By on January 27, 2015

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How much is first place worth? How much difference would it make to you as an automaker to see a decades old tradition die? How much would you do to try to keep first place and how much would it hurt to see it all go away?

Those are the questions Volkswagen do Brasil is facing. Not being Brazilians’ favorite brand for 13 years now, falling away to third place, watching General Motors taking second and Fiat pulling away ever more in first, VW must now confront the reality it cannot even claim the most sold car title either. Costing them it is, after all the Brazilian press is having a field day analyzing Volkswagen’s fall from grace. It must also smart that the Palio edged the Gol by a little under 400 cars, while GM managed just 2,000 more sales overall than the Germans.

After 27 years as the most sold car in Brazil, the Volkswagen Gol ceded the crown to its main rival, the Fiat Palio. Not only that, the German company saw its participation shrink more than the others who make up the Brazilian Big 4 (Fiat, GM, VW and Ford). In traditional fashion, not recognizing their mistakes, Volkswagen do Brasil released a statement trying to explain:

“the Gol is a winner, having been the favorite of Brazilians for 27 years in a row. It is the most produced (more then 7.5 million units), sold and exported (more than 1.2 million units to 66 countries) car in the history of Brazil. Even in 2014, the model was chosen by 183,367 clients, a difference of only 0.2% (even with the exit of the G4 version from the market) in relation to its competitor (that is still maintains two versions of the car under the same name in its line: the old and the new one.”

This statement hides as much as it reveals. With the beginning of 2014, all cars in Brazil had to be sold with double frontal airbags and ABS. As such, all companies had to revise their strategies and Volkswagen started the year confident that the new up! would be more than enough to buoy the brand and take sales from the Uno, while the Gol would go head-to-head with the Palio. Fiat meanwhile took a different route, being that the old Palio Fire was a much more modern car than the its own old Uno Mille and VW’s Gol G4, it decided to go on building the old Palio with the mandated equipment, dressed it up in it pseudo-off road aventureiro decorations. It also revamped the new Uno, especially in its interior.

While both companies lost sales in a declining market, Volkswagen lost market faster than Fiat. While critically acclaimed, including by yours truly, the up! could not maintain the same fleet sales as the old G4. Fleet buyers became increasingly interested in the Palio Fire as it sported the same basic architecture as it always had and made use of time honored engines. VW meanwhile was launching a new three-cylinder engine with the up! and fleet buyers showed hesitation to fully embrace the new engine, as recent VW engine launches have been fraught with trouble.

Private buyers also balked at the new VW launch. The up!’s design was deigned to dainty for a Volkswagen and while it brought some conquest sales surely, VW-loyalists rejected the car.

Just as importantly, Volkswagen, making use again of their own time-honored tradition of not heeding to the market and not learning from the mistakes of the past, refused to acknowledge the emergence of the new Brazilian consumer who rejects entry-level cars. Aiming straight at that new figure, Chevy’s Onix and Ford’s Ka had a very big year and seemingly took more sales from the Gol than the Palio. They did so by offering more equipment for the same price and putting in some wow-me technology, equipment and better finished interiors (all of which is optional on ups!).

Fiat was quick to acknowledge this new reality. The Uno got a pretty thorough re-design on the outside and a completely new and better interior, not to mention new equipment and technologies as standard, leading the model to have a year of growth. The Palio did likewise, and in the new Palio line, extra equipment was added without raised prices, while the old Palio Fire got a new interior, some new exterior touches, and the all-important aventureiro dressing (plastic cladding, an extra inch or two of height, bigger wheels and tires, stickers, etc.).

As the year of 2014 progressed, the market increasingly saw Volkswagen in trouble. The up! was off to a slow start. The Gol’s redesign seemingly didn’t work (as VW should have known it wouldn’t if they were paying attention) because what the market was buying was equipment. The Palio was growing month over month. The Uno reclaiming its traditional top spots. Even better for Fiat the Strada was having a banner year taking the sales crown in February (the first time ever a pickup achieved this in Brazil) and finished the year in third place, the highest place a pickup has ever managed in the history of Brazil.

