By on May 9, 2015

Volkswagen Golf family

During a month of great turmoil at Volkswagen’s German HQ, including expressions of real disappointment regarding the brand’s lackluster performance on the other side of the Atlantic, Volkswagen of America tripled its Golf sales total.

Yes, U.S. sales of the Volkswagen Golf line skyrocketed 206% in April 2015, year-over-year. Yet with only 5,508 total Golf sales last month, the Golf continues to be a low-volume compact car in the United States. Combined, the Jetta and Golf (which no longer share a platform) are still just upper-mid-pack players, nearly 900 sales back of the fifth-best-selling compact, the Ford Focus, last month.

The Golf family was, however, the key bright spot at Volkswagen of America in April. Brand-wide sales slid 3% in April 2015, the third consecutive month (and 21st in 25) that Volkswagen brand sales have decreased on a year-over-year basis.

April sales of the Tiguan and Touareg grew, but only to the tune of 426 extra units. The Jetta sedan’s 5% increase was an exception to a rule that saw Jetta sedan volume slide 6% through the first four months of 2015. Meanwhile, sales of the Beetle, CC, discontinued Eos, and Passat fell precipitously both in April and the first-third of the year.

The picture is clear. It’s all down to the Golf.

USA Volkswagen Golf sales chart

Non-Golf sales at Volkswagen are down 18% year-to-date in a new vehicle market that’s exceptionally healthy. Auto industry sales are up 5.4% so far this year; excluding the VW brand, sales are up 5.7%.

Yet even at these exceptionally high Golf sales levels – by Golf standards – it’s an insufficiently effective model in the United States. Globally, it’s among the best sellers. Locally, it’s a car which generates its moderate level of popularity with niche-filling products and cult classics: diesel-powered hatchbacks, hot hatches, and wagons.

Thankfully, such models exist (and even cohabit in the form of the Golf TDI SportWagen). But they’re not common cars. Volkswagen sold 1,739 copies of their core Golf hatchback in April, 1,228 Golf SportWagens, 309 e-Golfs, 327 Golf Rs, and 1,905 copies of the top-selling Golf, the GTI. The 5,508-unit total achieved by the whole lineup marked the highest April output for the Golf since 2000, Volkswagen of America says, but equalled just 18% of the brand’s April total and just 11% of the VW Group’s April U.S. total.

There’s good news and bad. Golf success is obviously a good thing, but Volkswagen would need infinitely greater success in the game of Golf to make up for disappointment in other parts of the lineup.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar.

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78 Comments on “Volkswagen USA’s Bright Spot Is The Golf, But The Bulb Isn’t Very Big...”


  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Volkswagen: the SNK of automakers.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I’m going to suggest that the VW in all forms is still a European car in ride. Most Americans prefer a softer quieter ride.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I loved the ride of my VW Jetta, when it ran.

    • 0 avatar
      Gregg

      You obviously have not driven a Golf lately. It is a solid and quiet car that has better NVH characteristics than other small cars.

      • 0 avatar
        LectroByte

        > You obviously have not driven a Golf lately. It is a solid and quiet car that has better NVH characteristics than other small cars.

        You obviously have not driven a Cruze or a Focus lately, the Golf seems a generation behind. It does seem a bit more engaging, but just a bit.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Fred, the Passat is a big car with a relatively soft ride. However, it’s like a passive-aggressive engineering effort to make a Volkswagen Camry because Americans are too unsophisticated to appreciate all things European. Intentionally big, somewhat bland, and visibly cost-reduced.

  • avatar
    blueflame6

    As somebody who as been on the inside, where the informed perspective can be very different, I’m always wary of the inclination to read news like this and think “Even I could do a better job of managing that organization!”

    But I have to say that, with regards to VW’s recent efforts in the North American market, it is very, very hard to resist that urge.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      It’s nearly impossible to resist management criticism when you look at the US lineup

      Subcompact/city car: Nothing
      Compact hatch: Golf (Competitive)
      Compact sedan: Jetta (Competitive)
      Family sedan: Passat (Getting old)
      Subcompact CUV (CX-3/HR-V competitor): Nothing
      Compact CUV (Escape competitor): Tiguan (old and uncompetitive)
      Midsize CUV: Toureg (way too expensive)
      7 seat CUV: Nothing

      The only really segment they are competitive are the ones that are not growing. The products in the categories that US buyers actually care about are either MIA, way too expensive or older than the hills.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The lineup isn’t optimal. But it’s really about the quality.

