By on March 25, 2009

VW is killing the Rabbit, reports C&D. Well, the name anyway. And not a moment too soon. Sure, there’s some history there: the Rabbit was one of the first foreign cars to be mass produced in the US, helping kick off one of the most significant trends in US automotive history. But the Rabbit name also embodies so many of the compromises that have become stock-in-trade for North America-only models. Ugly, “Americanized” interiors and shoddy quality (not to mention the square headlights) marred early US production of VW’s rodent Golf-alike. When the name was revived in 2006 in a blaze of nostalgia marketing, it was saddled with a thirsty, primitive 2.5-liter engine while Euro-spec Golfs boasted a wide range of more advanced, efficient engines. Ultimately, the Rabbit name has come to signify unnecessary compromise and VW’s arrogance towards an American market it sees (and helps define) as crude and unsophisticated. With the Polo headed stateside and the Golf name returning, VW is not only re-rationalizing its nomenclature (games!), it’s taking a chance that America is ready for smaller, lighter, more “European” products. Well, sort of.

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36 Comments on “Requiem For The Rabbit...”

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Not enough bunny love? Good riddance!

  • avatar

    How do you square this thesis with the larger-but-cheaper-than-a-Passat sedan they’re building a Tennessee factory for?

  • avatar
    SOF in training

    First foreign car built in the US would probably have been the Rolls Royce, followed by the Austin 7 (America). Anybody know of any earlier?

  • avatar

    Be vewwwwy, vewwwy quiet…ahahahahahhaha

    Haha….wabbit stew.

    Ok seriously, this reminds me of Ford killing the Taurus name in favor of “Five Hundred”…WTF?

    I remember my brother buying his GTI in 2007 and getting a mutant bunny called “the Fast” as a souvenir. Nice marketing VW…really nice.

  • avatar

    My second edition Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942 states:

    “FIAT – From 1910 to 1918 the Fiat automobile of Italy was manufactured in the United States under license. The factory was in Poughkeepsie, New York. Refer to American Fiat.”

    (These were seriously large luxury cars, not “topolinos”).

    The American manufactured Rolls-Royce (1921-1935) had engines that were the mirror image of the British engines, from what I understand. (Bizarre, eh?) They were built in Springfield, Massachusetts.

    The Austin was built in Butler, Pennsylvania and were actually only sold under the marque American Austin from 1930-1934 then the cars were restyled and built as the American Bantam from 1938-1941. (A Bantam is a fiesty little chicken). The Austin automobile (1903-1920) built in Grand Rapids, Michigan was no relation to the British company.

    Looks like The American Berliet was also built in Providence, Rhode Island from 1906-1908 (Belgian licensee).

    American Mercedes was built on Long Island from 1905 to 1907 when the factory burnt down. Luxury cars. (German licensee).

    The American De Dion was built from 1900-1901 in Brooklyn. (French licensee).

    Don’t forget; there have been some 5000 or more car manufacturers in the USA over the last 11 or 12 decades.

  • avatar

    Thank the freakin’ lord!

    If there was ever any evidence that “VW” was the German spelling of “GM”, the re-Rabbit-ization plan was it.

  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    Thanks to the B&B for your boundless auto-knowledge. Text lightly rephrased.

    Karesh: The Polo strategy outlined in the final link proves that any tendency on VW’s part to align US products with European offerings is embryonic at this point. As for the mid-sized sedan, at least its being designed ground-up as a NA model. That strikes me as somehow better than previous strategy of simply compromising and renaming (or not, in the case of the Jetta) existing models. Of course, I’m not exactly holding my breath expecting the NMS to be anything wildly spectacular…

  • avatar

    Oh my it would be hard to buy a car called a Rabbit and keep your man card. Right up there with a Miata..

  • avatar

    The “Rabbit” name is fine. Whatever name that they use—Rabbit, Fox, Polo, Jetta—doesn’t matter.

    As long as they continue to build crap and get CR black eyes, they will only sell to a bunch of young guys who trust online reviews written by journalists who are paid trips and meals by the manufacture.

  • avatar

    I don’t know, it’s one of their names you can actually pronounce.

    The replacement? The new VW Qqwqywx.


