VW Will Bring The European Jetta To America… If We Buy Enough American Jettas First
I was not the only journalist to feel a little let down by Volkswagen’s latest Jetta. After building a name in the US by offering classy European-style appointments without charging European sports-sedan prices, the latest Jetta is, well, just a little too American. VW insists that the stripped-out interior helps bring the Jetta’s pricetag down to American expectations, but it’s not at all clear that competing on Toyota’s turf will be a winning strategy for the German automaker. And it certainly won’t work in Europe, where VW offers the same Jetta with an improved interior, the multilink rear suspension offered stateside only in GLI trim, and more options like multi-zone climate control. But will US-market consumers ever have the option of buying a European-spec Jetta with all of its upmarket features?? When asked by InsideLine, VW’s Jetta boss Frank Donath answered
There is the strong chance that the midlife Jetta for North America could get all of the European features. It depends on sales performance.
VW has played this game before, hinting that the Amarok pickup truck might come to the US if consumers buy 100k units. In this case, there’s a better chance of VW having to make good on the offer, as consumers could well buy quite a few Jettas. But then, if Americans are buying lots of the cheap US-style Jettas, why bring in the Euro model? Let’s face it: the days of old-style Volkswagens is as good as over. At least until it brings the very European Scirocco over.
Auto dealer row in my town is only a couple miles from me. It includes VW, Toyota, Hyundai (sp?), Mazda, Subaru, Nissan and a couple I'm forgetting. On occasion I visit the dealers just to check my reactions against what's reported and enjoy the comp coffee. To my eye, low-end Toyotas have cheap looking interiors and other evidence of cost cutting. The much maligned new Jettas aren't as nice as old Jettas, but they're still better than the low-end Toyotas, and the lower price might make up for the interior in these perilous times. Granted, the new Jetta's trunk hinges are flimsy looking, but I'm used to looking at the rugged hinges of my 10-year-old Saab. The Jetta looks like it was designed by grownups, and I like restrained, Audi-style interiors. The problem with VWs has been reliability, expense if something goes amiss and they just don't seem to age well. When VW hires me as a consultant, I'll recommend enhancing those areas and cease making Germanic comments about what they're doing to design vehicles for the dumbkopf NA market, which cannot be done without sounding patronizing. You have to know when to shut up.
I can't pass judgement on the new Jetta until I sit in one. And, to be honest, I wasn't that bowled over by the Mk V's "nicer" interior. It'd be nice if it still had trunk struts, but Honda only offered them in the early '90s and Toyota never bothered. And I bet even the strippo S would be a step up from my '02 Civic LX, aka the Civic that switched to Mac struts. When it was new, that car was just as big of a disappointment compared to its predecessor. It's as gutless as the Two Point Slow and the interior feels pretty cheap (but still not Chevy cheap). And, oh horrors, my car even has the dreaded rear drums! Without ABS! My Honda also stickered for more in '02 than the '11 Jetta. So, yeah, I'd gladly take a new Jetta if I was looking to replace my Honda. But only if I could afford to trade it as soon as the warranty was up.
I'm still driving a 03 Jetta Wagon with the 'Two Point Slow' and I must confess that while it's not the quickest thing in the world, it is more than sufficient for my daily commuting needs (highway merging and all). I must confess that I also like the look of the new North American Jetta and think it is a good option within the compact car market. I will add, however, that the loaner I drove a while back while my own was in for service (bushings and such--still cheaper than buying new) already had more squeaks and creaks than my 03 wagon. But then again my 03 wagon still drives and handles as well as, if not better than, most new cars in the compact price range (at least the ones I've tested), so the new Jetta may not be particularly unique in that regard.
What VW is doing is eerily reminiscent of Mercedes in the early-mid 1990's after the Germans were shown that the Japanese not only do it better, and that the Germans would not be insulated by a public unwilling to forego the "status" of an MB star on the hood vs. a higher quality Lexus. So how did MB respond (wasn't the CEO Schremp or something like that). They lowered quality even further in an attempt to again become price competitive (exchange rates, European taxes and unions rendered that a fool's errand) and went downscale, trying to parlay the "MB star" into a vehicle for every garage, thus diminishing the prestige along the way. We all know how that worked out. Today Mercedes is a has-been ...