By on August 17, 2009

Ahem . . . Automotive News [sub] reports that VW is seeking a new ad agency, after four years with Crispin Porter & Bogusky. “Our goal of rapidly increasing our volume in a mature market requires the Volkswagen brand to evolve into a more relevant mainstream choice,” explains VW VP Marketing Tim Ellis.

The Volkswagen brand needs to inspire our base of enthusiasts as well as reach out and captivate those in mainstream America. Therefore, we are re-evaluating all areas of our business and after careful considerations have decided to take the necessary steps to ensure we have the right agency partner in place.

After all, VW is kind enough to dumb down its product line (cough) for America’s benighted mainstream. The problem must be the ads!

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76 Comments on “VW Ditches Ad Agency in Bid for “Mainstream Relevance”...”


  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    They really were bad ads. Think of it – in every one of those commercials was a reminder of what VW used to be. Every time I saw one, I thought “I’d rather have the Beetle.” Like GM using a talking 63 Fleetwood to convince you what a great car the DTS is, when all it would really do is show you what a REAL Cadillac is. Madness.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    Why anyone would want to reach out and captivate mainstream America is beyond me. Certainly their past ads were wrongheaded (appealing to twenty-something airheads). Now VW can appeal to Forty something airheads. Good product will win over all. No one buys a Toyota or Honda because of their ads, I don’t think.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    They really were awful ads. They only succeeded in reminding us what VW used to be all about. All I ever thought was that I’d rather have the Beetle.

    It would be like GM using a talking 63 Fleetwood to tell us what a great car the DTS is, when all it would really do is remind us what a REAL Cadillac looks like. Maddening.

  • avatar
    mdensch

    Well, bummer. Volkswagen’s ads have always been off beat and the current series has followed in that tradition nicely. I especially liked the Prius ad, nice jab at Toyota there.

    Hope the new agency has a sense of humor.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Unpimp ze commercials?

    Want mainstream appeal? Easy – just soften the suspension, widen the seats, add cup holders that can hold 40oz drinks and make every model in the lineup bigger. Get rid of all turbo engines and replace with big displacement V6s and fit AC units that can freeze meat on a hot day. Mainstream here we come.

  • avatar
    CyCarConsulting

    The old VW days when Jerry Delefamina was at the helm of clever advertising, we were also buying Twinkies,smoking Kents, and using Brylcreem. Those were the easy days. VW needs a product now to compete. The Bug was a great niche, for the 60’s. What have you got now? I think nothing. Why blame the advertising agency?

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    So VW is done trying to be Honda but with much worse quality, and is going to try to be Toyota but with much worse quality?

    Please don’t make this about “dumb Americans”, that Americans don’t buy many VW’s is proof that American’s aren’t that dumb after all.

    VW’s problem is not that its ads are too clever; it’s that VW’s cars have horrible quality. Other than diesel there is no reason to buy one instead of a Japanese FWD car.

    Europeans only buy VWs because of European xenophobia and because VWs have good reliability compared to Fiats.

    By the way, a couple days ago I heard an awful clanking, knocking noise behind me at a stoplight. I thought an old diesel dually was behind me, but I looked in my review mirror and it was a previous generation diesel Jetta.

  • avatar
    jmo

    No one buys a Toyota or Honda because of their ads, I don’t think.

    No, they don’t because they are buying a car for purely practical reasons.

    If your selling a car that offers non-quantifiable rewards you need powerful marketing to communicate your vehicles attributes.

    As an example – right now a modern day Don Draper is meeting with the boys from Alfo Romeo to discuss how to market the 159. Yes, it will leave you stranded more often than a Camry. But, as Clarkson says, “…hearing the exhaust note is like having your soul licked by angles.” The only way to get that idea across to the buying public is through advertising.

  • avatar

    My first thought was mistake, because Crispin Porter + Bogursky makes great ads.

    But if you think about it, their ads are always about being different and shaking things up – hardly the “mainstream” vibe that VW wants. That’s why they make awesome “Wake up with the king” ads with BK, that’s why they did the Coke Zero Super Bowl ad, and that’s even why they did Unpimp ze auto…these brands and campaigns were all about being the alternative, not the mainstream.

    This agency’s last big and public attempt at working with a mainstream company was when Gates and Seinfeld made a few commercials together. Remember how that turned out?

    If you want edgy, polarizing, and generally awesome, go with Crispin Porter + Bogursky. Otherwise, go elsewhere! I guess VW made a good choice, if that’s really what they want.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Good, maybe we will not see another campaign touting the German Engineering of a Routan!

    VW has been trying to market itself based on nostalgia, German Engineering and being hip.

    I think they should go back to building a campaign around “Driver’s Wanted”. Pitch every vehicle as not only doing what other cars in the segment do, but doing so in a way which appeals to people who like to drive. Don’t go after the people for whom driving is a necessary evil … everyone else is already selling to them.

