By on January 16, 2009

Automotive News [sub] reports that VW is bringing the Polo econobox stateside. “Oil prices will rise again,” VW development chief Ulrich Hackenberg said, unaware of the expression’s meaning to Lynyrd Skinner fans. “and that will drive small car sales up further.” Further than…? Hackenberg said VW’s assembly plant in Puebla, Mexico could spit out the Polo for U.S. consumers. He did not say why this hadn’t been done before, when it might start now, whether or not it would be the next gen Polo or what color we should paint his trial balloon. I know! Green!

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49 Comments on “Will the Polo Resurrect VW US?...”


  • avatar
    qfrog

    From reading the comments here I believe the critical variables are how much and how reliable. If VW can get those two right… perhaps.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    The Honda Fit has a pretty good hold of this market segment. Given the Honda and VW reputations, it is hard to see how the Polo can ever become a major success…

  • avatar
    boosterseat

    More importantly, does it matter?
    Cars in this price range offer little in the way of profit to the dealers and manufacturers. I think dealers largely consider selling them as just so much time spent.

  • avatar

    If it’s like other VWs, the Polo will have a nicer interior and a more solid feel than anything from Japan. And it’ll be more expensive.

    I’m most interested in seeing what VW designs specifically for the U.S. market to fill their new Tennessee factory.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The Honda Fit has a pretty good hold of this market segment.

    Actually, the Yaris and Versa sell a fair bit better—at least in Canada. The Yaris is cheaper and more frugal, the Versa larger. I own a Fit, and I appreciate what it can do, but most buyers aren’t going that route.

    VW is going to have to sell the Polo against the Yaris and Versa, not to mention the Accent, Rio, SX4 and Aveo. I’m not quite sure how they’re going to do that, because there’s not a lot of extra value you can offer in this segment that buyers are willing to pay for. Either they’re going to have to make it a lot nicer to own (and not charge much more), offer a diesel (and not charge much more, given that the Yaris already gets awesome mileage) or work the safety/European engineering angle (and not, well, you get the idea).

    Good luck to them, they’ve got a hard road to travel.

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    You don’t make much with small cars on the front end sale, but it still needs oil changes, tires, premium synthetic VW spec blinker fluid etc.

    While it is not as profitable as a $45k+ SUV a well run dealer can still make a healthy profit.

    The only way I can see it succeeding would be to offer it with the current 2.0 diesel or its 1.4 little brother. The “blue motion” super fuel miser model sold in the EU is good for 48/74. Even if you take that down 10% to meet US emissions its still way out there with the 1st gen Insight.

  • avatar

    Finally. I have been (tiresomely) ranting about this ever since I saw one in a trip to England 8 years ago. You can see the full range of UK Polo offering here. You can get it there with 3 gas and 2 diesel engines, in a GTI version and in a super efficient BluMotion diesel version that gets 74MPG combined with the bigger Imperial gallon

  • avatar
    50merc

    Um, that should be “Lynyrd Skynyrd.” Mr. Leonard Skinner was a gym teacher.

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    **Yawn**

    Sorry, but this car just makes me go to sleep. The Fiesta will be nicer and cheaper. I sincerely don’t know how VW is even around any longer. Their cars are dreadful to drive, the electronics suck, the driving position sucks, the insurance sucks. But they have the audacity to charge more than other car makers for similarly sized cars!

    Ok, so you can see I’m no fan of VW. It just warps my mind how some people actually pay more for this.

    Ok, the interior is cool. If you’re 100 years old and like stark SM black. No joy, no imagination. Just square lines through and through.

    **Sigh** Don’t mean to offend or rock anybody’s boat. This is a car enthusiast site, so from one enthusiast to another, this is just my humble opinion.

    Cheers!

  • avatar
    200k-min

    I’m sure it’ll sell to a pile of 1st time buyers becuase it’s “cool.” Then after thousands spent on service, these young buyers will defect to Japanese brands.

    I also challege the assertion that VW have a “more solid” feel and “nicer” interior than Japanese vehicles. I’ve been in some huge rattle trap VW’s that are just a year or two old. Also been in many VW’s where those nice soft touch plastics are literally peeling off within just 50k miles of use.

