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, 30 Mar 2015 22:01:28 +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 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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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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Capsule Review: 2015 Volkswagen Golf R http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/capsule-review-2015-volkswagen-golf-r/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/capsule-review-2015-volkswagen-golf-r/#comments Sun, 22 Feb 2015 17:53:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=990738 The raindrops, small as #12 shot, plink against the glass, coating the pavement in a greasy film. Not ideal for a spirited drive in a nearly 300 horsepower hot hatch, even one with AWD, but Southern California needs the rain, even if it’s just a half-hearted attempt by the clouds. The ground is still parched, […]

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The raindrops, small as #12 shot, plink against the glass, coating the pavement in a greasy film. Not ideal for a spirited drive in a nearly 300 horsepower hot hatch, even one with AWD, but Southern California needs the rain, even if it’s just a half-hearted attempt by the clouds. The ground is still parched, the trees half blackened by the wildfires of the summer, while the remaining bark is a soft ivory like the leather in this Euro market test car, one of four examples that Volkswagen brought over with a manual transmission.

In my rearview mirror, the black and white Expedition from the San Diego Country Sherrif’s office fades away over the crest, and the two point oh tee mill pulls the car closer to 100 mph, exhibiting the kind of top-end torque that’s absent from its front-drive GTI sibling. But the 6-speed manual gearbox is the same, and all I can think is how much I’d rather have the DSG.

Since the manual won’t be available until 2016, Volkswagen supplied us with Euro-spec Golf R models with the big 19″ wheel package and the three-pedal transmission. Both of those sound like great ideas, but you’ll want a Golf R with 18s for the sake of ride quality, and the DSG because it’s so superbly matched to the rest of the car, that shifting your own gears detracts from the experience.

For one thing, the Golf R is quicker with the DSG. You can hit 60 mph in just under five seconds if you let the transmission do its work, but the manual adds an additional half-second. Shifts are quick, quicker when the car is in “Race” mode, but in normal driving, its tough to believe that just two generations ago, this was the same gearbox that would roll back on hills if you took your foot off the brake, and let you feel the clutch take up when rolling away from a stop light in first.

The second is that the manual gearbox isn’t that great. Having only driven the 6-speed manual in both the GTI and the R, one would find it perfectly acceptable. The throws of the shifter are light but precise, the clutch easy to modulate. But driven back to back with the DSG, it weakens the argument that “three pedals good, two pedals bad”. The fact that the pedals are spaced too far apart to execute a heel-toe downshift doesn’t help either. The only real benefit of the 6-speed manual is the $1100 discount off the $37,415 MSRP that the DSG version commands.

The rest of the package holds up its end of the bargain. The steering is just as crisp and direct as the GTI, and the flat-bottomed steering wheel is a nice touch. Compared to the most recent BMW 2-Series we drove, it makes The Ultimate Driving Machine feel like something from Toyota. The brake pedal feels a touch grabby, but its hard to fault the competence of the brakes themselves, which are the same as the GTI Performance Pack. For all the hype about the Haldex AWD system, the biggest positive attribute is the lack of torque steer when accelerating out of a corner – an affliction that affects the driving experience of the front-drive GTI. Otherwise, it was fairly transparent in its operation, which is to say it was hardly noticed at all. Perhaps a brisk drive in somewhere other than Southern California would have shown of its capabilities in a more demonstrative manner. Here’s hoping for a longer review during a Canadian winter.

Performance aside, the rest of the Golf R has all of the positive attributes of the other MQB based Golfs. The cabin seems impossibly spacious for a C-segment car, with ample space both fore and aft. The interior materials wouldn’t seem out of place in an Audi, but the current infotainment system is in desperate need of replacement – it doesn’t even have a USB port for your smart phone. Apparently, this, along with Apple CarPlay and Android integration will be available for 2016 as part of a revised infotainment system.