  • avatar
    sfdennis1

    VW’s marketing efforts here have been hit-or-miss, at best. Remember “fahrvegnugen”? or whatever the hell that was? And the talking Beetle is little better…annoying rather than endearing.

    VW’s advertising is generally better material for comedians, than it is at selling cars.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    John Horner:

    The Routan does have German engineering, just Daimler’s not VW’s.

  • avatar
    talkstoanimals

    carguy, you nailed my anxiety about VW’s direction on the head. What are they thinking?

    Yes, what the world needs is more Toyota clones – their grey, mouse fur interiors are so appealing, their styling is dynamic, and the driving experience is… zzzzzzzzz… I’m sorry, did I nod off for a second there?

  • avatar
    ajla-

    I loved the GTI “Fast” series of ads.

    In fact the ads were just enough to get me down to a dealer for a test drive. That’s how I found out that I love dual-clutch transmissions.

    I didn’t buy a GTI that day, but I did put VW on my radar for the future, so I’d say the commercial was very effective. On me anyway.

  • avatar
    Accords

    HMMmmmmm

    DAMN,
    THAT is EXACTLY what is wrong with VW in a nutshell.

    They are NOW trying to be MAINSTREAM! They… like Subaru were better when they were quirky and interesting.

    Now they have as much interest.. as a left open can of month old cream of mushroom SOUP!

    Hasnt anyone ever told these yahoos and Subaru.. that your following will be fantastic and loyal if you stick to what you know best.

    But Porsche tried that.. and their CEO fucked that all up.

    Subaru tried that.. and look where it got them = TOYOTA, current Legacy / wagon.

    Honda is trying that with Accord as did Toyota tries that with the current Camry.. can you say, large, obese blvd cruiser = FAT ASS!

    Now I cant even walk into a Porsche shop.. without my eyes bleeding.. from the obese Cayenne and the pointless Panamera.

    Life as we know it.. is ending.

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    Welcome to the 24 Heures Du Meh – the race to build the blandest, most unoffensive cars in the world.

  • avatar

    At least the VW ads made you notice VW. Has there ever been a memorable Toyota ad? Of course, that doesn’t stop Toyota from selling bazillions of cars.

    Anyway, I thought they’d already dumbed down their product line, or at least part of it. I mean, have you driven a Jetta recently? It’s softer than a freshly plowed field, which incidentally is exactly what you’ll have if you drive one hard into a corner.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    Great. Now their ads are going to be VeeDubathons with dorks in pleated tan chinos running around white Passamries and Jettarollas like coked-up fools. Oh what a Farfegnugen!!!

    I actually thought the recent VW ads were pretty clever. The Routan ads were terrible because of what they were selling. A good creative team can do only so much with what they have.

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    They are firing their ad agency? Heh. The only 2 reasons I would have bought a VW for were:

    1. Golf is one of the few remaining hatchbacks
    2. “Unpimp ze auto” commercials were absolutely brilliant

    Unfortunately the cars themselves are not brilliant. In fact, they are far from it. So far, even with the two things above going for them, I couldn’t force myself to do it. And that awful 2.5? Don’t even get me started…

  • avatar
    jmo

    Unfortunately the cars themselves are not brilliant. In fact, they are far from it.

    Then why do they hold the #1 and #2 spot in Germany?

  • avatar

    I think the ad is pretty good, although it would be better if they expunged the talking Real Beetle in favor of another H. sapiens. But the 58 mpg and the vroom vroom and gear shifting noises vs the whoosh of the Prion is compelling.

  • avatar

    24 heures du meh ?

    BRILLIANT !

    RF STEAL THIS

    I nominate my favorite least fav car, the Toyota Camry Solara Convertible.

  • avatar
    jmo

    the Toyota Camry Solara Convertible

    It’s worse than a Sebring Convertible?

  • avatar
    Caraholica

    Advertising is just hot air when the product is weak, and VW has been fun, but weak for a long time. And the ads have been awful-talking beetles? c’mon. Added the product disasters like Routan, Phaeton, Eos, not to mention bottom of the barrel reliability, its a miracle they sell anything at here. Been to a VW dealer lately? my local sample are not happy places, worse than Ford’s and harder to find. I love GTI’s, Passat’s, etc. but they need to sell at a discount to Japanese brands, not a premium. These periodic campaigns are laughable- a million units a year? On what planet?

  • avatar
    Demetri

    If this means that I never have to hear about “German engineering” again, I’ll be happy. They really had some terrible and obnoxious advertisements.

  • avatar
    don1967

    So VW wants to beat Hyundai to be the New Toyota?

    They should forget about the advertising, and start building cars that don’t need an inflatable mechanic in the trunk.

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    VW’s ills has nothing to do with advertising, and everything to do with product. The 5cyl engine? The smoothness of a 4 with the economy of a 6? Please…

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    VWs only unique product is the 4/5 there TTAC Valhalla mobile of the TDI Jetta Wagon with a stick. Its a race to see if they add 4 Motion to the Jetta or Subaru brings the diesel to the USDM.

