Martin Winterkorn Less Impressed By New (European) Honda Civic

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Remember the video of Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn testing the quality of the new Hyundai i30? Thanks to Autobild, we’ve found a companion video from the Frankfurt Show, in which Winterkorn, along with VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech, gives the once-over to the new European-market Honda Civic. According to Autobild, Piech kept his nickname “Fugen-Ferdi” (Gap-Ferdi) relevant by checking the new Civic’s panel gaps. And, in contrast to the Hyundai video, the intelligible portions of Winterkorn’s commentary were less than entirely complimentary. The German magazine reports

A member of the VW entourage says that “(Honda) has had good role models.” But the big boss played down the praise for VW with a smile, and responded generously “they were once a role model for us.”

Note the use of the past tense, then contrast with Winterkorn’s reaction to the Hyundai. In just two videos you can see the balance of automotive power shifting…

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Robert Schwartz Robert Schwartz on Oct 06, 2011

    Well Mr. Winterkorn and Consumer Reports seem to be on the same page. It will be interesting to see if Car & Driver joins them.

  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Oct 06, 2011

    VW simply needs a strong dose of humility. Perhaps this is a start. Its corporate arrogance seeps out in every advertisement and encounter with dealerships. The very term "German engineering" is an expression of it. As long as US VWs remain maintenance black holes, VW will remain surprised at its inability to gain much ground here. Like GM, they have decades of bad reputation to rebuild. Selling decontented cars may temporarily drive sales up, but if their reliability is similar to the former full-contented vehicles, VW will fail in its plans for world domination.

  • Wmba Wmba on Oct 06, 2011

    Already seen two new Jettas with one burned out headlight apiece. Some things never change. Where does VW buy it's bulbs anyway? In fact, where does it get its electrical parts from? I see Herr Professor Doktor Winterkorn was appointed head of VW Quality Assurance in 1993, and gradually got promoted. Great job you did there, Martin. My experience with 20 years of Audis suggest that electrical problems seem high on VWs problem list. And now, speaking to his new 100 researchers in California, where blue sky research into EVs isthework du jour, Winterkorn said that VW will lead the world in electric cars by 2014. VW and electricity. Do they mix?

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    • Darex Darex on Oct 07, 2011

      It does seem to be a pattern though. For every one-eyed monster you see, it sure seems like it's on a VW or Audi 80% of the time, and maybe on a Prius 10% of the time (and they have a known issue in this area too). I definitely have noticed the propensity of VW/Audis to have at least one burnt-out headlamp. I don't see the same phenomenon exhibited on BMW's, for example, and have not noted such a pattern in any of the other brands.

  • Svenmeier Svenmeier on Oct 07, 2011

    I'm European and I've been driving a handful of French and German cars over the least three decades. I honestly cannot relate to these "reliability nightmares" that people keep associating with European cars. My cars have been very reliable overall - and I put a lot of mileage on each of them. I've owned two Renault 21s, a Renault Safrane 2.1 diesel, an Opel Ascona, a Peugeot 604, a Renault Laguna estate and a Mercedes 230E. In those days I worked in the wood business and part of my job required me to drive across much of France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Austria and negotiate deals. Flying may have been cheaper, but many of our suppliers were located in regions far from airports and public transportation and it made more sense to simply drive because it allowed me to stay within a region for a few days or weeks and follow through the list of suppliers. So, this meant that I put a lot of mileage on my cars. It wasn't uncommon for me to have over 150,000-200,000 km on these cars after a few years. I can honestly say, I've never had any major problems with these cars. None whatsoever. Oh sure, there were tiny issues like rust and a rattling interior in my Opel once it hit 100,000 km. The radio in my Safrane stopped working at around 230,000 km if I recall correctly, but Renault didn't produce that radio. The biggest issue on the Renault 21s was rust, but that was it. These cars held up fine for all the years of abuse I put them through. I loved those Renault 21s. They looked good at the time and they were spacious and comfortable and economical as well. I had two 2.1 turbodiesels. Great cars. Every car can suffer a problem at one point, even the most high-quality car. Cars are complex machines that are put together by a manufacturer using parts produced in-house and parts that are bought from suppliers who by the way have their own quality control system in place (good or bad). I currently drive a Volkswagen Jetta TDI product with about 87,000 km on it. I am now retired and spend my days traveling across Europe photographing cities and wildlife (I'm an amateur photographer). No issues with the car. No electrical issues or falling trim parts and so forth. If many Europeans like me have these good experiences with our cars, then don't be surprised why we don't buy many Japanese cars. Many of the Japanese cars sold here are also not as versatile inside as their European competitors. When it comes to attention to detail the European cars are better than the Japanese, much better.

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    • Rgil627il Rgil627il on Jul 22, 2013

      @svenmeier diaff thx.