After the middle of the year the race between Gol and Palio reached a fevered pitch, with the Palio winning every month and outpacing the Gol’s sales by ever larger margins. As November ended, the Palio had managed a YTD advantage over the Gol of over 1,800 units. In a desperate measure and going against previously revealed plans for the nameplate, VW launched the Gol Special, special in its 2-door nothingness. Stripped to its utter bare bones to entice back fleet buyers, the Gol Special is in effect VW’s Palio Fire model.

In December, an orgiastic climax was reached. Volkswagen pulled no stops. As the first fortnight of that month ended, sales numbers revealed the Gol was edging out the Palio again. This was done with non-stop production at VW factories, writing off cars to dealerships as sold, huge discounts for fleet buyers of Gol G6 and Special models, exceptional financing opportunities to consumers and cash on the hood offers. Fiat reacted, and made use of much of the same tactics to defend the Palio’s lead. Both Fiat and Volkswagen have huge distribution channels in Brazil and both pumped out the cars in ever increasing numbers, saturating the market with officially sold cars that languished at dealers.

On December 31, 2014, the race ended. When the numbers were tallied a couple of days later, December went down into the history books as the third best selling month in the history of the automobile in Brazil. So much so that in a market that was plummeting by a little over 9% throughout the year, finished with a softer loss of 6%. More importantly, the Palio, old and new, had sold 183,744 cars. Volkswagen’s Gol moved 183,366. A difference of 378 cars. 378.

Overall, Fiat finished in first with 21% of the market and a total of 698,255 sales. Volkswagen had a participation of 17.3% and 576,635 units moved, which was good for only third place. General Motors managed second place on the strength of it almost all knew GM Korea line and sold 2,167 more cars than VW and had a market participation 0.1% greater than the Germans’.

As 2015 begins, January’s first fortnight numbers are available. The Palio, now that the market is cleansing itself of the dirty tactics of the last month of the previous year is kicking the Gol’s ass. It outsold the Gol by a large margin (7,600 to 4,500 in a very bad month), as did the Onix, second this month, the Strada in third, even Hyundai’s HB20 beat the Gol and is in fourth. The mighty, 27-years-in-a-row-leader Gol managed just fifth this month.

The week started off with Fiat announcing that the Uno and Palio will all offer air-conditioning in all versions, besides power steering, power locks and of course the mandated equipment, making them even more attractive to the more discerning Brazilian consumer. General Motors is pumping out the Onix and Onix-derived Prisma sedan in high number and is enjoying seeing its sedan outselling both Fiat’s Siena and VW’s Voyage. Ford is tweaking the Ka and watching its sales grow, planning for extra production capacity as the Ka gains more and more participation. Volkswagen is busy explaining the Gol’s demise and claiming no errors.

2015 will surely be fun. Except maybe for the Germans.

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47 Comments on “Dispatches do Brasil: Volkswagen’s Inferno and the Gol’s Fall from Grace...”


  • avatar

    The Free Market never lies…

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Marcelo,

    I can just hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth at VW HQ over this.
    Why don’t the ignorant customers in Brazil and the US understand the superiority of VW cars? It’s their fault not ours. We are the best.

    • 0 avatar

      Hello Felix!

      I can imagine so, as the shenanigans of December show, keeping first place was very important. It would seem that many still thought that VW was first in Brazil due to the Gol. That is why I think they tried so hard. It was also very important for Fiat as their decision to fight fire with fire shows.

      I’m reading all of the analyzes people are putting out on VW’s debacle and I also have some thoughts on the subject. I’m putting it altogether into an article that should be up soon and will show how VW lost the market in Brazil.

      And yes, I think it does have to do with arrogance.

      • 0 avatar

        Absolutely agree Marcello!

        Abraço

        • 0 avatar

          Hola J Méndez! Thanks for reading!