    They deserve some credit for carrying the torch for small oil burners in the US.

    Beyond that they just make cars that cost more up front, lag GM and Chrysler in quality rankings, and then require all sorts of oddball tools to fix with their expensive parts available only from their sparse dealer network.

    The flaming turd that was the 1.8T and a reputation for arbitrary denial of warranty claims does not help either.

  • avatar
    texlovera

    @RedStapler: “The flaming turd that was the 1.8T …”

    Amen to that. Every freaking edition of CR’s Car Isuue, the same old thing. Does that mean ‘mericuns were dumb to not buy it?

  • avatar
    derm81

    If VW wants to sell to mainstream America they need to ditch the hipster Teutonic image as far as I am concerned. Who are the trying to reach? Are they trying to reach the suburban professional/working mom with 2 kids or do they want to focus on black-framed glasses-wearing, vintage record-loving, indie band types?

  • avatar
    jmo

    Are they trying to reach the suburban professional/working mom with 2 kids or do they want to focus on black-framed glasses-wearing, vintage record-loving, indie band types?

    Nah, they want to capture the hip moms, the ones who shop at whole foods and don’t let themselves go. Other companies already have obese “mom jeans” wearing contingent all sown up.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    My 02 Passat was a lemon, or close to it. I don’t miss that car.

    Cars talking into microphones is dumb.

    Wasting Brooke Shields on Routans is even dumber. Or is it the other way around?

    If they want to arrogantly brag about German engineering, try telling us why it’s better than Japanese or American or Swedish engineering, and how you can affordably keep these wonderful cars out of the repair shop. Because I sure couldn’t.

    Oh, and ditch the old Beetle. It’s old.

  • avatar
    Tommy Boy

    Perhaps the next advertising campaign should really emphasize “German engineering.”

    Such as:

    “The new Jetta V-2 edition. It’s ‘da bomb!\'”

    or …

    “Our new VW’s are like our old submarines. Our vehicles run silent [on the back of the towtruck] and run deep [our resale value will have you so underwater you’ll think that you’ve hit financial crush depth]!”

  • avatar
    oldowl

    The ads were awful with narration that sounded like the idiot guard in Hogan’s Heroes.

  • avatar
    tony-e30

    Anybody remember the ads VW had in the late ’90s? One of my favorite commercials of all time is the one with the people riding along a moonlit road in a Cabriolet while Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” played. It was so good that I briefly desired a Cabriolet…until the commercial ended.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “My 02 Passat was a lemon, or close to it. I don’t miss that car.”

    You are making me glad I didn’t buy an ’03 Passat. I really like the way it drove, and I dug the fact that I could buy a station wagon with a manual transmission. But, I did my homework and concluded I didn’t want to buy myself a headache. After having bought multiple European and American cars, I finally went over the Asian side and got an ’03 Accord. So far it has been an excellent vehicle, not perfect, but pretty darn good. In ’03 Honda moved the Accord a bit away from Camry style driving dynamics and towards VW style dynamics. I still enjoy driving it at 93k miles and counting.

  • avatar
    drifter

    I think they should go back to building a campaign around “Driver’s Wanted”.

    I think it will be more appropriate if they went back to building a campaign around “Mechanics Wanted”.

  • avatar
    357Sig

    Frankly, I’m not that much of a VW fan, but last I read, VW was or is soon to be the largest automobile manufacturer on the planet. They’ve got to be making something somebody likes.

    Like them or not, that’s a lot of juice.

  • avatar
    tech98

    I’ve liked VW’s edgy ads in the past, but the talking Beetle I found stupid and irritating. It reminded me of Chrysler’s hideous ‘Ask Dr. Z’ ads.

    “The new Jetta V-2 edition. It’s ‘da bomb!’”
    LOL! “Launching soon into the UK market!”

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    Yes, its amazing how VW can be a player in most of the worlds car markets but remain the perennial also-ran in the US.

    The slow implosion of American Leyland has presented them a once in a lifetime opportunity to gain market share without the usual “trench warfare” slog against entrenched competition.

    Still they are only a few good executives and a Hyundai-esque quality improvement with a strong warranty away from grabbing a 5-10% share of the market.

    Given the dysfunctional corporate culture that VW has I doubt it will happen anytime soon. Imagine how much farther GM would be of the fecal matter waterway if the UAW had seats on the Board and Michigan held a controlling stake.

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    “The new Jetta V-2 edition. It’s ‘da bomb!’”
    LOL! “Launching soon into the UK market!”

    Better than the Touareg getting stuck on the outskirts of the Russian market only to be crushed by the cheaper reliable local competition.

    Or its platform mate the Porsche Cayanne:

    “The last time we made a Vehicle this big it had Tracks and a Cannon”

  • avatar
    Vega

    @no_slushbox:

    Yeah, I’m a European driving a Polo, so I’m probably a xenophobe. Sure. Otherwise I would be driving a Toyota Yaris. It must ne nice to have a simple worldview.