        H-K figured this out, implemented a lean system with mostly good results, and gained market share as a result.

        VW wants to add the market share without doing the heavy lifting and that ain’t gonna happen. Toyota and Honda set the benchmark and cannot be ignored.

        Given the nature of the issue, the real problem is that VW is not content with its status as a niche automaker in the US. Instead of fighting the tide, it should accept its place in the market and focus on activities that create margin.

        • 0 avatar
          carguy

          @Pch101: Not disagreeing with your analysis. The brand doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it volume sales mainstream brand competing with Hyundai, Toyota or Honda or does it want to be semi-luxury brand and focus on higher margin products?

          Who knows? The Toureg is more than semi luxury while the Passat and Jetta are pure mainstream volume products.

          Until the management in Wolfsburg decide on a brand strategy in the US, and deliver products in line with that strategy, they will not succeed.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            It would seem that VW wants in the US what it has in other markets — a lot of market share.

            Since US new cars prices are lower than in other developed nations, it takes the extra step of decontenting them in an effort to support margins.

            The Japanese are good at designing cars specifically with Americans in mind. VW hasn’t quite figured it out.

            As a result, the pursuit of market share alludes them.

            VW established itself in the US with niche branding (“Lemon”, “Think Small”) which proved to be iconic but has also proven to be confining. It maintains the same tone and look of its advertising that it did when it sold Beetles, which may have been great in the 60s but is a bad idea today if it wishes to be a full-line mainstream US automaker.

            Why VW management is shocked that this combination of factors would constrain market share is baffling. This is not at all hard to figure out.

      • 0 avatar

        good for europe. add the Polo, etc and you have a product line. Just not here.

        No call for seven passenger arks in Europe.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Even if a GTI had the reliability/longevity of a GX, I wouldn’t buy one from the current dealers/service centers. Efforts to save VW’s US image that only focus on product are missing most of the problem. VW’s US dealerships are killing the brand here.

      • 0 avatar
        theslik1

        I’m not an auto industry expert in any way, but it certainly appears that every single facet of Wolfsburg’s operation is hostile to the American market. It seems quite obvious, from the aggressive decontenting, to indifferent quality control, to the lazy dealer/service network. This isn’t a simple misunderstanding of our market, it’s open hostility. And yet I have absolutely no doubt that VW’s leadership truly believes that they can “punch through”, via force of will, without kowtowing any further to American tastes or standards.

        Frickin’ amazing, but that’s exactly what it looks like.

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        I read this same statement over and over again on the internets and frankly can’t corroborate it with personal experience. I’ve dealt with three different VW dealers in two states and their service departments over the past decade and haven’t found my treatment to be any better or any worse than the Nissan, Ford, Dodge, BMW, Mitsubishi, and Honda dealers I also dealt with concurrently for the other cars in my family. If VW’s U.S. dealer network is so horrible, I certainly haven’t seen it as I’ve been treated with respect, gotten loaner cars for warranty repairs, and have found the technicians and service advisors to be reasonably competent. The biggest up-sellers have been with Honda, the most expensive services came from BMW, and the most friendly have been with Mitsubishi, if you can believe that. Maybe I’m just lucky…

  • avatar
    tedward

    First of all it’s absolutely crazy that the gti outsells the golf, the premium take rate on the golf chassis had to be one of the highest in the industry. The wagon also follows that pattern, with the tdi historically trouncing the gas model (although they build them to that percentage so who knows what real gas demands is). To me at least, this indicates the golf models sell to a completely different demo than the sedans they sell. I’d be interested in seeing a focus and Mazda3 breakdown by body style to see how the hatches do against each other without sedan interference.

    Second, I wonder if the new wagon will outperform the outgoing one once they are up to steam. It should, it is a better car, but will their upcoming suv roll out rob volume our not?