While VW is positioning the Golf R against the Subaru WRX STI and the BMW M235i, the real competition for this car is on VW’s showroom. There’s approximately $10,000 between the base price of a Golf GTI and a Golf R. Granted, a GTI 5-door with the DSG and Performance pack will narrow the gap some, but the biggest point of contention is that the GTI is just so good, even with front-wheel drive, that it’s hard to imagine making a case for the Golf R unless you must satisfy one of two criteria; you’re living in a snowy state where the AWD would be a benefit in poor weather, or you’re a member of the VW faithful who must have the uber-Golf, if only for internet bragging rights. Anyone else could get a nicely equipped GTI and an aftermarket ECU re-flash without ever regretting it.

 

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Volkswagen’s Outback Competitor – The One We Won’t Get http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/volkswagens-outback-competitor-one-wont-get/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/volkswagens-outback-competitor-one-wont-get/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 23:49:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1004338 In North America, the Golf Alltrack will be Volkswagen’s sole offering in the “raised up station wagon” segment of pseudo-CUVs. Europe will get this Passat based version – but we got it first. Sort of. Back in 2012, VW previewed a Passat Alltrack in New York of all places. While the concept wasn’t as rugged […]

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In North America, the Golf Alltrack will be Volkswagen’s sole offering in the “raised up station wagon” segment of pseudo-CUVs. Europe will get this Passat based version – but we got it first. Sort of.

Back in 2012, VW previewed a Passat Alltrack in New York of all places. While the concept wasn’t as rugged looking, it followed the same formula; an Outback competitor with German engineering (namely a diesel and a DSG gearbox as well as Haldex AWD).

A range of gasoline and diesel engines will be available, and a 6-speed manual can be had on lower trim levels. Otherwise, a 6-speed DSG is standard. Haldex AWD with an “offroad” mode is also mandatory – though it’s hard to imagine that it will be terribly effective on anything more rugged than a gravel driveway.

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Anti-UAW Group Authorized To Represent Workers At Chattanooga VW Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/anti-uaw-group-authorized-represent-workers-chattanooga-vw-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/anti-uaw-group-authorized-represent-workers-chattanooga-vw-plant/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 11:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1003250 As part of a new arrangement, Volkswagen is allowing more than one group to represent VW workers at its plant at Chattanooga, Tennessee. And while the UAW has managed to secure that privilege, VW is also allowing another, small group to represent workers. The American Council of Employees (ACE), an anti-UAW union based in Chattanooga, […]

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As part of a new arrangement, Volkswagen is allowing more than one group to represent VW workers at its plant at Chattanooga, Tennessee. And while the UAW has managed to secure that privilege, VW is also allowing another, small group to represent workers.

The American Council of Employees (ACE), an anti-UAW union based in Chattanooga, has been allowed to discuss labor matters with management at Chattanooga. Reuters reports that the group has managed to prove to VW (via a third party auditor) that it represents at least 15 percent of Chattanooga’s work force. By contrast, the UAW has about 45 percent of the work force, and will get increased access to management compared to the ACE. Neither group has a monopoly on collective bargaining rights for the plant.

 

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Volkswagen To Invest $10M In EV Charging Infrastructure Through 2016 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/volkswagen-invest-10m-ev-charging-infrastructure-2016/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/volkswagen-invest-10m-ev-charging-infrastructure-2016/#comments Wed, 11 Feb 2015 13:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=996626 Hoping to encourage federal investment, Volkswagen is putting up $10 million for EV charging stations to be ready by 2016. Part of that investment includes the previously announced partnership with BMW and Chargepoint to install 100 DC Fast Chargers on the East and West coasts of the United States, where no two stations will be […]

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Hoping to encourage federal investment, Volkswagen is putting up $10 million for EV charging stations to be ready by 2016.

Part of that investment includes the previously announced partnership with BMW and Chargepoint to install 100 DC Fast Chargers on the East and West coasts of the United States, where no two stations will be further than 50 miles apart to better facilitate increased use of EVs.

That said, Volkswagen of America vice president of product marketing and strategy Jörg Sommer would like to see “Federal financing support for establishing fast charging networks in urban areas and interstate corridors” alongside the support automakers and other companies are already putting into place. Sommer adds that he’d like for state and federal agencies to adopt greater numbers of EVs and PHEVs into their fleets, as well as more congressional support of “the mid-term review of the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulation to extend the multiplier credits for plug-in vehicles beyond MY21.”