    You want to know why Europeans don’t drive more Japanese cars?

    1. History: When Japanese makers hit western markets in the 70s, the European industry was in a far better shape to deal with the challenges of the energy crisis than Detroit. Also, early Japanese cars were built with an eye on 1970s US consumer’s taste (did I say taste?) and thus didn’t sell well in countries where people weren’t blind.

    2. Trends: Japanese suppliers have a history of
    missing European sales trends, most notably in the early nineties when direct injection Diesels took of (which the Japanese didn’t offer) and people increasingly focused on crash tests (which most 90s Japanese cars failed miserably).

    3. We expect other things from our cars then only reliability, comfort and big cupholders. We like to drive and not be driven. We want brakes than can haul us down from 120 mph repeatedly. We want interiors that don’t look like cheap Motel rooms (we also don’t build our houses with drywall btw). We want good cornering abilities even in our compact cars, which by the way are not considered poor man’s cars like in the US.

    4. Reliability: Yes I admit, VW did have a rough patch until 4 years ago. However they still sold millions here in Germany and I don’t see legions of broken down Golfs lining the Autobahn every day… That may have to do with the fact that Europeans also recognize that modern car technology is complex and maybe maintenance shouldn’t be done by the ex-convict in the lube-station round the corner. As a result, modern engine technology like direct ignition routinely gets introduced earlier in Europe (and -apart from Hybrids- not by the Japanese) than in the US.

    But I’m sure you’re right, us not buying more Japanes cars is a sure sign that we hate foreigners. *sigh*

    3.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    time to get rid of the ‘beetle’
    I liked the exercise add for the cluth a few years back…and the kids driving at night looking at the stars….

  • avatar

    VW lost the thread a long while ago.

    You can’t make a car for Die Volk if it’s so unreliable the TCO is too high for them.

    What was the last time they even made a reliable car?

    A few issues back, there were more VWs on Consumer Reports’ “No-Seriously,-Never-EVER-Buy-One-Of-These-If-You-Want-To-Get-Out-Alive”-list than just about any other automaker.

    .
    If there were a special type of bomb that could explode multiple times with random different types of damage, that bomb would be my old Jetta.

  • avatar

    I hated the Brooke Shields ads. They were creepy. And I’m speaking as their target demographic for that car – new parents.

    The Umpimp my ride and GTI fast ads were good in a huge sea of misses.

    I thought the old VW + new models were a total miss. Everything that was good about the old Beetle is not so good about the newer models, and the voice is paternalistic. I don’t who they were marketing to – racists who find a v/o artist putting on fake German accent is funny, or folks who remember the old days with fondness (hint: they’re busy buying their last car before dying), or … I just didn’t get it. I cringed every single time I sat through those ads.

    Andrew

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    Why is VW considered to be so unreliable in the us?
    What problems do they have?
    (Btw, i have never owned a VW, but i have thought about it.)

  • avatar
    truenorth

    “That may have to do with the fact that Europeans also recognize that modern car technology is complex and maybe maintenance shouldn’t be done by the ex-convict in the lube-station round the corner.”

    Oh, OK, thank you for explaining that.

    The VW dealer said I can look forward to replacing all 4 (FOUR) cats on my 02 Passat. I said, I heard that’s fairly expensive, maybe $2200? She laughed. “More.” I don’t understand the relationship between this outrageous figure, ex-convicts, and dry-wall, but maybe if I lived in Wolfburg for a year?

    Seriously, the distances that people drive in the U.S. and the lack of effective transportation alternatives in most places explains the market demand for comfortable, reliable transportation. These preferences are not some form of cultural ignorance.

  • avatar
    jose carlos

    To Vega.
    What an arrogant piece of writing. Just to put the icing on the cake you should have written in your native language (if you are not Turk). With that mentality I do suspect that the Wermacht et al (1939-45) did arrive in stile but were thoroughly kicked in the ***: 0-2 (current score in WW’s). More seriously, I do think VW brands are grossly over rated: below average quality, expensive and poor (arrogant) service. Many costumers are once only costumers. Myself (in Portugal) included.

  • avatar
    drifter

    3. We expect other things from our cars then only reliability, comfort and big cupholders. We like to drive and not be driven. We want brakes than can haul us down from 120 mph repeatedly. We want interiors that don’t look like cheap Motel rooms (we also don’t build our houses with drywall btw). We want good cornering abilities even in our compact cars, which by the way are not considered poor man’s cars like in the US.

    Agreed, but none of these attributes apply to the current VW sold in US including Corolla-inpsired Jetta.

  • avatar
    vento97

    A car is as reliable as it’s owner… and I’ve seen more examples of unreliable clueless owners on the roadways than I wish to see…

  • avatar
    autobahner44

    drifter : 3. We expect other things from our cars then only reliability, comfort and big cupholders. We like to drive and not be driven. We want brakes than can haul us down from 120 mph repeatedly. We want interiors that don’t look like cheap Motel rooms (we also don’t build our houses with drywall btw). We want good cornering abilities even in our compact cars, which by the way are not considered poor man’s cars like in the US.