    Third, I hope vw doesn’t get too excited about this. They have to build an insane amount of variants to get the golf to match jetta or passat volume when those cars aren’t doing well or are waiting for a redesign. Two bodies, five engines, nine transmissions, and a stunningly high mix of transmission to trim level availability. I’d call the golf family a halo brand building exercise with a profit margin, which is impressive as hell, but not their job one.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Part of that points to the strong brand identity they’ve built with the GTI. My recommendation to VWoA is that they could probably move a good number more GTIs if they would drop the whole ‘hot hatch’ marketing angle in a recognition that the majority of buyers don’t want to look like a boy racer, and those who do already know the GTI’s credentials in that arena. Position the car as the flexible, acceptable, fun car that it is, applicable at many stages of life, and they’ll move more metal. See: Subaru.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      “First of all it’s absolutely crazy that the gti outsells the golf”

      @tedward: Maybe that is a hint to VW that their brand should focus on more upmarket semi-luxury products rather than the “volume uber alles” approach they are taking with the Passat.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        Carguy
        I’d agree if they hadn’t just proved themselves that this wouldn’t work. I’m beginning to doubt that entry lux is a viable proposition without a captive and attached mainstream brand to build off of.

      • 0 avatar
        Powerlurker

        When they went “semi-luxury” they ended up cannibalizing sales from the low end of Audi.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      The lower Golf sales aren’t helped by VW’s reputation. Sure, it’s been better lately, but do you really want to be the test pilot for the 2015 Launch Edition? It doesn’t help that there are upcoming compact hatchbacks from Toyota and Honda in the next 6-12 months, some of us will spend our money on boring for the long term.

      Sportwagen TDI:gas sales are reportedly 3:1. In 2014, VW sold just shy of 20K of them, so that would be roughly 5000 gaswagens and neck-and-neck with the Volvo V60 (!) at 4990. I may be wrong, but there’s just might be a bit more profit in the high end of the wagon market, so we’re unlikely to see any other affordable ones stateside.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Quite simply, Americans don’t like hatchbacks. Build a cheap, reliable, well-reviewed, fuel efficient hatchback and it will not sell. In Canada the golf outsells the Camry and all other midsize cars. Add the golf and Jetta sales, and it would be the number 3 selling car.

    Nothing VW can do will change this.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      Piffle.
      We like hatchbacks just fine. What is that lifty thing on the backs of our SUVs and CUVs?

      • 0 avatar
        cpthaddock

        The VW reputation gap between US and EU is impossible to understate. The extent still confounds me and I’m interested in any ideas of theories folks may have on it.

        I’ve wondered if it’s because we get VW models equipped with drive-trains that are less common to the overall model mix in the EU. Is it possible that their bread and butter products are better quality?

        Example: the much mocked 5 cylinder base engine that until recently was the base Golf / Jetta offering occupied a much higher place in the EU line-up and was considered more of a performance variant.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Quality surveys in Europe also don’t give high marks to VW.

          The difference is that in the US, the public perception is consistent with the data, while in Europe it isn’t.

        • 0 avatar
          George B

          cpthaddock, the difference is the very limited amount of time working American can take off from work and the importance of the car in getting to work. I could lose my job if my car spends too much 8AM to 5PM workday time in the shop. Dealer service shares this very limited pool of time away from work with doctor and dentist visits, sick time, and various unexpected events. I told the Honda dealer that my goal was to never come back and I meant it. VW needs to design cars for a country where people either have no free time during the day or no money to buy a new car. Design the car with only wear items that any old repair shop that works Saturdays could fix. Nothing dealer specific.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          In Australia VW’s quality perception is now on par with FCA products,not being a VW fan, that seems like big jump. Cannot work out how they are increasing market share here, as there products are not particularly appealing, Audi and Porsche aside

        • 0 avatar
          FractureCritical

          this x 1000.
          VW has incredible brand recognition on every other land mass in the world. Quite frankly, they JUST DON’T HAVE TO CARE in Europe or China where people want a VW if but for no other reason than it’s a VW.

          It’s pretty much the same thing here in the US. People buy brand, and VW has no real brand here in the US. they also have limited and dated product. what does VW sell that people go out of their way to find in a VW store, aside from the GTI? Maybe some diesel offering, but diesel is already second banana behind hybrid, and 95% of people who want a hybrid will go with a Prius because the Toyota BRAND is RELIABILITY (true or not).

      • 0 avatar
        deanst

        Autoblog has a good article on How Americans may be too fat for small cars – probably a lot of truth to that.

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      > In Canada the golf outsells the Camry and all other midsize cars.

      You got a cite for that claim? Not calling you a lying liar or anything, since I don’t get to Canada all that often, but I seem to see aboot as many Accords and Camrys as I do here in the states.