          Abrazo

          • 0 avatar

            How different markets are!
            Check here on TTAC the Mexican market figures, VW with a very big share and Fiat almost non existent.
            Here sadly mexicans buy vw for their past glories, the Vocho (fusca) reputation and so on… Overpriced cars for what you can get on other brands.
            We still have like 3 gens of Jettas co existing, the old Jetta Clasico from the 90’s with the 2.Slow engine, check the mexican VW site.. The same happens with Nissan where many of the sold cars are Tsuru, (Sentra gen II I guess).
            Abraço

          • 0 avatar

            Hey J, I did and I often visit car makers’ Mexican sites. I find the differences between our markets very interesting and love your prices. One commonality seems to be local producers dominate and those that have been the longest tend to come out on top.

            On VW, being that the Vocho outlived in the Fusca, it’s not that surprising VW’s participation in Mexico. Here they just found another company that did the same things they did better and a little cheaper, not to mention faster to adapt to changing circumstances.

  • avatar
    daniel g.

    VW gol look and feel more and more cheaper than ever. indestructible but cheaper. and obsolete in the engine department

    VW make the cars in this direction, it´s so difficult make better quality inside the cars like the gol 2003-04? (don´t remember the exact generation)

    the others improve their perception in quality, are also indestructible, but more modern engines. the people are not stupid.

    Maybe VW need this punch in the face to react.

    • 0 avatar

      Hello Daniel!

      I think the Gol G5 and G6 are a major step over previous Gols, especially the horrid G4, but not only. They now drive well, and have softened up a bit, but are still among the most uncomfortable small cars in Brazil (the Up does this better). I could see myself driving a Gol now as I think the current crop is pretty good.

      However, I will not. I won’t because just like most of my fellow countrymen I look for more for less. As I utterly do not harbor any notion of German car superiority, I would end up with the competition because Volkswagen does not hand over the goods except at very high prices. Unfortunately, that means the Up would be out, too. If the Up’s top trims were offered at the prices of the mid trims, I might buy, as is, I’ll just take an Uno or a Ka.

      And that to me is VW do Brasil’s problem. As the perception of the relative quality of the cars get more and more adjusted to reality, all VW cars charge in unjustified premium. To me and to growing portions of the market it would seem.

      Thanks for reading!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Sounds similar to truck sales in the US.

    Marcelo – would this have been a non-story if the Gol had instead edged out the Palio by 378 sales? Or is there some long-term trend here that I’m missing?

    Because – as much as I hate to admit it – VW does have a point about Fiat including both old and new Palios in their sales figures. On the other hand, perhaps the story is even worse for VW since one would assume the old Palio would sell worse than the new one, yet combined they still beat VW’s newest offering.

    • 0 avatar

      Great point SCE to AUX. But VW was guilty of the same until last year. The Gol G4 and Gol G5 (now called G6 thought it’s only a slight redesign) are completely different cars. Nonetheless, Volkswagen counted them as one. So, yes, the Gol outsold the new and old Palios taken separately, but that is not how the market counts it, and it is not what people will remember.

      If the Gol had edged out the new Palio it would be a non-story. VW would beat its chest claiming that their car triumphed overall. It would’ve been the 28th year of Gol dominance and that would be that.

      This year, though off to a slow start, the launch of the Gol Special, coupled with the fact that nothing catastrophic has happened to VW’s new 3 cylinders, could have fleet buyers looking at the Gol again. Time will tell.

      Also, the Up which finished the year at 16th, is now at 12th and getting closer to the top 10. Could be the market is warming up to the little bugger that I like as well as you do.

      But the long term trend is that, more car for less. VW has traditionally been very slow to bow to market pressures. The small sedan market for example took off as soon as VW retired their Voyage (Gol-based sedan) from the market. It took them 11 years to acknowledge the market wanted small sedans and re-launch a Voyage.

      Over the last 20 years the dynamic has been a Fiat-VW dance, with Fiat always pushing the envelope and VW pretending Fiat didn’t exist (and losing market share). Occasionally, GM would shove the market one way or another too while all others watched and copied. Now, the two step between Italians and Germans continues, but GM is showing muscle, Ford might have finally woken up and even Renault, Hyundai and Toyota are leading in some aspects.