    Until they have a track record of econo-box cars that live up to the economy people buy them for VW’s will fail in the USA.

    As for their bigger cars, there’s plenty of Jetta and Passat apologists to keep their cult going.

  • avatar
    RetardedSparks

    The biggest problem will be that they will name it something inane – like the Swahili word for mountain goat – then complain it wont sell.
    I’m actually in the market for a Golf segment car but while I would buy a “Golf”, I refuse to buy a “Rabbit”.

    Good luck with the “Mlima Mbuzi” VW!

  • avatar
    MrDot

    We don’t need the Polo here unless they can get the diesel version to pass emissions. People stopped buying the Rabbit last summer because of it’s horribly thirsty yet underwhelming 5-cylinder engine.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    RetardedSparks: “I’m actually in the market for a Golf segment car but while I would buy a “Golf”, I refuse to buy a “Rabbit”.”

    So how much does a Golf badge cost these days?

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    as a current MK5 GTI owner and coming from a family that has owned a VW or Audi since 1982. This is exciting.

    In my perfect world at the moment i want a Fiesta ST or RS as my next car. I love my GTI but its just a bigger car then i need. The Fiesta ST would fit the bill perfectly. Unless VW brings us a Polo GTI, then things will get difficult. If i can get a Polo GTI with a 6spd manual for under $20k ill be sold.

    i have wondered why there are no performance subcompacts. plastic body cladding and alloy wheels does not make a car “sporty”

    also…who says VW sales need resurrecting. Didnt they do pretty good this year? And moving up the charts around the world as well.

  • avatar
    TEW

    It might sell well if they put a diesel in it. If VW does not put a diesel in it there will be no way this ever become a success.

  • avatar
    Steve_K

    This is fantastic. Finally the US gets a car that ACTUALLY gets high gas mileage. The diesel Bluemotion crushes the Prius, Corolla, Fit, Civic hybrid and what have you.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Contrary to many of the posts here, smart dealers can and do make money on the entry level cars. Keep in mind that entry level cars, even though they’re “cheap,” still have to be financed. The dealer gets a commission on that transaction. Plus, younger drivers are more likely to personalize their car, which you’ve probably noticed with Scions and Minis. Dealers make money on that as well.

    Lets just hope the Polo fares better than the Brazilian-built Fox that VW sold in the states.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The diesel Bluemotion crushes the Prius, Corolla, Fit, Civic hybrid and what have you.

    Gee, it wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that it’s in a tiny little car that’s so slow it can barely get out of it’s own way, could it?

    Look, I like diesels, and I wish they were an option for more cars, but comparing the Euro-cycle figures (which are always inflated) of a tiny, little four-seat clown-shoe to the real-world mileage of a car that’s a handful of cubic feet away from the Camry (the Prius) isn’t fair or truthful.

  • avatar
    nikita

    VW lost its mojo in the US about 1972, when Datsun (Nissan) and Toyota sales really started taking off.

    The Fit, early versions of the Civic, is the closest thing to the original Beetle in the US market right now. Ive driven the Yaris and Versa. They ain’t it. Honda has the mojo but are close to blowing it with products like the Accord, as VW did with the Type 4.

    If it wasn’t for diesels, VW has absolutely no reason to exist in the US at all. The Audi brand could easily handle the few die-hard fans that are left anyway.

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    Ron Panhard:

    It’s not because the cars were built in Brazil and now Mexico that they suck. It’s because it’s a lousy car from the git-go.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Out of all the cars in this segment, I’d consider the Suzuki with AWD and a stick. At least until the Fiesta comes out, then I’d want a little Ford hot hatch like we’ve all dreamed about.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    If it wasn’t for diesels, VW has absolutely no reason to exist in the US at all.

    I agree – well, except for the “[i]f it wasn’t for diesels” part.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    It’s not because the cars were built in Brazil and now Mexico that they suck. It’s because it’s a lousy car from the git-go.

    If you need any further proof of that, the wonderful reliability (snort) of the previous-generation, German-built Passat should be evidence enough.