The $10 million investment is part of a so-called “holistic approach to e-mobility” surrounding the automaker’s 2015 e-Golf, which also includes providing customers with the opportunity to install solar and home charging systems from partners SunPower and Bosch.

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Jetta Volume Plunges In January, Volkswagen’s Modest Improvement Continues http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/jetta-volume-plunges-january-volkswagens-modest-improvement-continues/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/jetta-volume-plunges-january-volkswagens-modest-improvement-continues/#comments Fri, 06 Feb 2015 14:36:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=994346 Volkswagen USA reported a 59-month low in Jetta sales in January 2015, just the second four-digit Jetta sales month in the last four and a half years, and a narrow ten-unit year-over-year overall brand improvement. The Volkswagen brand sold 23,494 vehicles in January 2014, down 19% compared with January 2013’s output. January 2015 sales were […]

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2015 Volkswagen JettaVolkswagen USA reported a 59-month low in Jetta sales in January 2015, just the second four-digit Jetta sales month in the last four and a half years, and a narrow ten-unit year-over-year overall brand improvement.

The Volkswagen brand sold 23,494 vehicles in January 2014, down 19% compared with January 2013’s output.

January 2015 sales were up 0.04% compared with January 2014 – which was the tenth of 18 consecutive year-over-year monthly U.S. sales declines – but, rather obviously, were down 19% compared with January 2013 levels.

January is not typically a sterling month for the Jetta, nor for most any vehicle competing in the U.S. marketplace. January accounts for more than 8% of the calendar but little more than 6% of the new vehicles sold in America.

In the four Januarys leading up to last month, the Jetta lineup averaged 10,678 U.S. sales. January 2015 sales were down 16% from that average.

VW Jetta Golf Passat sales chartFortunately, on a year-over-year basis, the Golf family produced a 145% increase, equal to 2487 extra sales. Passat sales ticked up slightly, rising 1% to 6305 units.

But every other Volkswagen stumbled. Beetle volume slid 32%. Sales of the CC were down 40%. The nearly departed Eos was off the pace by 15%. The Routan disappeared. Tiguan sales fell 17%. Touareg volume was down 11%. Subtract the Golf from the equation and Volkswagen sales in America were down 11% in January 2015.

As for the Jetta itself, much of its decline can be blamed on the Jetta SportWagen’s forthcoming demise. (The next wagon will be a Golf.) SportWagen volume plunged 51% to just 649 units. Jetta sedan sales slid just 2%.

Yet viewed in the context of potential rivals, the Jetta’s numbers, at 8320 sedan-only units, are disturbingly low for a brand’s best seller, particularly when we realize that America’s car market expanded by more than 8% in January, especially when the brand has such lofty expectations.

Toyota Corolla sales jumped 20% to 27,357 units, outselling the Jetta sedan by more than three to one. The Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cruze, and Ford Focus all sold more than twice as often as the top VW. (The Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Elantra, and Nissan Versa were the other more popular small cars in January.)

Volkswagen
January
2015
January
2014
% Change
Jetta
 8,969 9,768 -8.2%
Passat
 6,305 6,236 1.1%
Golf
 4,199 1,712 145%
Tiguan
 1,473 1,777 -17.1%
Beetle
 1,389 2,034 -31.7%
CC
 531 881 -39.7%
Touareg
 482 544 -11.4%
Eos
 156 183 -14.8%
Routan
 — 359 -100%
Total
23,504 23,494 0.04%

Of course, the A6 Jetta is an aging car. Unfortunately, Volkswagen can’t rely on its newer model for significant U.S. volume, since the Golf is simply not capable of attracting a wide audience in America. The Golf family was outsold by the Camaro, Avalon, Challenger, Accent, and E-Class in January, and more than half the car’s sales were produced by the GTI and e-Golf. In other words, the mainstream Golf is rarely seen on Main Street.

