit more oomph up to (170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft) and respectable fuel economy numbers(25/35 mpg with the automatic) and the TDI may not make economic sense for many drivers. Caveat emptor and all that.

The interior materials and quality appear to be head and shoulders above the competition. As my drive partner, Jalopnik’s Patrick George, said “getting into a Focus after a Golf is a lesson in abject disappointment.” I think it’s even better than the new A3, which really does look like a cut rate Audi. My main gripe is the antiquated looking infotainment system and the lack of a USB port. Both of those will be fixed for model year 2016, when Apple CarPlay and Android support will be added, as well as somewhere to plug your devices in. The overall styling of the car isn’t going to incite sexual arousal in any human being, but it looks elegant in a restrained sort of way, like a pretty girl does when wearing head to toe Ann Taylor. It will age well, if nothing else.

My ideal Sportwagen would have the 2.0T out of the GTI, but for now, I find myself desiring a TDI Sportwagen with a 6-speed. It is the ultimate in cerebral compromise. A base TSI wagon starts at $21,395, while a TDI wagon starts at around $26,000. Loaded examples of both gasoline and diesel Sportwagens just avoid the $30k mark. you’ll have to wait until 2016 to get an all-wheel drive Golf. Volvo will sell you an AWD wagon right now, and it will have a much more powerful engine. Even so, the Sportwagen’s sticker price is nearly half that of the V60, but it in no way is it half the car.

The Sportwagen could conceivably do everything you would ever want in a passenger car, and never find yourself wanting for more. Ok, maybe something with more sex appeal, but like I said, it is the ultimate car to appeal to your head. If it’s the heart you’re after, you may want to look at something entirely different than a station wagon. Then again, if VW wanted to put their 2.0L turbo engines under the hood, the case for buying a V60 would evaporate, since a T6 Volvo wouldn’t be any faster than a GTI powered Sportwagen.

When Patrick asked the same gentleman who he thought VW competed with in the United States, he suggested Subaru (pronounced Soo-BAH-roo) and Honda. Volvo was not mentioned. But if the upcoming Tiguan and Passat (which will both be built on MQB) are this good, Volvo may have some competition for the XC60 and S60 as well.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-volkswagen-jetta-tdi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-volkswagen-jetta-tdi/#comments Tue, 17 Mar 2015 13:14:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1021513 To say the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI isn’t about fuel savings is to miss the point. But to say it’s about all-around money-saving is to tell a lie. If your only mission was to spend less money on personal transportation in the new vehicle realm, jaw-dropping highway mileage generated by a 2.0L turbocharged diesel is […]

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2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI brownTo say the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI isn’t about fuel savings is to miss the point. But to say it’s about all-around money-saving is to tell a lie.

If your only mission was to spend less money on personal transportation in the new vehicle realm, jaw-dropping highway mileage generated by a 2.0L turbocharged diesel is not necessarily the ticket to personal financial freedom.


• USD Price As Tested: $30,020

• Horsepower: 150 @ 3500 rpm

• Torque: 236 @ 1750 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 44.4 mpg


There are much less costly ways of getting around town than in a highbrow Jetta like our test example, with its leather seating, navigation, upgraded audio, and Volkswagen’s dual-clutch direct-shift gearbox.

So why can’t the two objectives comingle? I’d argue that they can, that a new car buyer can enjoy the benefits of an upgraded, torquey, semi-luxurious, and spacious German compact car – and spend the money that’s required to do so – while also enjoying weeks of fuel tank range.

However, it’s not as easy for me to say that as it was in the past. After years of local parity or even diesel-favouring prices, diesel now costs significantly more than regular gas in Nova Scotia. The new turbocharged 1.8L four-cylinder gas-fired engine I experienced in the Mk7 Golf also eats into the TDI’s efficiency advantage in ways the old 2.5L five-cylinder never dreamt of doing. And the CAD $2300 premium for the TDI over that flexible 1.8T is frightening, at least before resale value is taken into account.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Highline brownThe TDI isn’t quite on the same level as a Tesla Model S, whose owner who can afford the initial outlay and enjoys the combination of electrified transportation and ridiculous performance. Nor can a direct comparison be drawn with a Chevrolet Volt owner who accepts the higher price of the car because he finds satisfaction in lengthy periods of electric-only driving without the penalty of limited range. Nevertheless, in a similar manner, the up-front cost and premium at the pump won’t hinder a TDI owner from sourcing pleasure in her car’s real-world pace and its aversion to fuel consumption.