    • 0 avatar
      Powerlurker

      VW just doesn’t have the availability they need for the Golf. When my wife was looking at new cars, the local VW dealership had precisely zero Golf S’s or SE’s on the lot. They had a few TDIs and GTIs and that was it.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    Let’s look at what Audi did with the A3: the previous generation wagon sold on average ~500 units per month. Amazingly enough, when they slapped trunk on the sucker in the current iteration the sales volume shot up to ~2200 units/mo.

    The new Golf is a really, really good vehicle. The 2016s will improve upon the one big thing everyone gripes about: the 5.8″ infotainment system will be replaced by the faster, higher resolution 6.5″ and 8.0″ units with USB and Carplay/Andoid Auto support.

    Once the Jetta moves to the MQB architecture in a few years, and assuming VW keeps the same high value packaging as with the Golf, they’ll move tons of metal. Same for the Passat, Tiguan, upcoming SUV, etc. Localized production is going to help immensely, along with a new focus on American demands. It’s only taken Volkswagen 30 years to get its head out of its arse on this, but the company is moving in the right direction.

    At this point it’s a matter of timing. Next generation Jetta and Passat won’t be here until MY2018, SUV/CUV until MY2017.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      Not exactly a good comparison Audi limited the number of 5 doors they brought over due to the big demand they had in Europe. How many more they would of sold is hard to figure. Still hatchbacks are considered cheap small cars in America. Too bad as it really is a lot more practical and what made me like the A3 so much.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Fred,

        Audi of America came very close to axing the car here until the TDI sales (and higher margins) took off. The original A3 was, admittedly, an experiment in the US market. While they did limit the number of units in the US you can ask any dealership in the nation if they wanted more of them and the answer would be a resounding NO THANKS. Audi found a decent supply/demand balance toward the end of the model run, but even with the flood gates opened they never would have come near the sales success of the current A3 sedan.

        What will be interesting to see is the take rate on the forthcoming A3 TDI Sportback and the A3 e-tron. I suspect they’ll sell well and add a combined 400-600 units/month to the A3 tally.

    • 0 avatar
      Counterpoint

      The previous A3 had terrible packaging. I wanted to buy one but literally couldn’t fit due to lack of head room. I am tall but not a giant and fit into Japanese compacts just fine.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    The reliability rep is a killer. I had a longstanding policy never to lease cars, which I broke this week because I loved the GTI so much, but was scared to death of owning one past the warranty period, and on a $30k car I can afford to blow the lease payments for a couple of years. However, it took a _lot_ of mental effort, and a _really_ great car, for me to overcome my overwhelming don’t-lease and don’t-buy-cars-known-for-being-unreliable (a.k.a., don’t-buy-a-VW) urges. For any car that’s simply competitive in its segment, rather than clearly head and shoulders above the competition, I can’t see the logic in buying a VW when you know you’re inviting headaches down the road and a correspondingly low residual value.

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      If you don’t mind me asking, what were the lease terms?

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        4dr GTI Autobahn with lighting package, $1600 down (including TTL etc.) and $359/month for 36 months, 12k/year. That was after negotiating pretty aggressively.

        @319583076: That was my problem with all previous VWs. The GTI persuaded me to risk it, and by leasing, I figure I’m eating the depreciation but I’ve limited my downside.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      I like the Golf GTI and Jetta GLI styling inside and out. By all accounts, they’re good to great driving cars with good to great utility. Whether it’s still true or not, the VW reliability issue prevents me from exploring them any further.

      • 0 avatar
        Proflig8tor

        Same here. When I looked at the VW EA888 on the engine stands at the LA Auto show the complexity of the thing was astonishing compared to the Mazda SkyActive engines next door. So I looked at commonly replaced items on VW cars and realized what a nightmare a water pump change would be. Went to the Mazda dealer and bought a new 3. Although I STILL want the VW product a new manufacturing operation in Mexico building a very complex engine just does not inspire confidence.

        VW should consider taking the same action the Korean manufacturers did a few years ago to build confidence in their offerings … 100K + warranties.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      Reliability is the killer for me. I’m actually in the market for a new car right now and I’m greatly disheartened by the relative sameness of virtually all offerings – certainly with my $30K price ceiling. The only brands that seem to offer something different – at least with some of their cars – are Subaru and VW. I really want to like VW and would probably buy something like a Jetta SportWagen with TDI. But I know what kind of trouble I’ll be asking for. Too many friends and colleagues have had serious issues with VWs – the kind that stop the vehicle and strand you on the side of the road. And I’m not talking about 20 or even 10 years ago. Until VW deals with this head on, it’s not going to happen for them in North America.