    The problem was never Mexican or Brazilian assembly per se, it’s that VW’s typically German take on quality is problematic when paired with high-cost assembly. When you team it up with the relentless cost-cutting involved in their Lat-Am plants, it’s a disaster.

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    psarhjinian:

    So, we can all agree VW is a dysfunctional company and should just disappear?

    :),

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    Hmm, the B&B are sure to correct me but now that Porsche OWNES the mighty VW, could they now not have to pay the fines for not meeting the CAFE standards? Just a thought…

    But back to the point, I have often wondered why VW did not sell the Polo (or even the Lupo) in the US. There wasn’t much to compete with it for the longest time. Now that the Asians have the market, VW seems a little late but I am sure they could pick up the folks who prefer German engineering.

  • avatar
    TaxedAndConfused

    The key for it making money will be the volumes and the exchange rates. Of course the numbers are uncertain as the market has stopped and exchange rates are volatile so the low profits on a small car could easily be wiped out.

    Making the thing in the US would be more sensible for such a small car, or making it in China/Far East/Eastern Bloc (all of which where VW has big plans) would be easier. If Dell can increase profits moving from Western Europe to Eastern Europe VW can do the same and make enough profit to consider the idea.

    If more small European cars came to the US then the thread the other day on what to replace a Mazda 3 with would be more interesting that the usual Fit vs Corolla vs Hyundai vs Scion debates.

    I’ve driven the Bluemotion Polo, Golf and Passat recently but the new SEAT Ibiza Ecomotive (new POLO under the skin, Bluemotion engine) was more impressive and fin to drive. Having saif that the economy difference between the 70ps BM/Ecomotive and my PD 130 Skoda Fabia is not enough for me to make the nearly 50% power drop.

    The 1.4/170hp TSI Golf was also impressive but not as thump in the back satisfying as the 170 TDi Golf GT which has much more low end Torque and would probably be more economical in the real world. Having tapped that if I wasn’t as biased towards sub 2000 rpm/top gear motoring as I am then the TSI would be on my list.

    You could also have the Citroen C4, Peugeot 308 (maybe not as its butt-ugly), GM Corsa, Fiat Punto / Bravo – all good.

  • avatar
    RetardedSparks

    qfrog: Kind of like all the guys who put Mercedes badges on their Dodge Sprinter vans? People would still call it a Rabbit…

    Re diesels, I love them, but nobody seems to get that the economics in the US are way different than Europe. There is just no way a diesel pays for itself with the existing US price structure.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    So, we can all agree VW is a dysfunctional company and should just disappear?

    Only if Mercedes bites it first.

  • avatar
    autonut

    And what shall motivate it? VW has 5 cylinder mill certified for US and 2.0L 4 cylinder that is used in everything from Audi 3,4 to VW Golf GTI, Jetta and Passat. What this Polo will cost with this direct injection turbo mill?

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    psarhjinian:

    hahahaha!

    Good point!

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I drove a vw polo for 2 weeks in Brazil. Very underpowered, but other than that it was nice. My father in law has a 1.6L 100hp that had trouble getting up hills, but I do love thrashing tiny engines :)

    Btw, the vw polo is a “40k-50k” car in brazil when I checked the local car rags.

    I’d really be interested in the “Bluemotion, 74mpg” (first read about 1 minute ago in this thread) if it comes in stick, is diesel, and costs $15k’ish. I don’t need space, but would like fuel economy if I’m not paying more up front.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    Re diesels, I love them, but nobody seems to get that the economics in the US are way different than Europe. There is just no way a diesel pays for itself with the existing US price structure.

    Diesels only make sense in luxury cars you plan to keep until you die. Unfortunately, they don’t make cars like that anymore.

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    Robstar:

    That’s exactly right. Can you get over the price?

    Plus, any other manufacturer nowadays can make a 1.6 with more than 106hp.

    What’s up with that?

    again, if it ever materializes in the US, wait for the Fiesta.