It’s increasingly obvious that Volkswagen needs a CrossBlue-like family crossover to compete in America. But as we’ve mentioned before, even with such a model adding around 10,000 monthly sales – a positive forecast, indeed – Volkswagen would have only sold 33,500 vehicles in January. Or about 7300 fewer new vehicles than Subaru sold last month.

An affordably high-riding family vehicle is required, but it’s not the complete answer, not for the American marketplace.

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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Dispatches Do Brasil: VW Gol, Still The One http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/dispatches-brasil-vw-gol-still-one/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/dispatches-brasil-vw-gol-still-one/#comments Thu, 05 Feb 2015 19:58:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=994066 If the Volkswagen Gol is no longer Brazilians’ sweetheart after 27 long years as the most sold car in this market, there is another whole segment of automotive sales where the Gol unequivocally leads. That is that of secondhand car sales. Does this mean the Volkswagen is still favored by most Brazilians or is it […]

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Gol GT 1984 e Gol GTi 1990 _7_

If the Volkswagen Gol is no longer Brazilians’ sweetheart after 27 long years as the most sold car in this market, there is another whole segment of automotive sales where the Gol unequivocally leads. That is that of secondhand car sales. Does this mean the Volkswagen is still favored by most Brazilians or is it simply a reflection of the Gol’s lost, but decades old, sales crown?

According to FENAUTO (the national federation that congregates individual states’ associations of secondhand car dealers), the Gol tops by a wide margin the compilation of most sold used cars. All by its lonesome, close to 1 in 10 used cars sold in 2014 were of the model. 1,148,128 Gols of all vintages were sold (compare that to the slightly over 183,000 brand new Gols that left showrooms last year).

In all, more than 11 million used cars changed hands last year (compared to more than 3.5 million brand-new ones, more than three times more). In a faraway second place (a German advantage of more than 460,000), the Fiat Uno. 682,286 of one of Giorgetto Giugiaro’s most successful and acclaimed designs found new homes. In third, the Fiat Palio at 621,535. Adding up both Fiats, they outpaced the VW by more than 150,000 transactions. Though of course two different models, the Fiats were remarkably similar throughout their careers and though the Gol led for the better part of the last three decades, Uno and Palio together have always sold more then the VW since 1996 when the Palio was launched. The Gol, an all-Brazilian design and developed car, arrived in 1980, while the Uno has been doing battle with it since 1984.

In fourth and fifth the first Chevrolets appear, Celta and Corsa, both of which at over 370,000 sales. A bit further down, the first Ford in sixth (the Fiesta at 250 thousand). Another Volkswagen is the seventh, the Fox (245 thousand), while the first pickup, the Fiat Strada, is eighth (242 thousand). In ninth and tenth, the most commercialized sedans, the Fiat Siena (225 thousand) and the Chevrolet Classic (214 thousand).

Interestingly, the Toyota Corolla is in twelfth (170 thousand sales). It is the only representative of a non-Brazilian Big Four (Fiat, GM, VW and Ford) brand. And, iIn a testament of the segment’s growing strength in a market that has trebled in size, an “SUV” launched in 2003, the Ford EcoSport, is the fourteenth most sold (140,000).

Volkswagen do Brasil has sold over 7.5 million Gols since the 80s. Apparently, 6 million are still on the road though in what state is impossible to determine as there is as yet no vehicle inspection program in this country (though both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo states check cars for emissions and some visually verifiable items like tires). This is surely one of the reasons thrifty Brazilians buy the Gol in greater numbers than any other. In this country, Volkswagen still maintains a reputation for reliability, the more so the further back you go.

As such, Gols command a slight price advantage over their main rivals in the secondhand market. In spite of that, the Gol is considered an easy sell. To have a Gol is having “dinheiro na mão” (money in your hands) and this reputation lives on.

Being that Brazil is a continental country, local variations abound. São Paulo inhabitants, known as “Paulistas” have more money than any other in the country. In terms of brand-new car sales, two decades ago Paulistas bought more than 40% of brand-new cars in the country. The state’s sales ranking does not reflect sales in Brazil at large. As an example, Fiat is only third in state rankings (GM leads and VW is second) and Hyundai outsells Renault (and encroaches on Fiat in the city of São Paulo). Nowadays, Paulistas buy a little over 3 in 10 cars sold. In this way, the Gol’s leadership as the most secondhand car sold in Brazil is secure. However, as Paulistas’ participation in total cars sales decline, so should the Gol’s.