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        Yeah, I only pulled the trigger on the GTI as an alternative to a handful of much-more-expensive offerings, at which point leasing started to make more financial sense.

        The natural alternative is probably Mazda, which for some sad reason is still a relative rarity compared to (in my view) much inferior competition. The 3 is a great car, if a bit chintzier inside than the Golf, and the rumor is that the MazdaSpeed 3 will be coming late this summer. That’s a killer offering if you can wait that long.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Take the MQB, jack it up 3 inches, add ridiculously oversized tires and AWD and you’d double or triple volume. Not that there’s anything wrong with the golf and its variants as-is, it’s just that you have to cater to what the market is buying such as CRV, RAV4, Renegade, etc. If I were in the market for a FWD small-ish car, the current GTI and the TDI sportwagen would be at the top of my list and it would just come down to deciding between the two.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    VW would sell way more Golfs if they got the same lease support as the Passat and Jetta. Last year I was quoted something absurd like $1000 down and $370 a month for a 3-year lease on a BASE, $21k four door.

    Didn’t ask what the actual residual was, but apparently VW doesn’t have any more faith in its reliability than most buyers do.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Is that how they price them? I thought it was just residuals, which are high for the Golf. I want to lease a GSW but I’m not seeing any lease deals for them.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    What exactly can VW do to make the Jetta/Passat competitive? Everyone keeps dumping on them but I don’t see how they are any worse than the competition. Not saying they can’t be; I’m just genuinely curious.

    • 0 avatar
      JSF22

      I think they probably are not worse than the competition, but I also think someone looking for a fairly boring sedan — which they are — just wants a car they don’t have to think about. VW is not giving that buyer any compelling reason not to buy another Camcord. I would suggest that means a lower price, or a long warranty, or significantly more solicitous dealers. Even the latter isn’t that important — plenty of other-make dealers also are best avoided, and these buyers never want to have to see a dealer again anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Ever owned a VW beyond the warranty?

      Ever owned a Toyota out of warranty?

      What VW is probably missing about the American market is that Americans of modest means use 10 year old used cars to try out a brand before they can afford to buy new. (Assuming my experience is remotely close to typical.)

      My Jetta was litarally the newest car I’ve ever owned (6 years old), and also the least reliable. But it’s also the most direct experience I’ve had with the VW brand since my dad got rid of his microbus.

      So, if you’re going to lease for 3 years, a VW and a Honda might be comparable. I hear that’s what they do with a lot of new cars (“company cars”) in Europe. But that’s not how most people I know think about car purchases – they shop with “forever” in mind and then get rid of it early (possibly by shifting it to a less fortunate family member) if times are good. My experience owning a VW with only 6 years and a mere 100k miles on the odometer showed that the brand is not compatible with thin kind of thinking — I wouldn’t wish those maintenance expenses on anyone less evil than of Darth Vader, much less my very own mother (who’s currently driving my old Escape).

      My decade old used Toyotas are holding up well, so I’ll definitely consider another one.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        My wife has had an 07 Rabbit for about a year and a half, and hasn’t had any problems. Only thing that kind of sucks is the sunroof will tilt on its own every now and then. The 2.5 isn’t a great motor but it’s simple for VW and pretty reliable. The rest of the car is pretty solid as well.

        One thing I will say is I think the whole “German dynamics” thing is overblown. My Civic is from the same era and it handles a lot better. Feels every bit of the 300-400lbs lighter than the Rabbit that it is. Rabbit wins on refinement and versatility. I want to replace it with the GSW but if the Scion iM or w/e the Matrix replacement is comes with a decent engine I might go that way instead.

        • 0 avatar
          tedward

          I’d agree with that vw criticism but more as a praise of the old civic. The root of enthusiast gripes with the current civic is that this is no longer the case, only Mazda provides that compact car right now. Honda has freakin nailed it with the fit and accord though. The crv and civic get by as top sellers, but only by not screwing anything up.