  • avatar

    I think they should give it a German name to help reinforce the German engineering. Perhaps the Scheißekasten or the Ausfallen.

  • avatar

    I liked the Rabbit name. It was sayable AND it was kind of cute and unique.

    “Golf” is stupid, as is “Passat.”

  • avatar

    NulloModo... or Hasenpfeffer.


  • avatar

    Oh, VWoA executives… You guys are so clueless about the US market that GM executives actually laugh at your incompetence.

    Now where’s my Polo TDI with crank windows and a manual transmission? Oh right, it’s never going to be available.

  • avatar

    …or Sitztinkler.

  • avatar

    @ Michael Karesh

    Skoda’s coming at you…

    @ menno

    Isn’t Berliet french ?

    (side note) That’s what i like in ttac – i think i’ll pay for that after all… :))

  • avatar

    I prefer the VW Thing name myself.

    When you can’t pronounce Routan, Passat, Scirocco (it took me 5 google’s to spell this), Toureg & Tiguan, they’re all things anyway.

    Maybe that’s why they have the CC!

  • avatar

    I think it time for VW to go back to their original nomenclature. Type I, Type II and Type III. This way they can keep it simple, save on badges and avoid confusion in the market.

  • avatar

    I had a Rabbit for a couple of years in high school/college. I pushed it farther than I drove it. Why would VW think anyone would remember the Rabbit favorably.

  • avatar

    7: “Isn’t Berliet french ?”

    Book says Lyons, France. My bad. (Where on earth did I get Belgium?! – I had the book right in front of me….)

    Brain must have been temporarily switched off.

  • avatar

    I knew that changing the name from Golf to Rabbit was boneheaded. Same goes for all of the other stupid VW names no one can pronounce. The fact that they actually pay these marketing folks to fail is amazing. VW has the most ridiculous portfolio of names out there right now.

    The Golf name, at least to me, was fairly neutral, maybe even a bit Euro. No self-respecting guy that I know wants to buy a car named Rabbit. Too cutesy and it makes you think of screwing, stew, Bugs Bunny, fill in the blank. Silly.

  • avatar

    …The new VW Qqwqywx

    No, sorry, that’ll be Euro-only model since its
    built in Wales.

  • avatar

    Reminds me of a wag who owned a ’70s Rabbit who lived in a predominately Jewish section of town – he broke the “t” off of the rear badge.

  • avatar

    So, the name didn’t work, so we changed it to an old name but the new old name didn’t work, so we’re going back to the old old name. It makes perfect sense.

  • avatar

    Having considered the purchase of one of these “rabbits”. I can say I really liked the way it drove, the fuel economy was sub-par and it had a lot of neat features that would be expensive or impossible to find in another car.

    I can say for certain that the name was not a factor. I know how big my penis is, and I know how to use it. The name of a car does not change either of those facts, so it falls down in the list of priorities next to wheel options, cargo organizers, ipod interfaces and other such trivialities.

  • avatar

    I had a good friend who owned one of the original series Rabbits. It was a piece of crap; the rear suspension was constantly failing. Repair, realign, repair, realign, repeat.

    My girlfriend has a 2002 Jetta – more crap. At 50K miles it’s burning oil and the final drive whines like a banshee. Rebuild motor and transmission? How about a trip to the crusher instead?

    German engineering is fine up to a point – how do they explain the constantly poor quality that comes out of Volkswagen? Yes, Audi is sharing parts and sharing quality problems, too. Bad on-plug coil anyone? Bad automatic transmission? How about a bad catalytic converter?

    For fun, call your local Volkswagen dealer’s service department. I’ll bet you end up talking to an answering machine. Tell it you have a 2002 Jetta with a catalytic converter problem and see how long it takes them to call you back. My score: 0 for 3. There’s a recall on the catalytic converter but good luck getting your car fixed.

    There was a time when German engineering meant something. I’ve got a classic Mercedes in my fleet that’s an amazing vehicle. But a new Mercedes should be embarassed to wear the name; they’re just more German engineered junk that needed another trip across the drawing board before they were produced.