      If VW pretended to ignore Fiat, will they be able to pay attention to growing competition? I agree with daniel g. above. This a punch to VW’s face and might finally make them smell the coffee. Might.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey SCE to AUX, and just to clarify my thinking on the point you raised, I think it is a very valid one. I have discussed this endlessly on Brazilian internet wars. We, as private people, and auto enthusiasts to boot, have every right to talk and discuss about this until we get red in the face (and privately, I tend to agree with VW, *wink), but as a corporation, especially one that did the same for years…Well, it is more than the pot calling the kettle black, it is hypocrisy and sour grapes.

      Just wanted to elaborate on that a bit, :).

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Hola Marcelo,

    Nice picture choice.

    “How much is first place worth?” A lot.

    Looking at your numbers it looks like the Gol is at the beginning of a landslide. However, it will probably stabilise, at say #3?

    This didn’t happen yesterday, probably has been in the making for some years. Watching the sale numbers of both the Palio and Gol in a chart over the past 3-4 years will probably show the crossing point. And from what you wrote, Fiat’s product planning people has the eye firmly on the ball.

    “will all offer air-conditioning in all versions, besides power steering” Independently of the brand, it was about [email protected]#$%^&* time, specially the A/C.

    • 0 avatar

      Hola Athos!

      As to the Gol going away, I don’t know. VW plans called for the Up being the entry-level car, the Gol the compact car and the Fox the premium compact offering, but with lots of overlap. The launch of the Gol Special, however, points in another direction. It aims directly at the Uno and Palio Fire because the Up has not been well loved of fleets and many a traditional VW loyalist says it’s not a “real” VW. If the Up gains traction it will among non-traditional buyers (good idea from VW and is why I think they won’t abandon the Up). Should fleet buyers suddenly adopt the Up it should also squeeze this Gol.

      Fact is outside of intangibles like brand loyalty and historical issues, the Gol is a tough sale right now. Lots of competition. Sort of like the Camry in the US, it always finishes close to last in comparos because objectively it offers less for more. Should the Polo come here, could well be the Gol or Up’s end as it would push the Fox down.

      And then you have what you said, Fiat, GM and Ford product planners seem to know better what the market wants right now (as do, to a lesser degree, Renault and Hyundai planners).

      As to my best guess, I think the Gol will finish in the top 5 and the Up will enter the top 10. Both Palios, Onix and Strada exist and could take the top spots. Ka is also growing and it plus HB20, Uno, Gol and maybe a sedan will fight out for 4th. Could well be the reace will be between Palio and Onix this year, with the others a little down. The wildcard s the Gol Special, how will that effect Gol and Up sales as well as Palio Fire sales.

      And lest we forget, there will be a new City car from Fiat, possibly sporting a two-cylinder Multiair. It won’t kill the Palio Fire immeadiately, but it will mess with the market.

      Yes, AC and the other basic amenities like power steering, locks and windows are the hallmarks of private car sales. Ford was the first (of the Big 4) to do this, but remember, for fleet sales even Ford or Fiat will sell you non-AC cars, you just won’t find them at the dealership (and I mentioned Fiat because it was a public announcement, others, specially those who don’t target fleet sales, already have that). And yes it is great, earlier today I saw big Renault propaganda all over the internet saying all their cars will have free AC from now on. The reaction is starting. Let’s see how long it will take VW to adapt to this.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        Although I haven’t followed much the Brazilian market, I wouldn’t discount Gol ending in the top 3.

        Current Camry, as in “old” US one, is a nice car. Seriously. Big comfy interior, decent materials and doesn’t look bad. The restyling looks better. The V6 goes (and is creamy smooth as the journos say). Camry, like Golf and Commodore, just to name 2 examples, is a well rounded car. From your comments, Palio is better at this than Gol. And… you could hardly compare Gol with Camry. Even a late 90’s Camry would slap the VW on interior materials alone.

        • 0 avatar

          Sí, claro Athos!

          The Gol could finish in top 3, if the fleet buyers pick up the Gol Special. If not and with up growing, the Gol could fall further down. Will depend a lot on what VW decides to do. If they give it up and match competitors pricing and content levels, sayonara competition.