    Agreed, but none of these attributes apply to the current VW sold in US including Corolla-inpsired Jetta.

    I own a VW (an ’09 CC) and it’s been nothing but a joy in every way. A small request to the bile and bitterness contingent of the Volkswagen haters lynch mob out there, to paraphrase an old advertising tagline, Have you driven a VW lately?

    Oh well, no one will ever accuse TTAC readers of being milquetoast.

  • avatar
    Vega

    @Jose Carlos: I was only reacting to baseless, inflammatory comments by no_slushbox, who argued that Europeans only bought European cars because they hated foreigners. As a European, where was your outrage about that? I agree that some of my arguments were maybe overly pointed but hey, why should only no_slushbox have all the fun? At least I didn’t call his compatriots xenophobes.

    Oh, and using tired old WW2 cliches in 2009? Way to stay classy man.

    I will now return to being a nice and fair internationalist urging readers to disregard all arguments I have made that were not completely based on verifiable facts. *Yawn* /passiveaggressivemode

  • avatar
    Vega

    @truenorth: If you lived in Wolfsburg for a year, you’d want to kill yourself…:)

  • avatar
    gslippy

    My 02 Passat V6 was my first VW. I dumped it in 05 for a Scion xB (virtually even trade; terrible depreciation).

    Troubles with the Passat included:
    – total electrical failure in the LR door; repaired 3 times
    – car wouldn’t start @ 5 months old (engine speed sensor)
    – air conditioning pressure sensor failure
    – replaced 4 brake pads & rotors at 500 miles
    – at 30k miles, was burning 1 quart of oil every 1000 miles
    – terrible throttle lag (a dog off the line and downshifting)
    – inaccurate fuel level sensor (low light tripped on at 25%; dealer could not fix)
    – 2 burned out headlights in 2nd year (vibration, voltage?)

    The last straw for me was the oil consumption from its 5-valve engine. The dealer’s mechanics were bored, the showroom empty of customers every time I visited (which was many), and they declared that the top of the engine would need to be pulled to fix the “camshaft tensioner seals”, all billable to VW under warranty.

    Instead, I traded the car because I realized I couldn’t afford this kind of German engineering. It’ll be a long time before I own another VW.

    Having also owned a Fiat once, I understand why VW can’t get traction in the US.

  • avatar
    moedaman

    jmo :
    August 17th, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    Unfortunately the cars themselves are not brilliant. In fact, they are far from it.

    Then why do they hold the #1 and #2 spot in Germany?

    Thanks for reminding us that Germans aren’t as smart as they think.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    The people I’ve always known that drove VWs were young and idealistic socialists that were still in or just out of college. VWs questionable quality was not an issue for them as when would it be for someone dreaming of the days when America is also a socialist utopia?

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I’ll put it to you this way folks.

    The number of VW’s traded-in to Carmax with fewer than 100k on them vs. more than 150k is… 10 to 1.

    That means that these owners are willing to take a lowball offer to just get out of their VW instead of keeping it for the longer haul. If you look at the number of VW’s at the auction that have ‘engine needs service’ or ‘transmission needs service’ you quickly understand why.

    No large scale manufacturer comes anywhere close to this figure. Not even by half.

    The winners of the >150k keepers? Lexus, Toyota, Honda, Acura, Subaru, Jeeps, Ford and Chevy truck platforms.

    The losers with the highest trade-in ratio with less than 100k? Saab, Suzuki, Land Rover, VW, Kia, and Jaguar.

    With over 100,000 trade-in’s a year, I’m pretty comfortable with using this particular metric to evaluate the past performance of these manufacturers.

    Oh, one more thing. On any given week the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord alone will have more trade-in’s with over 150k than ALL the European manufacturers combined. This despite the fact that Carmax regularly gets five to seven times the number of European trade-in’s than they do of either of these two models.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Then why do they hold the #1 and #2 spot in Germany?

    GM and Chrysler were #1 and #3 in North America for a long time. Does that automatically make them better?

    VW’s problem is not advertising. VW’s problem is marketing. They have consistently failed to give people a reason to buy their products, and have come up with all sorts of reasons why people ought not to.

    A very big clue that a company is not willing to do the hard work of product development and marketing (coming up with marketable products, backing them up, developing a long-term, viable strategy) is when they start changing ad companies like underwear. Changing ad companies is easy, and it makes marketing execs look like they’re doing something when, really, they’re not.

    For example: take a look at how many ad companies GM has chewed through in it’s last few years. Note that Mark La Neve still has a job and still hasn’t come up with a viable way to get people to buy GM’s product.

    VW, not Toyota, is the next GM.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    VW did have a rough patch until 4 years ago. However they still sold millions here in Germany and I don’t see legions of broken down Golfs lining the Autobahn every day

    Three points:
    1. Part of the problem in North America is warranty performance. VWAG and/or VWoA is pathological about the screwing it gives it’s dealers. I have no idea why they do this, but they take every pain to screw dealers out of warranty claim compensation. This is a VW problem. If your car breaks down, you’re far more likely to be pissed off about it if the dealer and maker screw you on warranty.