  • avatar
    Masterdam

    I have had 2 consecutive current-gen Polos as a daily driver, provided by my employer, for a total of 3 years. The last one was a Bluemotion (5 months), the first one a regular 1.4 TDI (31 months). Both were good little runabouts. Amusingly tossable around town, and surprisingly mature on highway speeds. Less nervous than a MINI. Interior fit and finish was above par for the segment, Ze Germans delivered a solid feeling car with a pleasant place to sit and attention to detail (better than Yaris, similar to Fiesta). The 3-cylinder diesel engine was a bit noisy in both cars, but delivered plenty of torque in return. Truly economic driving, if that is your thing (it is my employer’s thing). Both were bulletproof for the time I had them, not a single glitch.

    I preferred the regular 1.4 TDI over the Bluemotion. The Bluemotion package has lower/firmer suspension and horrible eco-tires, resulting in reduced ride quality, reduced grip AND reduced steering feel. The real-life mileage advantage of the Bluemotion package was not that big. Got rid of the Bluemotion in July in favour of a BMW 118d.

    The (regular) Polo is a great package for someone who needs solid and cheap transportation, but finds the cheap feel of a Yaris or (worse) Chevy Aveo unacceptable. I hope for VW US that none of the quality gets lost in the transition to the Mexican production line, otherwise the appeal is lost.

  • avatar
    davey49

    I’ve always been pro Polo in the US. Even if you hate VWs it’s a better idea than say a Phaeton, Passat CC or Tuareg. Bring back peoples cars I say.
    The Yaris and Versa do outsell the Fit in most months. Some of it could be to those cars being available as a sedan but a lot has to do with only a few Fits being available.
    The Suzuki SX4 is not in this segment. The SX4 is the size of a Civic, Corolla, Cobalt, Rabbit.
    Rabbit is a better name than Golf, mostly because Golf makes no sense to Americans because it’s a bad translation. The car should have been called Gulf, as in Gulf of Mexico or a brand name of gasoline
    I think the 1.4 TSI should be the engine available

  • avatar
    arapaima

    I really think if VW can get this car in the US for a similar price for a Versa, Fit or Yaris they will be successful. At the moment only the 2-door rabbit competes in the price segment, they need to get it in under 15-grand for a 2 or 4 door model with an auto. Otherwise, it’s going to be a niche car for nuts who like German cars.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    In regards to diesels, I urge everyone to do some self education about the chemistry of oil refining. You simply cannot take a barrel of oil and turn it into your fuel of choice. There is only so much diesel fuel that can be refined from a barrel. It varies with what grade the oil is, but trust me, every refinery is already set up to maximize diesel production.

    Europe has fully adopted diesel as their fuel of choice, which is very good for America because they sell surplus gasoline state side effectively supressing the prices.

    I don’t deny that diesel engines are more efficient. Problem is that there is no surplus diesel refining capacity to soak up the US passenger vehicle market, let alone upstream oil production. Prices already are higher than gasoline because it has higher demand and lower supply than gasoline.

    The few pickups, TDI VW’s and older Volvo’s out there is a mere drop in bucket of US diesel fuel consumption. If we have to encounter another 1970’s style oil shortage, trust me, agriculture, freigh rail and sea vessels will get priority over any cocky VW driver touting his TDI MPG’s.

    Diesel fuel is not a good choice and if that’s all VW has going for it they will surely remain a niche market player in the US.

  • avatar
    Monty

    I’ve got to start thinking about replacing my current vehicle, probably within the next 15 months. I will be purchasing something smaller than the wife’s Focus (we’re now empty nesters and really don’t need anything larger than a Fit/Yaris/Versa). It’s NOT going to be a VW product. We owned a VW Rabbit and between the craptacular car and the abysmal dealer service (from both of the local VW dealers) I would need a major price incentive to even consider a VW. I really want to like the product, but VW makes it so difficult.

    I’m seriously considering a Ford Fiesta (if we get them, that is), Suzuki SX4, Honda Fit, and am even willing to look at a Hyundai Accent due to Hyundai’s recent quality improvements.