          As to comparing the Camry and Gol, I was not implying the Gol was close to the Camry. I was looking at the sales numbers versus their usual placement in comparisons. Because like a Camry, many here will blindly buy a Gol no matter the competion and sales are “safe”.

          And like I said to Daniel g. above, after the G5 the Gol has become a car I could live with (though I still prefer the up). It has become more comfortable, now sits on a modern platfrom and the finishing (except Special) is almost as good as the competition (cheaper Ups need not apply here, either). Comparing to the Palio, it is better at speed, while in the city the Palio and Uno are more pliable and the controls softer. The seating position is much improved, too. I don’t know if you got the Gol in Venezuela, but this Gol G5 is not the same you remember if you did. Better than the Palio Fire it surely is. Better than the other Fiats depends on your priorities. The problem is the dearth of content, everything is optional, and pricey.

          • 0 avatar
            Athos Nobile

            We got Gol in YV. Last one I sat in was a G4… then that person bought a (much nicer) 206.

            I saw the Gol G5 very briefly. It looked good, better than G4 for sure. It was about to be introduced… and I saw it before that. Like many other cars at the time.

            Camry is still king in the US, no matter what the comparos say. Ultimately, the customer votes with its money. And people is smart, they will defect the product if it doesn’t fill their needs. The example is in your own article.

            I have a friend here with a 2002 Camry V6. The interior is a bit so so, but the car is smooth, comfy and silent. As I said before, the V6 goes. He took it on a road trip and they loved it. As a family car, I can hardly fault it.

          • 0 avatar

            “We got Gol in YV. Last one I sat in was a G4… then the person bought a 206.”

            I had to laugh at that, I mean who would buy a G4 (though so many did)?

            And I agree, people are smart. In the case of a car, such a heavy purchase. If a person wants a car with the less headache possible the answer here is still, Gol, Palio and Uno (a Corsa qualified back in the day). If they want more, or something a bit diferent, look elsewhere, plenty of compelling options (like Up against Gol, though the Up seems to be pricier to maintain…). Very much like Camry and Accord in the US.

  • avatar
    d_himan

    Interesting wars Marcelo. I could never figure out how Suzuki, Toyota and Honda, which dominate in India, a market again notorious for value seeking consumers, couldn’t become huge in Brazil. VW in India’s become niche, with only the 1.2 Tsi injecting some excitement to a discerning 2nd/3rd car audience. Fiat never took off, plagued by concerns on low fuel efficiency which never went away. They now exist practically as engine suppliers of the 1.3 MJD.

    • 0 avatar

      Different markets. The Brazilian market is not only bigger, people have experienced a decade of prosperity that has led them to demand more. As India is poised on a wave a prosperity and Brazil is economically sputtering that may soon change and entry-level cars suddenly become more in demand again.

      As is, coupled with the new governmentally demanded safety regulations and the existence of such things as Latin NCap (and people actually caring about the results) it would seem the Brazilian market is slightly ahead of the Indian.

      People here seek value. Price is king. But they also seek a bare minimum in equipment levels. As mentioned, private buyers will pay more for minimal equipment levels (AC, power steering, locks and windows) and expect something more included. A private buyer will find a Ford Ka with all that for around 35k reais. Na up starts at about 25 a Gol 27ish. But to have that equipment in the up or Gol, the end price will be higher, the finishing meaner and the Ka will many other accessories known as nice-to-have (that the customer likes to have but won’t pay for) in greater abundance in the Ka than in the VW products. Plus the Ka is bigger, this tips the scale unless the person must have a VW.

      As to the Asian brands, well we were a closed market for eons. We still have quite high tariffs on imports. Suzuki sells (or tries) to sell its Swift here. But it costs the same as a Golf or FOcus. No sale. Plus, the mainstays of the Market since the 50s were VW, GM and Ford (Fiat came a little later in the late 70s) with others like Simca, Chrysler, Jeep, Alfa Romeo, DKW, Renault coming and going. In other words, there is a tradition for European and American design and engines and car dynamics. Many here object to Asian car design and their ride (weirdly Toyota set up shop here in the 60s, in their first manufacturing plant out of Japan, but they sold the first version of the Land Cruiser called here Bandeirante unchanged for 40 years at very high prices and low sales volume so it hardly counts).