    2. Europeans have a higher tolerance for problems. I have no idea why, but cross-industry Europeans will put up with levels of bullshit from their products that North Americans and Japanese will not tolerate. I have no idea why this happens, but it does.

    3. Between cushy company-car benefits and the fact that Europeans don’t drive as much, it’s not as big a problem.

    All this is changing. I have relatives in Turin who, after years of being FIAT loyalists, bought a Honda Accord and have been amazed at the lack of crap that the car has given them. They’re not alone: Toyota and Hyundai are making inroads now that they have competitive diesel powerplants, and Ford is doing quite well itself

  • avatar
    geeber

    vento97: A car is as reliable as it’s owner… and I’ve seen more examples of unreliable clueless owners on the roadways than I wish to see…

    Blaming the customer isn’t going to work any better for VW than it has worked for GM.

    If VW wants to become a mainstream seller in the U.S., then it will have to make cars that can stand up to how Americans actually treat them, not how it THINKS Americans SHOULD treat them.

    Toyota figured this out decades ago…

  • avatar
    Vega

    @psarhijnan: Don’t judge a car company by it showing in the US. It’s not even the biggest market globally anymore (overtaken by China). I’d say given the precipitous fall of the US Dollar, the recent demand reduction and razor-thin retail margins, not having a strong business in the US was good for Volkswagen in the last 2 years.
    VW is doing fine, thank you very much. It’s turning a profit even in the current global economic climate, it’s also still the market leader in Europe and has a leading position in China.
    With regards to brands, while they are having their share of problems (e.g. Seat), they have repeatedly shown they can practice platform sharing without diluting the brands involved (Skoda, VW, Audi).

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    the recent demand reduction and razor-thin retail margins, not having a strong business in the US was good for Volkswagen in the last 2 years.

    I’ve used this metaphor before. Heck, I’ve posted this whole argument before: VW being too incompetent to do well in North America and then benefitting from it is like winning a race because everyone faster than you slipped on an oil slick that just happened to be in their lane and not yours.

    VW is not the beneficiary of brilliant corporate strategy, but of dumb luck, government charity and their own incompetence. It would be suicidal for them to think that they’ve done a good job, and ignore that Toyota, Honda, GM, Ford and native brands are all encroaching on their strongholds in one way or another.

    With regards to brands, while they are having their share of problems (e.g. Seat), they have repeatedly shown they can practice platform sharing without diluting the brands involved (Skoda, VW, Audi).

    No, they can’t. They think they can, but they can’t. Not with Toyota and Ford breathing down their necks in Europe. Maintaining four or give brands all selling the same cars is never a good idea, and it’s only worked in Europe because they were the dominant player, much like it did for GM.

    They need to focus and take advantage of their temporary good fortune, shore up North America and Europe while everyone else is weak and somehow prevent Toyota and the native Chinese makes from breaking the back of their operations in the east. What they are doing is piddling around with Porsche.

    Deck chairs. Titanic.

  • avatar
    Vega

    “Maintaining four or give brands all selling the same cars is never a good idea, and it’s only worked in Europe because they were the dominant player, much like it did for GM.”

    Only they aren’t the same cars. Skoda Octavia, VW Golf, Audi TT the same car? There is a difference between badge engineering and platform sharing. Under the ownership of VW, Audi managed to evolve from an also-ran in the 70s to a viable contender in the premium car game, going head to head with BMW. Skoda was nowhere and is now a successful brand used to contain threats from cheaper players from Korea.

    “Not with Toyota and Ford breathing down their necks in Europe” Please. 2008 European market shares (including all brands) Toyota: 4.9%; Ford: 9.9%; Volkswagen: 19.0%. And Ford (of Europe) has been “breathing down their necks” since the 60s now.

    If that is the Titanic, I’d book a trip tomorrow.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Skoda Octavia, VW Golf, Audi TT the same car?

    Logical fallacy: picking a specific example and applying it to the general. How about:
    * SEAT Leon & Toledo, Golf, Jetta, Audi A3, Skoda Octavia
    * SEAT Exeo, VW Passat, Audi A4 & A6, Skoda Superb
    * SEAT Ibiza, Polo, A1/A2, Fabia
    …and that’s being generous. You can broaden the scope to compact MPVs and crossovers and it gets even nastier.

    Now, doesn’t that just smack of Aura/G6/Malibu/9-3 or Traverse/Enclave/Acadia/Outlook?

    I’m not saying that one is badge engineered and the other is platform-shared and that one is better than the other; I’m saying that one company competing against itself in four or five market segments with four divisions in one region is stupid, regardless of how much you can amortize the platform costs, or what the actual platform is.

    Especially when your competition (Ford, Toyota) is managing near the same sales numbers with a single brand. At some point, that kind of behaviour seriously impedes your ability to focus and execute.