See, just because a new car consumer purchases or leases a car with clear fuel saving intent doesn’t mean the consumer must showcase frugal tendencies across the board. They can still drive the car they want. And strangely enough, despite forgettable styling, a lack of auto headlights, not quite Golf-like steering, some wind whistle around the A-pillar, an antiquated infotainment unit, and one of the less effective DSG pairings, the Jetta TDI is, in fact, desirable.

Granted, I’d argue that it’s less desirable as the equipment level rises. The Highline-trim car loaned to us by Volkswagen Canada creeps deep into Passat territory. Yes, the Jetta is very roomy considering its exterior dimensions – at 182.2 inches long, it’s only two inches longer than a Mazda 3 sedan. But the Passat’s interior is utterly massive.

In the U.S., diesel-powered Jettas start at $22,460. The 6-speed dual-clutch automatic adds $1100. A Jetta SEL TDI with the DSG and the $1690 Driver Assistance package (forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, etc.) tops out at $30,020, including the $1750 diesel option. A mid-level Passat TDI costs $29,945.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta Highline interiorBut remember, the 2015 Jetta is not like the 2014 Jetta. Independent rear suspension aids ride quality, which really is quite serene. The upgraded interior, aside from the laggy touch screen system with its poor graphics, never once let me down in terms of material quality or ergonomics. Jetta steering still lacks the Golf’s sharpness, and the DSG’s lack of instantaneous response works with the comfort-minded chassis to steer you away from aggressive driving on twisty back roads. The Jetta’s overall on-road behaviour, however, provides a mature ambience, leaving me the with the feeling that the Jetta is perhaps better at taking the fight to midsize sedans as a slightly downsized alternative rather than challenging compacts with its upper-crust price tag.

Also updated for 2015 was the powerplant. The diesel is still a 2.0L with 236 lb-ft of torque, but it’s not the same 2.0L diesel of old. It’s quieter, smoother, and just a little bit happier to rev, and it’s also more efficient. The EPA highway rating moved up from 42 mpg to 45. In a week of driving around the city and its suburbs, the 44.4 mpg this Jetta registered was simply astonishing. With temperatures below freezing and a heavy right foot, the test example easily outperformed its city and combined ratings and very nearly matched the official highway figure.

Question the wisdom of spending $30K+ on a fuel miser if you must, but 44 mpg in city driving is the kind of mileage that engenders diesel loyalty. I just wish the 2015 Jetta still looked like the fourth-gen model, handled like the GLI, and could be filled up with fuel that didn’t cost an extra $0.47/gallon.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Volkswagen Assembling Three-Row Tiguan In Mexico http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/volkswagen-assembling-three-row-tiguan-mexico/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/volkswagen-assembling-three-row-tiguan-mexico/#comments Tue, 10 Mar 2015 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1019466 The three-vow version of the Volkswagen Tiguan will hit showrooms from Puebla, Mexico in 2017. AutoGuide reports Volkswagen is investing $1 billion into its Puebla facility in preparation of the vehicle, with the funds going toward expansion and modernization, as well as tooling. The expansion will add 295,275 square feet to the facility. Once ready, […]

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2015 Volkswagen Tiguan

The three-vow version of the Volkswagen Tiguan will hit showrooms from Puebla, Mexico in 2017.

AutoGuide reports Volkswagen is investing $1 billion into its Puebla facility in preparation of the vehicle, with the funds going toward expansion and modernization, as well as tooling. The expansion will add 295,275 square feet to the facility.