Another reason the Gol outsells all others is ease of repair. Since it’s been here since the 80s and has sold in greater numbers than competitors, there is a huge aftermarket parts and accessories industry pumping out everything a Gol needs to keep running. Volkswagen’s dealership network is the largest in Brazil, though it is widely known that consumers in this country run from the dealerships as soon as their warranties expire. Nonetheless, some parts are easier to find at the dealers than anywhere else, so the more remote the region in Brazil, the greater likelihood a Gol will have better support than most rivals. Also, mechanics see a lot of them everyday and know their ins and outs better than other cars’.

Finally, there is the historical weight of the 27 years of leadership and a presence of 35 years in the market. Having been the favorite for such a long time means there is a wellspring of goodwill and fondness for the model. Many parents will undoubtedly buy their scions Gols when they come of driving age as they recall their own cars lovingly. Those spending their own money will also tend towards the Gol remembering Gols in their pasts, owned by friends and family and, taking into consideration reliability, ease of repairs, availability of parts, and wide array of selection, will outright buy or finance a used Gol as it’s surely a “safe” bet. The sheer numbers sold guarantee that in used car dealer lots across the country, a potential buyer will see more Gols than other cars and will be able to pick and choose among a wider offering.

Over the Gol’s career, the Brazilian brand-new car market has gone from under one million sales a year to highs of 3.7 million two short years ago. The used car market has of course followed this exponential growth. That means that the car is becoming a true mass market product in Brazil (and according to some reports, in some regions, car penetration has achieved European levels, being that the one car for roughly every 2.5 inhabitants in São Paulo city is similar to some Western European countries’ levels). So more Brazilians than ever buy cars, brand-new or secondhand. For them, the Volkswagen brand offers a degree of psychological comfort as they reflexively buy the car that has been the market favorite and has become a synonym, wrongly or rightly, with what is considered true “brasilidade” (Brazilian-ness).

unnamed (3) unnamed (4) unnamed (5) Gol GT 1984 e Gol GTi 1990 _7_

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Volkswagen Moving Ahead With New Phaeton Despite Itself http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/volkswagen-moving-ahead-new-phaeton-despite/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/volkswagen-moving-ahead-new-phaeton-despite/#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2015 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989922 Despite cost-cutting measures meant to save the automaker €5 billion annually by 2017, Volkswagen is moving ahead with a new Phaeton by 2018 at the latest. Reuters reports the revamp of the €76,000 ($86,000 USD) executive car would cost up to €650 million ($733 million) according to Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst, flying in the […]

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phaetons

Despite cost-cutting measures meant to save the automaker €5 billion annually by 2017, Volkswagen is moving ahead with a new Phaeton by 2018 at the latest.

Reuters reports the revamp of the €76,000 ($86,000 USD) executive car would cost up to €650 million ($733 million) according to Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst, flying in the face of a pledge by VW to cut production costs and non-profitable models in order to save €5 billion ($5.6 billion) annually by 2017. He adds that the Phaeton — the €1 billion ($1.13 billion) pet project of Chairman Ferdinand Piech that has lost €28,000 ($32,000) per unit sold between 2002 and 2012 alone — is “the most irrational project” as far as budgeting goes, yet lives on because Piech and CEO Martin Winterkorn “cannot let go of their fondness for luxury products.”

Additionally, the Phaeton would not only have a hard time doing battle against the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series as far as sales go (85,000 units annually for the S and 64,000 for the 7 compared to an estimated 11,900 for the new model between 2017 and 2020), but it would also struggle against its own stablemate, the Audi A8. U.S. sales are another likely challenge, as well, considering the automaker’s own struggles in understanding the U.S. market.

Nonetheless, VW is preparing the second-gen Phaeton for its showroom debut between 2017 and 2018, with a PHEV version coming down the pipe, as well.