      Nonetheless, since they started producing here, the Asian brands have found success, Toyota, Honda and Nissan with cars and Mitsubishi with trucks and jeeps. Hyundai has also started to crack the small car Market (70% of sales here) with its HB20 while Toyota has not with the Etios (designed with India in mind first and not well received here, though it is gaining some traction of late). Nonetheless, the Corolla and Civic dominate their segment, though the Cruze is a very close third and the Sentra is nowhere to be seen. Yet if you go up the ladder the Fusion trumps all opposition and Camry and Accord are virtual unknowns. Higher up still belongs to the Germans. Big pick-ups to the Americans.

      The success of the Corolla and Civic does show it can be done. But you have to give the Brazilian consumer what he wants.

  • avatar
    jrmason

    Only on TTAC can a manufacture (VW specifically) be king for nearly 3 decades and not be acknowledged for its accomplishments and yet the first year the market shifts the masses attack like a wolf pack surrounding an injured lamb.

    At first I thought the contempt for VW was rather amusing,and have admittedly poked at a few that seemed the most irritated/aghast at VWs success, but its actually getting to be just a tad concerning.

    Y’all are some weird motherf#$%ers.

    • 0 avatar

      We are all just hoping VW gets back to form. Here the up! is an encouraging sign as is the Golf. The Gol is probably getting what it deserved to get a long time ago. That it has hung on for so long is just testament of Volkwagen’s and the Gol’s strength.

      As is, it’s news, big news. Had the Gol won it would’ve been, yawn, yeah the Gol. As it lost, it’s still about the Gol. How could they? What happened? Is VW dying?

      Tip if I may, bad words and insults are rarely justified.

      • 0 avatar
        jrmason

        “Tip if I may, bad words and insults are rarely justified.”

        It wasn’t meant as a direct insult. I find the lynch mob antics toward VW by 95% of the masses on this forum very peculiar, almost unhealthy. Its almost as everyone’s got a personal vendetta against VW, something I find very ironic considering the majority of “experts” that love to break one off in their backside admit to never owning one in the same breath. Does VW have their quirks? Absolutely, no manufacture doesn’t. I understand those quirks better than most having owned several TDIs dating back to the mid 80s (before they were turbo powered) and have collectively put about a half a million miles on them with very few complaints. My grandfather has put even more miles on them traveling the US and Canada in his years following retirement. I know the ins and outs of every model I’ve ever owned as well as my grandfathers as I have been the ONLY one to ever wrench on all of the vehicles once the warranty expired. I can appreciate somebody’s opinion through experience, what I can’t appreciate is the ones that have no experience yet still feel entitled to the same. There’s a serious over abundance of the latter on this site.

        • 0 avatar

          I understood it was not a direct insult and answered you as such. I’m pointing out that becoming frustrated and lashing out at everyone and no one in particular makes you lose credibility and even further from convincing anyone. But hey, I understand you. Most of my cars have been Fiats. Never had much trouble from them either, so some of the opinions here do get tiresome. Stick around, after a while you’ll know who is worth reading and who is full of it. And answer and ignore accordingly.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Marcelo went over how successful the Gol has been. He’s also wrote a positive review of the up!, and has written other articles about VW’s successes in Brazil. He’s also been critical of VW’s strategy with the Kombi and their overall lack of standard safety features Brazil.

      I can ask you the same thing about the Camry. If the Accord pulls ahead of the Camry this year, will you be talking about the three decades of Camry accomplishments, or will you be talking about how Toyota needs to better adapt to what customers want?

      • 0 avatar

        In other words: Exactly, bball. Thanks!

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I was typing and didn’t see your original response. People sometimes just read what they want to.

          Has the Gol just sold on it’s historical success lately? 20 years ago, was it the favorite car of Brazilians by a wide margin?

          • 0 avatar

            “people read what they want”: Yes.