    Please. 2008 European market shares (including all brands) Toyota: 4.9%; Ford: 9.9%;

    Do you think those numbers are sustainable? Because Toyota and Ford have been growing organically, have amounted better reputations for reliability, and are just as well-disposed to benefit from the collapse of Opel (or PSA, or Renault) as VW is.

    You’re giving VW far too much credit for being big because they always have been big. GM was once this big, too.

  • avatar
    WhatTheHel

    autobahner44
    “I own a VW (an ‘09 CC) and it’s been nothing but a joy in every way.”

    An 09? Seriously??? We’re talking about long-term reliability and you chime in about your ’09?
    Come back in 2-5 years and we’ll talk then about your on-going level of joy.

    It’s like pulling a pin on a grenade and then just standing there holding the grenade saying ‘nothing’s happening’.

    Just wait.
    Milquetoast indeed.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    redstapler, “The last time we made a Vehicle this big it had Tracks and a Cannon”

    +1

  • avatar
    Vega

    “Near the same sales numbers”: Logical fallacy: Focussing on one part of the argument, perceived wrong, and ignoring other parts of my reply,even repeating arguments I have disproved. I repeat: Toyota: 4.9%; Ford: 9.9%; Volkswagen: 19.0% market share in Europe.

    Now, the platforms:
    “SEAT Exeo, VW Passat, Audi A4 & A6, Skoda Superb”

    Actually, that’s several platforms:
    Transversal engine platforms:
    – Passat, Superb (PQ46)

    Longtitudinal engine platforms:
    – Seat EXEO (B7)(discontinued A4)
    – Audi A4 (B8) (completely new platform, less frontal overhang)
    – Audi A6 (4F)

    I agree, it is not smart to dilute Passat and A4 with the Superb and Exeo, however these larger models usually only play an important role in their regional markets. Don’t forget that Europe is quite heterogenic.

    – Ibiza, Polo, Fabia:
    Same platform, agreed, however completely different looks, sheetmetal and interiors relevant to the brands core missions: Fabia (cheap), Ibiza (sporty), Polo (upscale).
    Audi A2: seperate platform aluminium, discontinued, A1 not there yet, also smaller platform.

    -Leon & Toledo, Golf, Jetta, A3, Octavia:
    OK, I give you Leon and Toledo, even I can’t tell these two apart. But I already said Seat has problems. All the others: Again, same platform, completely differing content, interiors and sheetmetal: Octavia: Big family oriented value car. Golf: Classless car, an institution since 1974, best selling car in Europe; A3: Higher prices, better interior, more upscale

    And now the biggest difference: The strategy WORKS. No A3 drivers feels shortchanged only because he has the same basic rear suspension as the Skoda driver next to him. The cars are just different enough, as opposed to the Traverse/Enclave/Acadia/Outlook.

    “Because Toyota and Ford have been growing organically, have amounted better reputations for reliability, and are just as well-disposed to benefit from the collapse of Opel”

    Well, read recent VW reliability data, they’re on the way up too. Ford Europe has grown organically for about 2 year now, they are still miles away from the market share they had in the 70s. Toyota would have to triple sales to come near VW levels.

    Look, I don’t say that there will not be strong competition going forward and that Toyota and Ford might not improve I even think that’s a good thing, however your GM-VW analogy is just false in my point of view. Don’t underestimate VW, people had written them of twice before (dawn of the beetle in the early 70s, recession in the early 90s), they always came back swinging and increasing their market share again.

    VW has constantly been turning profits since the early nineties. It is by far the market leader in Europe and sells even more cars in China. It may have problems, but it is far away from GM’s situation.

  • avatar
    rochskier

    @ autobahner44:

    A small request to the bile and bitterness contingent of the Volkswagen haters lynch mob out there, to paraphrase an old advertising tagline, Have you driven a VW lately?

    Yes.

    It sucked.

  • avatar
    oms

    autobahner44 :
    I own a VW (an ‘09 CC) and it’s been nothing but a joy in every way. A small request to the bile and bitterness contingent of the Volkswagen haters lynch mob out there, to paraphrase an old advertising tagline, Have you driven a VW lately?

    Yes, I own an ’07 AWD Passat Wagon. The reasons we bought this car: 1) the Japanese manufacturers did not offer a comparable wagon in the States, and we wanted a car with some space but not an SUV, 2) safety and crash test results, 3) the Passat appeared to give you a more car for the money than an A4 Avant, 4) at the time, the reliability record for the new Passat (especially V6) was looking better than the outgoing model.