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Dispatches do Brasil: Volkswagen’s Inferno and the Gol’s Fall from Grace http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/dispatches-brasil-volkswagens-inferno-gols-fall-grace/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/dispatches-brasil-volkswagens-inferno-gols-fall-grace/#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2015 18:27:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989258 How much is first place worth? How much difference would it make to you as an automaker to see a decades old tradition die? How much would you do to try to keep first place and how much would it hurt to see it all go away? Those are the questions Volkswagen do Brasil is […]

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unnamed

How much is first place worth? How much difference would it make to you as an automaker to see a decades old tradition die? How much would you do to try to keep first place and how much would it hurt to see it all go away?

Those are the questions Volkswagen do Brasil is facing. Not being Brazilians’ favorite brand for 13 years now, falling away to third place, watching General Motors taking second and Fiat pulling away ever more in first, VW must now confront the reality it cannot even claim the most sold car title either. Costing them it is, after all the Brazilian press is having a field day analyzing Volkswagen’s fall from grace. It must also smart that the Palio edged the Gol by a little under 400 cars, while GM managed just 2,000 more sales overall than the Germans.

After 27 years as the most sold car in Brazil, the Volkswagen Gol ceded the crown to its main rival, the Fiat Palio. Not only that, the German company saw its participation shrink more than the others who make up the Brazilian Big 4 (Fiat, GM, VW and Ford). In traditional fashion, not recognizing their mistakes, Volkswagen do Brasil released a statement trying to explain:

“the Gol is a winner, having been the favorite of Brazilians for 27 years in a row. It is the most produced (more then 7.5 million units), sold and exported (more than 1.2 million units to 66 countries) car in the history of Brazil. Even in 2014, the model was chosen by 183,367 clients, a difference of only 0.2% (even with the exit of the G4 version from the market) in relation to its competitor (that is still maintains two versions of the car under the same name in its line: the old and the new one.”

This statement hides as much as it reveals. With the beginning of 2014, all cars in Brazil had to be sold with double frontal airbags and ABS. As such, all companies had to revise their strategies and Volkswagen started the year confident that the new up! would be more than enough to buoy the brand and take sales from the Uno, while the Gol would go head-to-head with the Palio. Fiat meanwhile took a different route, being that the old Palio Fire was a much more modern car than the its own old Uno Mille and VW’s Gol G4, it decided to go on building the old Palio with the mandated equipment, dressed it up in it pseudo-off road aventureiro decorations. It also revamped the new Uno, especially in its interior.

While both companies lost sales in a declining market, Volkswagen lost market faster than Fiat. While critically acclaimed, including by yours truly, the up! could not maintain the same fleet sales as the old G4. Fleet buyers became increasingly interested in the Palio Fire as it sported the same basic architecture as it always had and made use of time honored engines. VW meanwhile was launching a new three-cylinder engine with the up! and fleet buyers showed hesitation to fully embrace the new engine, as recent VW engine launches have been fraught with trouble.

Private buyers also balked at the new VW launch. The up!’s design was deigned to dainty for a Volkswagen and while it brought some conquest sales surely, VW-loyalists rejected the car.

Just as importantly, Volkswagen, making use again of their own time-honored tradition of not heeding to the market and not learning from the mistakes of the past, refused to acknowledge the emergence of the new Brazilian consumer who rejects entry-level cars. Aiming straight at that new figure, Chevy’s Onix and Ford’s Ka had a very big year and seemingly took more sales from the Gol than the Palio. They did so by offering more equipment for the same price and putting in some wow-me technology, equipment and better finished interiors (all of which is optional on ups!).

Fiat was quick to acknowledge this new reality. The Uno got a pretty thorough re-design on the outside and a completely new and better interior, not to mention new equipment and technologies as standard, leading the model to have a year of growth. The Palio did likewise, and in the new Palio line, extra equipment was added without raised prices, while the old Palio Fire got a new interior, some new exterior touches, and the all-important aventureiro dressing (plastic cladding, an extra inch or two of height, bigger wheels and tires, stickers, etc.).