            “Has the Gol just sold on history? 20 years ago was it a favorite by a wide margin?”

            Wow, big question. When the Gol first started (as the “square” model) it was not a hit. It used the Beetle’s 1.3 air-cooled engine and was dog slow, noisy, just pretty sheetmetal on what retained some very old technology. Then VW developed the AP family of engines, which were very succesful, economic, strong, easy to mess with. So in the 80s, the Gol gradually increased its margins over competitors.

            In the 90s, competitors wised up. Fiat with Palio, Gm with Corsa, not to mention the French newcomers. All of them underscored just how old the Gol was (as did the Uno since the 80s). VW reacted and launched the Gol “bolinha” (more rounded with a deceptively modern design), but kept the old mechanicals (north-south engine layout, imagine that in a small car). At that point out I just didn’t get the Gol, so hard, so space inefficient, such convaluted seating (due to the compromised nature of the platform it sat on). On the other hand, reliable engines and a general sensation of ruggedness.

            As time went by the G2 Gol “bolinha” was a major step over the G1 (thought that hung around as the Gol Special, in a strategy similar to the Palio Fire and would happen with each succeeding “generation”) in terms of finishing and even some improvents in ride. The G3 took it a step further and inside was among the best in class, though mechanicals were the same. Maybe due to that as it got pricey and the more modern rivals, VW did a major blunder in the mid 00s.

            The G4. They stripped that one down to lower price and now it wasn’t even good to look at or a nice place to sit in and the ride was uncomfortable as ever. It really couldn’t hide it antiqueness anymore. This one put the Gol’s lead in real danger.

            So came the G5 in the 10s. Major coup for VW. Finally, sitting on a modern platform, it now followed the modern small car’s basic formula to a tee. With VW strengths, a design that appealed to most, nice gearbox, good dynamic behavior and added normal non-spine bending seating, more comfort, nicer much nicer finishing than the G4. To add sales the G4 was kept. However, blunders galore (which impeded the Gol from blowing all competitors out of the water like it seemed it would for a brief moment), self-imploding engines (EA family), exploding windshields, usual VW denials. Meanwhile the competitors were languishing with only the new Uno being new. So, in spite of the problems, the lead grew. However, new Palio came along, other cars too and it got squeezed. New government regulations in 2014, G4 dead, both Palios beat the Gol together.

            Again, this shows the Gol’s reputation. Alone it still almost beat the Palios. But now Onix is growing, HB20 is growing, the new Ka really competes with all these guys, the new new Uno is relevant again, there is the cheapo Palio and new Palio. The Gol at its prices and low content will continue to suffer. If the Up picks up the slack, VW will be happy though I think, they knew this was a long time coming.

            And as a caveat, always remember Fiat chose to have two cars fighting the Gol. Taken over all this time, since the 90s, the Uno-Palio duet has always outsold the Gol.

            Sorry for the long answer!

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Thanks Marcelo.

            The two model approach by Fiat sounds like the two truck approach (three now I guess) by GM, in the US. The Silverado/Sierra twins have outsold the F-series more often than not over the last 15 years, but the Silverado has never beat the F-series on it’s own.

            If the Silverado, by itself, outsold the F-series, over a calendar year, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near Ford HQ. With GM and RAM offering excellent products (I wouldn’t buy a Silverado based on it’s ugly face and square wheel arches), and Ford trying something new, 2015 or 2016 will be the year that GM comes for that crown.

          • 0 avatar
            jrmason

            “People sometimes just read what they want to.”

            Your absolutely right.

          • 0 avatar

            Hey bball, you are welcome. The Gol x Palio-Uno wars are similar to the truck wars in the US, even with a degree of fanboyism in the mix. It’s rare a garage where Fiat and VW products share space. The market has been like that for a while.

            The difference is that Fiat used Palio-Uno to come after the Gol and VW in effect had two models or versions, too. If you ever come to Brazil and they offer a VW Special anything, run!

