By on April 2, 2011

One of my jobs in China was to help out with the launch of the Passat B6. Except that there was no Passat B6 in China. In 2005, the car was introduced in Europe to great acclaim. A year later, it was supposed to be made in China.  In China, Volkswagen has two joint ventures, Shanghai Volkswagen in Shanghai, and FAW-VW in frigid Changchun. SVW made and makes the Passat and was the logical choice to make the B6. Except that SVW didn’t want it. They deemed the 1996 vintage B5 and its Chinese variants as good enough for the Chinese market.  The folks in Wolfsburg shook their heads. “They always complain that they don’t get the latest technology, and when we give them the latest technology, they  keep the old stuff.”

Making the best out of having two joint ventures in China, Volkswagen sold the B6 license to FAW-VW. As the name “Passat” was taken, the B6 received a new name, “Magotan.” Pronounced “Ma-GO-tn”. Except that in Chinese, it’s called “May Teng.” (Are we confused yet? Gee, there is a company that is proud of the mess.) The Ma-GO-tn/May Teng was launched to limited success.

Last year, a new generation Passat was launched in Europe, dubbed the B7 internally, but detractors say it’s no more than a big facelift. The Chinese version will be shown at the Shanghai Motor Show. Guess who will make it?

It will be made by FAW again.

Once more, SVW turned down the offers to ride into the future with a Passat that is (allegedly) two generation ahead of theirs. Therefore, China will have to survive without a B7 Passat and will get a B7 Magotan, courtesy of First Auto Works in Manchuria. According to TheTycho, FAW-VW will grace the Shanghai Auto Show with a Magotan B7L, as in long. Stretched cars are all the rage in China, where the owner rides in the back and leaves the driving to a driver.

And what about SVW? Will they continue to delight their customers with a Passat that pretty soon will be old enough to vote? Not to worry. SVW will get the license to Volkswagen’s Chattanooga-made NMS, aka, “New Passat”, or simply “Passat”, or whatever. This will also be shown in Shanghai. According to China Car Times, “the New Passat will take the old B5 Passat out of production once and for all.”

However, it would not surprise me if the B5 will live on in one way or the other. The Chinese just hate to throw away usable platforms, as the many generations of the Jetta, built in parallel under different names, attest. I mean, just in 2009, SVW launched the Passat Lingyu, which was based on the old Skoda Superb, which was based on the Passat B5.

(Not confused yet? Then take this: When you head over to China Car Times, carefully read their story on Britain’s Bristol being bought by the Xinjiang No1 Tractor Company. Note the date of the story. It received so many hits that CCT’s server was down for two days.)

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8 Comments on “Chinese Fire Drill, Passat Edition...”

  • avatar

    When I was in China 3 years ago it was like being in a VW museum. Virtually every taxi is either a Jetta Mark2…our 1985 Jetta face lifted of course or Passat Mark 2…our 1982 Quantum….Santana in Europe and China…
    Sort of cool

    • 0 avatar

      Are these supposedly 20 year+ ‘young’ dinosaurs updated to current emission standard? What is the emission standard in China?

    • 0 avatar

      Beijing and other cities have been at Euro 4 for years.  No grandfathering, you can’t drive into Beijing with a non-compliant car. China as a whole was supposed to go to Euro 4 in 2010, I don’t know whether that has happened.  Beijing will go to the much stricter Euro 5 standard in 2012.
      In many ways, the emissions standards in China are stricter than in the U.S., especially pertaining to older cars. A car with a 20 year old body does not necessarily mean emissions from 20 years ago.

  • avatar

    if those old models drive and last like those old models did, and don’t cost much, nothing wrong with that.  but i doubt that’s the case.

  • avatar

    There’s nothing wrong with the old B5 platform save the ABS modules, coil packs, control arms, MAF sensors, sludgy 1.8T engines, EGR valves, electrics, belly pans that fall off, and rattling interiors.  My Passat had most of these issues in the first 5 years of ownership.  I suppose if I held on to it for the next 5 years it would have been problem free.  And that lifetime ATF fluid would probably still be in perfect condition.