    Look at the catastrophic loss in value on Mercedes’ flagship car – the SL. New, they’re six figures and up. On the used lot, they’re available for 10K. All the fancy advertising they can do won’t change the fact that German engineering doesn’t necessarily mean that the final product isn’t a piece of crap.

  • avatar

    Jetta, Passat, Golf, they might be meaningless in English but they are established brand names, even in the U.S. The whole Rabbit/Golf rebranding was unnecessary. But it was probably cheaper than actually producing a Golf as reliable as a Civic.

    What would have made a little sense would have been launching the Polo in the U.S. (preferably 5 years ago) as the Rabbit.

    Reliability, price (add two doors=+$3000), and dealer reputation prevented me from buying the Rabbit, ahem, Golf, not the name.

    If VW was trying to capitalize on 70s nostagia with the name Rabbit, at roughly the same time that the new Beetle mania was going limp, well that is some substandard marketing.

  • avatar

    I was born in 1980 so the original VW Rabbit thing really wasn’t on my cultural radar. I have a 2007 Rabbit on lease. Previously, I was driving a used 1992 Honda Accord EX.

    I like the Rabbit. It is nice enough. The engine is a little crude and rough (needs some direct injection – well, that and a turbo). It is cheap and functional enough. I learned so very much from the Rabbit car lease.

    Rabbit … well, it’s an ok name isn’t it? I mean there’s like… Bugs Bunny or the Playboy symbol. Those are cool. When you consider names like Passat and the very, very silly girly girl sounding Tiguan then “Rabbit” really isn’t that bad. Tiguan almost screams GIRL SUV.

    I’ve still got my man card – perhaps it’s the container of Pabst Blue Ribbon (used for a good luck charm) that is in my car at the moment. Then again, I have a pretty pink air freshener so uhh.. go figure. I got it because it smells nice. Anyway, overall the Rabbit was an ok car, though I’m seriously considering trading it in for:
    A much nicer mk6 GTI or
    The non-soft 2009 Subaru WRX or
    A Porsche Boxster

  • avatar



  • avatar

    You can call it anything you want, VW’s are total junk. I have a friend who bought his girlfriend a certified preowned 2006 Jetta last week. When he told me, I must have had a look of pure horror on my face. I told him “why in the hell did you buy that, don’t you know that vw’s have the worst reputation of any cars!?!. He then told me that it was already at the dealership because of some unusual noises in the suspension. They are replacing an “arm” or something. The car has 11,000 miles and the suspension is failing!!! I reminded him that my 2009 corolla has almost 20,000 miles already and has needed nothing but oil changes.

    A Chrysler would have looked like a smart move compared to any VW garbage.

  • avatar

    VW can call Rabbit/Golf/ whatever they want. It’s the car we’re buying, not the name.

    However, it would be great if VW would announce what they are going to do to beef up their weak dealer network. Co-workers I know have been dumping their VW’s because they can’t get decent service for them.

    And while the Tiguan handles well and is one of the strongest Uni-bodies around, envisioning it at the tender mercies of VW service proved a deal breaker.

  • avatar

    VW continues to show a completely brain dead approach to its US marketing & product support.

    First off, start with giving the customers you do have the best product support in the industry. VW had a chance with an entire generation of trendy buyers in the 1990s, and blew it with poor product and an antagonistic attitude.

    Second, have a product lineup which makes sense. No more W8 engined Passats. No more Phaetons. No more slap dash re-branding of Chrysler minivans.

  • avatar

    this seems like much ado about nothing to me. I do want more and better engine choices tho, a bigger sunroof, and more reliability. I own a 95, it has been fun, but expensive to maintain. But, it still runs like its new, its amazing.

    Also, I have nothing but good things to say about my dealership, Cherry Hill VW in Jersey. LIke VW, they are expensive, I do not use them for regular maintenance, but they have always been gratious, well informed and respectful to me.

  • avatar

    I still don’t see what was wrong with the name “Golf,” considering they had been selling it under that name for years…

  • avatar

    Has VW had anything halfway desirable since the Corrado VR6? (And exploiting Brooke Shields in a tight skirt doesn’t count!)

  • avatar

    “Not enough bunny love? Good riddance!”

    I think no one else has bothered to call attention to what the rabbits are doing…

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