    VW has become the German equivalent of GM. Promising better quality, and not delivering. Promising improved versions, and not delivering. Selling their dealer network as one of the best, and not delivering. Every time they sell a POS car to someone like me, they lose a customer for life. It’s bad enough that you have to put up with a underwhelming car, but then you have to go through the circus of having to fight with your dealer for friggin’ warranty service. I’ve never been as soured on the dealer experience as I have with VW. Even the General’s worst dealer in my home province beats the VW dealer in service and sales and customer relations.

    Why do car companies allow bad dealers to continue selling their product? A bad dealer can do far more damage than a lemon car on it’s own. I can even forgive a lemon car if the dealer goes to bat for me, but if you’ve ended up with a lemon of a car, the last thing you need is a less than spectauclar dealer. With VW, however, that’s usually what you get.

    A good dealer goes a long way to customer-for-life retention. They need to learn that lesson.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    FromBrazil>

    It is not a bad car at all but nothing like my Subaru. As an “economy” car here, it might work. Changing the exchange rate from $50k reais directly to dollars will kill any change it has here. Last I checked it was 2.3 or so which would make it $22k. Who would pay $22k for a 106 hp “luxury” vw? Here you’d be better off paying for a passat or jetta, or…any number of cars…even a civic SI is around that price, iirc.

  • avatar
    bleach

    You’re absolutely right about the impact of a good dealer experience. I’m not going to defend VW just cause I’ve owned their cars, but I’ve been lucky on the reliability front with the B5 Passat and A4 and now a GTI. I have a decent dealership and 3 others to choose from if they go south. Their proximity to each other is actually absurd but that’s not my problem. Then after the warranty expires, there’s a good independent I go to.

    The Polo will never rival the Fit or even the Versa in sales but you have to remember that VW shifts pretty small volume in the US. I wonder how much the Polo will cannibalize Golf, I mean Rabbit sales.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Why do car companies allow bad dealers to continue selling their product?

    Because, in VW’s case, they’re the ones screwing the dealer so hard that the poor bugger has to resort to doing the same to the customer to survive.

    Which, to use your GM analogy, is exactly what GM does to it’s Goodwrench people. Now, I don’t think that it excuses it, but you can understand where it’s coming from.

  • avatar
    oldowl

    Think Small and take your farfegnugen elsewhere.

  • avatar
    Martin B

    I don’t understand the U.S. anti-VW bias. Here in South Africa, Golf and Polo have always been good sellers in competition with Toyota, Mazda, Ford, Kia, Diahatsu, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Opel, Renault, Peugeot, Citroen, Tata, and recently Chery, Geely, and Proton (we have an insane number of makes to choose from).

    I recently drove a Golf 1600 for a couple of weeks and it was a great car — quiet, comfortable, and plenty of performance.

    Two of my family members upgraded from older to newer Golfs and Polos recently. They have nothing but praise for them.

    Some years ago VW sales sagged, but it was mainly problems with the dealers, and also they were considered to be too expensive for their quality. But the vehicle quality and dealership experience have been brought up to standard now.

  • avatar
    Porsche986

    I have seen a few Polo’s running around in Chicago. One was from Mexico (weird… is it on sale there?) and one was a consulate car, so that one is explained. Either way, they are not “undersized” for our market. True, 50% of Americans are too fat to fit in it… but those same Americans cannot fit in a Yaris hatch, or a Fit. We deserve a GOOD quality small car from VW!

  • avatar
    fincar1

    “plastic body cladding and alloy wheels does not make a car “sporty””

    True…you also have to have body-colored grille and mirrors, and the word “sport” painted on the sides.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    I like it!
    Maybe VW will get it right this time…..
    After all,VW started it all

  • avatar
    Areitu

    That depends on how long they can convince people they’ve bought a quality product.

  • avatar
    John Williams

    i have wondered why there are no performance subcompacts. plastic body cladding and alloy wheels does not make a car “sporty”

    If you want a sporty subcompact, you look up a catalog full of aftermarket parts and bone up on your wrench skills. It’s what a lot of the younger set are doing. Everyone else just wants a subcompact with good gas mileage and cheap upkeep costs.

  • avatar

    “I don’t understand the U.S. anti-VW bias”

    Because many of us use to own a VW.
    Most unreliable car in my life was a VW Rabbit.

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