As the year of 2014 progressed, the market increasingly saw Volkswagen in trouble. The up! was off to a slow start. The Gol’s redesign seemingly didn’t work (as VW should have known it wouldn’t if they were paying attention) because what the market was buying was equipment. The Palio was growing month over month. The Uno reclaiming its traditional top spots. Even better for Fiat the Strada was having a banner year taking the sales crown in February (the first time ever a pickup achieved this in Brazil) and finished the year in third place, the highest place a pickup has ever managed in the history of Brazil.

After the middle of the year the race between Gol and Palio reached a fevered pitch, with the Palio winning every month and outpacing the Gol’s sales by ever larger margins. As November ended, the Palio had managed a YTD advantage over the Gol of over 1,800 units. In a desperate measure and going against previously revealed plans for the nameplate, VW launched the Gol Special, special in its 2-door nothingness. Stripped to its utter bare bones to entice back fleet buyers, the Gol Special is in effect VW’s Palio Fire model.

In December, an orgiastic climax was reached. Volkswagen pulled no stops. As the first fortnight of that month ended, sales numbers revealed the Gol was edging out the Palio again. This was done with non-stop production at VW factories, writing off cars to dealerships as sold, huge discounts for fleet buyers of Gol G6 and Special models, exceptional financing opportunities to consumers and cash on the hood offers. Fiat reacted, and made use of much of the same tactics to defend the Palio’s lead. Both Fiat and Volkswagen have huge distribution channels in Brazil and both pumped out the cars in ever increasing numbers, saturating the market with officially sold cars that languished at dealers.

On December 31, 2014, the race ended. When the numbers were tallied a couple of days later, December went down into the history books as the third best selling month in the history of the automobile in Brazil. So much so that in a market that was plummeting by a little over 9% throughout the year, finished with a softer loss of 6%. More importantly, the Palio, old and new, had sold 183,744 cars. Volkswagen’s Gol moved 183,366. A difference of 378 cars. 378.

Overall, Fiat finished in first with 21% of the market and a total of 698,255 sales. Volkswagen had a participation of 17.3% and 576,635 units moved, which was good for only third place. General Motors managed second place on the strength of it almost all knew GM Korea line and sold 2,167 more cars than VW and had a market participation 0.1% greater than the Germans’.

As 2015 begins, January’s first fortnight numbers are available. The Palio, now that the market is cleansing itself of the dirty tactics of the last month of the previous year is kicking the Gol’s ass. It outsold the Gol by a large margin (7,600 to 4,500 in a very bad month), as did the Onix, second this month, the Strada in third, even Hyundai’s HB20 beat the Gol and is in fourth. The mighty, 27-years-in-a-row-leader Gol managed just fifth this month.

The week started off with Fiat announcing that the Uno and Palio will all offer air-conditioning in all versions, besides power steering, power locks and of course the mandated equipment, making them even more attractive to the more discerning Brazilian consumer. General Motors is pumping out the Onix and Onix-derived Prisma sedan in high number and is enjoying seeing its sedan outselling both Fiat’s Siena and VW’s Voyage. Ford is tweaking the Ka and watching its sales grow, planning for extra production capacity as the Ka gains more and more participation. Volkswagen is busy explaining the Gol’s demise and claiming no errors.

2015 will surely be fun. Except maybe for the Germans.

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Editorial: Nissan Is Not Volkswagen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/editorial-nissan-is-not-volkswagen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/editorial-nissan-is-not-volkswagen/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 20:43:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988858 Here’s a question that will determine your reaction to the editorial below. What does a car company need more: a strong lineup of volume offerings, or a few niche products that exist in this world, but will likely never cross your path? If you chose the second answer, you may want to stop reading. News of […]

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2015-nissan-versa-sl-photo-590018-s-1280x782

Here’s a question that will determine your reaction to the editorial below. What does a car company need more: a strong lineup of volume offerings, or a few niche products that exist in this world, but will likely never cross your path?

If you chose the second answer, you may want to stop reading.

News of the indefinite delay of exciting products like the Nissan IDx concept and the Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge prompted the usual wailing/gnashing of teeth from Jalopnik.