    • 0 avatar

      Gee,  that’s strange…  I have a 2003 Wolfsburg Jetta 1.8T (182,000 miles) and my wife has a 2003 Passat GLS 1.8T (140,000 miles).  Let’s go through your list of issues one by one:
      Sludgy 1.8T engines:
      Passat – No    Jetta – No
      As a matter of fact, when I had the cam chain tensioner replaced at 175,000 miles, the mechanic brought me back to the shop to show me the valvetrain after he removed the valve cover.  He said out of all the 1.8Ts he’s worked on, my Jetta and my wife’s Passat have the cleanest engine’s he’s ever seen.  The Passat’s engine had some slight brown color on the valve train, but all passages were clear of sludge, and the Jetta’s engine looked like it just came fresh off the assembly line with NO signs of sludge.  He also said that based on the condition of my other two vehicles (97 Jetta, 87 Chevy pickup), it came as no surprise to him that my 1.8Ts would be so well-maintained.  Keep in mind my 1997 Jetta is still my daily driver with 350,000 miles on it.
      How do I do it?  As a former mechanic, I have a habit of keeping up with the specs of any vehicle that I own.  Especially what motor oil to use. The list of motor oils on VW (Germany)’s 502.00 oil specification are ALL synthetics.  VWoA dropped the ball with their documentation stating that regular 5W30 motor oil can be used if the 502.00 spec oil isn’t available.  BIG MISTAKE.
      Common sense dictates that conventional motor oil MUST NOT be used in a turbocharged engine – especially the 1.8Ts.  But what did the VW service departments in this country do?  They naturally took the easy (and cheaper) way out by servicing 1.8Ts with conventional motor oil – thus creating half of the sludge equation.  The other half was created by inattentive owners who:
      1) Neglected to change their oil at all
      2) Regularly had their oil changed BEYOND the 5000 mile interval
      Put both equations together – and it becomes a recipe for disaster.
      I avoided this issue by purchasing my own VW 502.00 spec motor oil  – Motul, Elf/Total, then eventually Castrol Syntec 0w30 European Formula – Made in Germany that I use on both 1.8Ts to this day – and INSISTING that my dealer used the oil that I brought while the vehicles were under warranty (they tend to treat you differently if you have a good knowledge of automobiles or you are/were a mechanic).
      Of course, once the cars were out of warranty, I have a couple of private VW mechanics that I take the car to.  The only time I take the car to the dealer nowadays is for any recall item.
      EGR – Valves – Not an issue to date.
      ABS Modules – not an issue to date.
      Coil Packs – I replaced the factory coil packs on both cars with the reliable Hitachi bolt-on units – coil packs haven’t been an issue for several years now.
      Belly Pans that fall off – Yes.
      Control arms – Not an issue to date.
      Electrics – brake light switches replaced under warranty on both vehicles.  Coolant temp sensors replaced during recall on both vehicles.
      Rattling interiors – Not an issue to date.
      Lifetime ATF Fluid???   I change my ATF fluid every 60,000 miles.  Anyone who believes that fluids last a lifetime strike me as the very people whom P.T. Barnum describes in his famous quote – “There’s a <fill in the blank> born every minute…”
      As an aside, before BMW started the 4-year 50,000 mile free maintenance program, transmission fluid changes (automatic and manual) were mandatory every 30,000 miles (and quite expensive $$$$).  But  now that they have to foot the bill, all of a sudden they claim that they use “lifetime” transmission fluid.  You do the math.
      Ubermensch, my guess is that your B5 Passat is 2002 or earlier – the years where the highest frequency of the failures you describe have actually occurred.  Which is why I wait till the car nears the end of the production cycle before purchasing.  That way most of the bugs are usually resolved.
      History (and my father) has shown me that anyone purchasing a new automobile (regardless of make) within the first 2-3 years of production is volunteering as a beta tester for the automotive industry.  The industry knows this.   And so do their bean counters.

  • avatar

    So much for getting a Hummer update….

  • avatar

    What they won’t be getting, apparently, is the half-a-Lambo-2.5 liter 5 cyl tractor engine.  How did they luck out?

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