Once ready, the plant can build as many as 500 Tiguans per day for markets in both Americas, Europe and China. Puebla currently assembles the new Golf, which uses VW’s MQB modular platform.

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Volkswagen USA’s Sales Decline Begins Anew In February 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/volkswagen-usas-sales-decline-begins-anew-february-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/volkswagen-usas-sales-decline-begins-anew-february-2015/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 13:28:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1016930 The Volkswagen brand had arrested its sales decline in the United States. After 18 consecutive months of decreased year-over-year volume, Volkswagen sales increased in October, November, December, and January. • Everything but the Golf drops • Golf R returns • Total Golf sales up 138% Granted, those increased sales appeared only in comparison to the prior […]

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VW USA February sales chartThe Volkswagen brand had arrested its sales decline in the United States. After 18 consecutive months of decreased year-over-year volume, Volkswagen sales increased in October, November, December, and January.


• Everything but the Golf drops

• Golf R returns

• Total Golf sales up 138%


Granted, those increased sales appeared only in comparison to the prior year period, when Volkswagen was in the middle of an 18-month downward streak. Compared with the equivalent period two years earlier, VW of America sales tumbled 12% in October 2014, 14% in November, 23% in December, and 19% in January 2015. Moreover, the reported yeear-over-year improvements were mostly slight: 8% in October, 3% in November, 0.1% in December, and 0.04% in January.

Perhaps Volkswagen was simply regressing toward the mean, rather than stopping a oncoming train in its tracks. February volume slid 5% in a market which grew 5%.

Even with some new product in Volkswagen showrooms – overall Golf volume more than doubled to 3921, an increase of 2272 units – the losses reported by the brand’s other models brought the brand down by 1402 sales compared with February 2014; by 5746 compared with February 2013.

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI whiteNon-Golf volume slid 14% as Beetle sales plummeted 30%, the departing Eos plunged 40%, the aged CC was down 57%, Tiguan and Passat sales dropped 10%, and Touareg volume fell 8%.

Overall Jetta volume was down 9%, but much of that decline was due to the severe slowdown of Jetta SportWagen sales – the Mk7 Golf wagon will actually be a Golf. The Jetta sedan was a relatively stable corner of the Volkswagen lineup. Sales dropped by just 4%, a loss of only 378 sales, year-over-year. It accounts for 38% of Volkswagen USA’s sales through the first two months of 2015.

Regardless, the addition of 362 Golf R sales (the previous model ended its run last summer), 130 e-Golfs, a doubling of GTI volume, and a 119% increase in Golf sales didn’t turn Volkswagen into even a moderately high-volume brand. After averaging 36,500 monthly sales in 2012 and appearing like a brand that could turn on the jets in America, it became readily apparent that a luxury SUV and an undersized and overpriced small crossover weren’t going to cut it in a market which veered away from cars toward utility vehicles. Of equal or greater importance was the fact that the brand’s core cars, Jetta and Passat, had significant initial appeal but ranked low in terms of long-lasting desirability.

That’s not to say Jetta interest completely dried up. It’s America’s 17th-best-selling car so far this year and ranked 13th in 2014. But as the standard-bearer for a brand with lofty goals, the volume it generates is simply not sufficient to form the basis of a high-volume automaker in the United States.

As a result of all the brand’s issues, Volkswagen’s February market share tumbled to 2% in 2015, down from 2.3% in February 2014, 2.6% in February 2013, and 2.7% in February 2012.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Geneva 2015: Volkswagen Passat Alltrack http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/geneva-2015-volkswagen-passat-alltrack/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/geneva-2015-volkswagen-passat-alltrack/#comments Tue, 03 Mar 2015 09:25:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1012010 While some in the U.S. pine away for a brown manual diesel wagon, the Europeans will play in their Volkswagen Passat Alltrack estates. Based upon the standard Passat Estate, the Passat Alltrack is powered by either two turbocharged gasoline mills — generating 147 and 217 horsepower — or a trio of TDI diesels capable of […]

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VW-Passat-Alltrack-

While some in the U.S. pine away for a brown manual diesel wagon, the Europeans will play in their Volkswagen Passat Alltrack estates.