            Even more interestingly and drawing parallels, the fact Ford is trying something new is similar to what VW did in 2014. The up substituted the Gol G4 with a load of a new technology the market didn’t immeadiately embrace and Fiat came after them and won. Maybe 2015 and 16 will see similar wars in the US, though it’d be interesting to see know who the growing RAM is winning more sales from, the F150 or Silverado. Maybe the RAM, though still in third, will determine the outcome.

    • 0 avatar
      manny_c44

      “Y’all are some weird motherf#$%ers.”

      I laughed at that, fwiw I bought a jetta TDI a couple of months ago and am enjoying it a lot. I like vw’s restrained styling far, far more than the Asian manufacturers. Although I don’t often comment on ttac…

  • avatar
    ect

    Great article, Marcelo, fascinating story well told. A lot of us wish you would write more often!

    It occurs to me to wonder – if a car is called Up!, is the plural “Ups!” or “Up!s”. Technically, I would think it should be the latter.

    • 0 avatar

      How about possesives? up’s! or up!’s? Plural possessives? ups’! or
      up!s’ ? Mind boggling, but I’m betting if you ask VW marketing people, they’ll have na answer for you!

      Thanks for the kind words. I think in 2015, I’ll be more regular, at least once a week. Thanks for reading!

  • avatar
    Magnusmaster

    Kudos to Fiat. More competition benefits the consumer. As for VW, I imagine they will go all out on the next-gen Gol which should be ready in 2016. The current Gol is already showing its age.

  • avatar
    EAF

    Thank you Marcelo, this was a beautiful poetic piece. I hate Volkswagen and bask in their demise, irrespective of continent.

    Does VW have a reputation of honoring their warranty in Brazil? Or do they bob and weave defect claims there as well? It must be incredibly difficult to warranty utter junk in such an increasingly competitive market.

    I have heard that Hyundai is held in very high regard in Brazil, truth?

    • 0 avatar

      Hey EAF. VW does have trouble honoring warranties as do most makes here. However, in my anedoctal evidence here, Fiat seems to be (among the Big 4) the easiest to work with, especially if your problem is not systemic (though they too have had many blunders and killed off one of their best and most successful products ever, the Tipo, with such idiocy. I have na article on it on TTAC, just click Marcelo Tipo Fire in the search thing and you’ll find).

      I wouldn’t go so far as to call for VW’s end as I think they have started to really offer some compelling product again. The current Golf is a bit better than the Golf like it hasn’t been since the 90s. The little up is a gem of a car and utterly shames such things as the Aygo. Hoever, I find the rest of their line-up not that compelling though I’ll still take a Jetta over a Corolla. And I like how they look better now than at anytime since the 80s.

      As to Hyundai being held in high regard, let’s say the general population is impressed with their CUVs and big cars and are impressed with the looks of the Soul. Those who know cars a little bit are not so impressed and I for one fail to see any overwhelming reason to pay their prices for what I think are very common cars, not even really that adapted to Brazilian conditions and preferences. Also, they have a bit of a problem with their dealers and public communications. The dealers are horrid to work with and among those who most bob and weave as well as going for months without parts (I had a friend who crashed his Soul and the car stayed at the dealer for 5 months a there were no parts – diferente from Japanese whose dealers have won high marks). Public communications is so bad, from surreal mileage claims, to false claims on horse-power and number of airbags for their cars, that is has become a même among the more aware to claim someone is pulling a Hyundai when they make overblown claims. Not good.

  • avatar
    daniel g.

    Macelo you talk about the european polo? the same of the WRC? or a new version of the old polo of the 90′?

    • 0 avatar

      When I talk Polo, I’m talking the new one. Thing is Taigun compact CUV will be built on same platform as new Polo (platform or modular architecture, take your pick). As VW desperately needs a mini CUV to fight against EcoSport and Duster, not to metion the new Fiat version of the Renegade coming this year, I hear noises the new Polo is in fact under development. VC is re vamping their line Daniel and will soon be among the most up-to-date in Brazil as the up sits on same platform as European version and is not some local hybrid.

      By the way the late 90s Polo is still here. It’s just called Gol and Fox here as it underpins those two models (and explains why I think the Gol G5 is finally up to snuff compared with competition in terms of dynamicas and internal comfort).

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