In an editorial titled “Nissan Steps Back From IDx And Q50 Eau Rouge To Focus On Boring Junk”Patrick George suggests that Nissan’s decision to focus on the core products in their lineup is a bad one.

“Ugh. Basically, their plan is to shy away from compelling products and double-down on boring ones to chase volume. That’s awesome. That’s what the world needs. It’s worked so well for Volkswagen, hasn’t it?”

We can go right past the long-beaten dead horse of “enthusiast cars don’t make money, nobody buys them, boring sells”, pass go, collect $200 and hone in on the Volkswagen analogy. It is wildly inaccurate.

As it stands now, Nissan is on a tear. The Altima, Versa and Rogue are strong sellers, at or near the top of their respective segments. The Juke isn’t a particularly strong seller in the United States, but it’s a global success. Even the Sentra, which is a particularly dreadful car to drive, does well. Nissan has a large dealer network, a long, successful history of manufacturing cars in the United States and a full lineup of passenger cars, trucks, SUVs, CUVs, commercial vehicles and sports cars.

Volkswagen has…none of that. Its history in the United States consists of the Beetle, Microbus and then a long history of mis-steps and an utter failure to understand the American marketplace, let alone even market vehicles that Americans want. The prior generation of Euro-oriented Passats and Jettas didn’t move the needle with the American public. Neither did this generation of Americanized cars. That doesn’t mean that Nissan’s approach to future strategy is *anything* like VW.

Not that it’s even about America. Lost in all the pandering and faux indignation is the fact that this is a globally-focused move, one that will help Nissan (and Renault and Dacia and Samsung) compete with VW in world markets, where Volkswagen is supposedly hoarding its best products. While VW is stumbling in the dark, Nissan is busy working on their own modular platforms, and they’re not keeping them away from North America either. The new CMF platform that underpins the Rogue is the same as the European X-Trail. Expect more of that in the future.

Aside from the lore of the Z-Car, the SE-Rs and the 240SXs, Nissan had a tumultuous experience in the 1990s, prior to Carlos Ghosn’s ascension to the throne. Despite being one of the more interesting Japanese performance car manufacturers, the company was a mess financially and organizationally. Ghosn turned the company around, at the expense of a lot of the interesting product that we fetishize.  Not pursuing the I is a good move – one look at how well the Scion FR-S is selling and you’d have to be delusional (or willfully ignorant in the pursuit of pageview clicks) to suggest a similar model for Nissan. As for the Q50 Eau Rouge? The lack of Sebastian Vettel and any coherent direction for Infiniti likely had more to do with that decision than anything else.

By focusing on the volume product, Nissan is sticking with what works – and perhaps, it will get better in terms of driving dynamics, styling, interior quality and the other metrics we value. At least we’ll see a good mid-size truck out of it.

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BMW, Volkswagen Team With ChargePoint For Bi-Coastal Network http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/bmw-volkswagen-team-chargepoint-bi-coastal-network/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/bmw-volkswagen-team-chargepoint-bi-coastal-network/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=987810 More charging stations are on the way for EV owners, thanks to a new partnership between BMW, Volkswagen and ChargePoint. The first phase of the partnership will be 100 DC fast chargers running north to south between Portland and San Diego on the West Coast, Boston and the District of Columbia on the East Coast. […]

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BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf DC Charging

More charging stations are on the way for EV owners, thanks to a new partnership between BMW, Volkswagen and ChargePoint.

The first phase of the partnership will be 100 DC fast chargers running north to south between Portland and San Diego on the West Coast, Boston and the District of Columbia on the East Coast. Each station will have up to two 50 kW DC Fast or 24 kW DC Combo Fast chargers for most EVs like the BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf, as well as Level 2 chargers for all EVs. Access to each location is granted by a ChargePoint or ChargeNow membership card.

The new stations will be in metro and intercity locations — such as restaurants, malls and rest stops — spaced up to 50 miles apart for long-distance travel, joining a network of over 20,000 ChargePoint stations throughout the United States. The first location is online now in San Diego County, Calif., with the other 99 expected by the end of 2015.

Express Charging.Infographic.300dpi

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