Based upon the standard Passat Estate, the Passat Alltrack is powered by either two turbocharged gasoline mills — generating 147 and 217 horsepower — or a trio of TDI diesels capable of 147, 188 and 236 horses, respectively. Stop-start and regenerative braking are standard.

Whatever power is chosen, it goes to all corners through the Alltrack’s permanent 4MOTION system, which aides in tackling trails with the help of electronic locking diffs and a 1.1-inch ride height increase over the Passat Estate. Stainless-steel underbody guard, modified bumpers, and ruggedized wheel arches and side skirts protect the Alltrack from the rocks and brush. Towing capacity is 4,850 lbs.

Other features include custom 17-inch wheels with optional 18- and 19-inch sets, HUD, front assist, emergency assist, rear traffic alert, and trailer assist.

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Geneva 2015: Volkswagen Sport Coupe GTE Concept Unveiled http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/geneva-2015-volkswagen-sport-coupe-gte-concept-unveiled/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/geneva-2015-volkswagen-sport-coupe-gte-concept-unveiled/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 20:21:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1010986 Not every vehicle at the 2015 Geneva Auto Show can be featured in the Robb Report, though the Volkswagen Sport Coupe GTE Concept might be as such if made. The Sport Coupe GTE’s power comes from a 3-liter turbo-six and two electric motors delivering a collective 374 horsepower to all corners. The turbo-six feeds its […]

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Not every vehicle at the 2015 Geneva Auto Show can be featured in the Robb Report, though the Volkswagen Sport Coupe GTE Concept might be as such if made.

The Sport Coupe GTE’s power comes from a 3-liter turbo-six and two electric motors delivering a collective 374 horsepower to all corners. The turbo-six feeds its power to the front via a six-speed dual-clutch auto, while the electric motors directly distribute their power to the back. Nil to 62 arrives in 5 seconds, while all-electric mode delivers a range of 32 miles, and the system combined can hit 118 mpg.

Other features include driver biometrics — allowing the car to pick a route based on how much excitement the driver desires — route data featuring weather and traffic info, as well as previews of a given route with Instagram, parented ambient lighting, and touchscreen controls for the rear occupants to handle music, climate and phone calls.

Were the MQB-based concept to hit the production line, Volkswagen says it would slot between the CC and Phaeton; no word on whether that will happen, however.

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Beshear To Transplants: Kentucky Is Not Tennessee http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/beshear-transplants-kentucky-not-tennessee/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/beshear-transplants-kentucky-not-tennessee/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 15:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1006426 Unlike his Republican counterparts down south, Kentucky governor Steve Beshear says his state is not like Tennessee as far as attracting transplants go. Associated Press reports those remarks were first made during a recent recruiting trip to Germany and Sweden, the latter’s Volvo considering a factory in the Bluegrass State. Beshear reaffirmed his stance upon […]

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Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear at Churchill Downs

Unlike his Republican counterparts down south, Kentucky governor Steve Beshear says his state is not like Tennessee as far as attracting transplants go.

Associated Press reports those remarks were first made during a recent recruiting trip to Germany and Sweden, the latter’s Volvo considering a factory in the Bluegrass State. Beshear reaffirmed his stance upon returning home:

I’m not trying to tell Tennessee or any other state how to handle their economic development efforts. I can just say that in Kentucky we would welcome either type of situation, either companies with unions or without them. We have an open-door policy and welcome companies no matter what their desires may be in terms of labor-management relationships. We don’t try to dictate what that relationship should be. We think that’s up to the company and to the employees.

The comments come after Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and his administration, as well as U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, did their best to persuade Volkswagen to reject the UAW’s offer to represent the transplant’s workforce in Chattanooga, including a $300-million incentive package that would be paid if labor talks were “concluded to the satisfaction” of the state’s interests.

Beshear adds that Kentucky can best attract economic development — whether from the auto or other industries — by not getting the middle of the labor negotiation process, noting that said lack of interference is “a positive sales point” for the state.

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