    Well guess what, the car is still nice (although no A4), but along with some funny rattles and squeaks (and some wear on the plastic switchgear in the cockpit), in the two years of ownership we’ve had:

    – multiple recalls, including wiper motor cover, several transmission updates which have still not solved “hesitation” issues
    – airbag failure in the passenger seat, necessitating the seat be removed/serviced under warranty
    – brake replaced, including rotors, on all four corners at less than 40k miles ($$$)
    – steering column failure, requiring car to be towed to dealership
    – several bad VW service experiences, including incomplete reassembly of covers/compartments after service on at least 2 separate occasions (e.g., lower engine cover fell off while driving a month after last oil change), 3-4 hours wait for towing service from VW 24 hr during the steering column incident mentioned above
    – (minor) failed vanity light, had driver side visor replaced

    And no, I don’t drive this car hard. Apparently, other owners have had similar issues, since last year’s Consumer Reports found the V6 Passat AWD to be off-the-charts bad for reliability.

    I still like my Passat, but when I’m waiting in the VW Service Dept., I can’t help but miss my previous cars that were Hondas. My last car was an ’01 Prelude which never required any maintenance more serious than brake shoes up until the time I traded it in at 6 years/82k for the Passat. And I DID drive that car hard.

  • avatar
    jmo

    – brake replaced, including rotors, on all four corners at less than 40k miles ($$$)

    How long should brakes last?

  • avatar
    Sam P

    “Yes, I own an ‘07 AWD Passat Wagon. The reasons we bought this car: 1) the Japanese manufacturers did not offer a comparable wagon in the States, and we wanted a car with some space but not an SUV, 2) safety and crash test results, 3) the Passat appeared to give you a more car for the money than an A4 Avant, 3) at the time, the reliability record for the new Passat (especially V6) was looking better than the outgoing model.”

    A Subaru Outback 3.0R or 2.5XT (the turbocharged one with the same powerplant as the WRX and Legacy GT) would have served you well with impeccable reliability, without the SUV body. It probably wouldn’t handle as well as the Passat, but I’d give up a little cornering grip for a lot of reliability.

  • avatar
    oms

    Sam P :
    August 18th, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    A Subaru Outback 3.0R or 2.5XT…would have served you well with impeccable reliability…

    You are right about the Subaru wagon. It got nixed by a higher authority due to styling considerations. :)

    But there you have the classic VW marketing problem – it appeals to people who want a certain kind of styling and content, but doesn’t deliver on the basic standard of reliability that people have come to expect in the mainstream market.

    jmo :
    August 18th, 2009 at 3:12 pm
    How long should brakes last?

    Ideally, longer than Honda and Toyota brakes if that’s whom you want to steal “relevance” from.

  • avatar
    Demetri

    Just to pile on. 06 Passat. Wouldn’t start in the cold a year and a half ago. Left my dad stranded in below zero weather. They had to replace the fuel rail TWICE. Automatic climate control failed. Airbag sensor failed. Wouldn’t start again, about a month ago. This time it wasn’t under warranty anymore. $1800. It has 70k miles. Volkswagen deserves all the bile that they get. You think reliability depends on the owner? BS. My dad is fastidious in taking care of his vehicle. Meanwhile, I don’t do a damn thing to my car. 9k mile oil changes. No scheduled maintenance. I wash my car by backing it out of the garage during a rain storm and turning the wipers on. I’ve never had ANY problems with my Toyota or Mazda.

  • avatar
    Accords

    Hmmm
    I hate to pile on. The company has PLENTY of mis-steps. The CEO is clearly walking out of the people who loved the company.

    But there are all kinds of reasons why I wouldn’t touch a VW.

    1.. Ya don’t advertise ya warranty, and how it covers everything for 4 yrs.. to copy MB / BMW… and make german comments in the ad about how expensive it is. Only to re-iterate that after the warranty up, the vehicle will be traded.

    They did a coupla decent ads (not the car crash scare ones..) not the condescending ads on the Toureg, but going back at least 10yrs, when they sang during the intro of the Jetta.

    Definitely not the Un-pimp-ze-audo. This IS DEFINITELY not the company to buy a sporty car from.. (witness the Toureg / Routan / Tiguan).

    The company is confused, in its marketing, its vehicles and definitely in its reliability. And as someone who put 100k on a Accord from 00 IN 3 YEARS… I wont even touch a VW.

  • avatar
    truenorth

    – brake replaced, including rotors, on all four corners at less than 40k miles ($$$)

    How long should brakes last?

    For “$$$” they had better last a while. During one of my several recall trips, the service manager (hopefully not an ex-con though their shop does have plenty of sheet rock) suggested it was time for a $1200+ brake job on my 02 Passat. After that an independent mechanic friend (clean background, less sheet rock in their shop) recommended Brake Planet aftermarket parts, which took only an hour or two of shop time to install. (I guess it would be tasteless to remark on hauling down from 120 MPH here.)

  • avatar
    slateslate

    **********The winners of the >150k keepers? Lexus, Toyota, Honda, Acura, Subaru, Jeeps, Ford and Chevy truck platforms.

    The losers with the highest trade-in ratio with less than 100k? Saab, Suzuki, Land Rover, VW, Kia, and Jaguar.**********

    To hades with JD Power, I’d love to see the raw Carmax/Manheim auction data. This would make a great TTAC op-ed.

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