          Im on here as a vw fan usually, but in my personal circles I’m the one sticking up for civics and Mazda 3’s as a better starting point for a pure performance build, and the guy extolling the virtues of n.a. engines based on the intangibles. I’d say all of that has changed with the mqb product and the decline of the civic however. Vw does very comfortable cars that are inches from being sporty (golf not gti). Now they do weight comparable cars with turbo everything, changes the math somewhat.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            I think there is value to both sides (NA vs turbo in the C segment). That’s really part of why I want to have the GSW to complement my Civic. And the platform deal really nailed what I love about the Civic. Out of the box my 8th gen EX is pretty fun, but with a mild suspension (Tein S Tech + Koni Oranges), legit tires (225 width Michelin PSS) and some very choice, very cheap chassis and brake tweaks ($400 OEM BBK, spherical suspension bearings, underbody bracing, ball joint extenders) the thing is going to rip for not a lot of money. I’m not even going to touch the motor aside from noise mods (intake, exhaust, maybe test pipe) because it’s a daily driver and it’s pretty fun to wring out without fear of getting into trouble.

            But back to the platform thing- the BBK, the cheap but good spherical bearings, all the Type-R/FD2 stuff…. it puts the aftermarket a level above the 3 and Focus. If I had an Si it would be a whole different ball game… the K20A is a better engine than the 2.0/2.3Ts in the MS3/FoST. I wanted a cheap daily driver though.

            The GSW would enable me to have a fast comfy cruiser for road trips and stuff. With an APR chip they really go. 250HP/300TQ. The torque is key for easy passes and stuff. Mild suspension and it will be a perfect “GT” with tons of cargo space. Should be nice. I wouldn’t get a Golf for a fun ride… wifey’s Rabbit is soft and heavy with slow steering. It’s just not fun to drive. But on long trips out of town it’s nice. Like a little luxury car. Reminds me of an old Benz. Just have to pick the right tool for the job. I don’t feel the Golf and Civic really compete with each other. They have always been very different.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    Does anyone else remember back to the millennium when VW was the hottest piece of automotive ass on the scene? Then those newly restyled Golfs, Jettas and Passats broke down with alarming regularity all the while backed by the weakest new car warranty around at 2 years/24k miles. Volkswagen realized buyer alienation was growing and doubled it to four years around 2002, but the damage was done, and I think to this day many won’t consider a VW because of that dark period. I know I wouldn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      JSF22

      I think you nailed it. Ten to twelve years ago the Passat seemed to be a bargain Audi; the Jetta was the coolest thing on any college campus; and the New Beetle was a phenomenon. VW created hundreds of thousands of new customers, a lot of whom weren’t used to sludged up engines, exploding ignition coils, and windows falling down into the doors. Those people told a lot of other people, none of whom are coming back — without some major incentive — no matter how good the cars are today. There’s no magic new solution. Hyundai showed how it’s done. They knew their cars had become good and that the warranty wouldn’t cost them that much. If VW doesn’t do that, then I sure don’t know what else will work.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      All that hotness didn’t sell cars though. The current crop of boring VWs has accounted for its highest volume ever in the states.

      That’s why I’m kind of confused. If VW goes back to what it’s good at (quasi premium cars) they wont achieve their volume goals. But if they try and go for volume goals it seems like they eliminate any reason to buy their cars over the competition. So they are in a real catch-22.

      I think their best course of action for now is to give their sedans a little more style and seriously get into the CUV market. They have to go at the HRV/CRV/Pilot directly.

  • avatar
    CaliCarGuy

    Ive found myself interested in a Golf from time to time, specifically the TDi. But the entry price is way to high for what it is to. On the whole, the Golf seems to be pricier than most competitors. I think thats off putting to alot of people.

    • 0 avatar

      The TDi is marketed to a specific group of pipe smoking, tweed wearing enthusiast. The suspension and overall package are “sportline” in europe, so you get tighter shocks and springs. You get 17 inch sport wheels, and I think a different seat. US versions don’t get automatic climate control or power seats and hid lights are optioned stupidly expensive. There are a lot of high end options we don’t get, automatic parking, backup cameras, adjustable shocks. I do wish I could get the bigger brakes, but that gets us to GTD, which we don’t get either, and I would have taken as a first choice.

      Still, you get a tight Golf, maybe even a bit more survivable on bad roads. Most expect to keep the car forever….this buyer isn’t flipping, and usually knows what they are getting into.

      I have always wondered why VW does not import the Polo. A big engined version might sell here, as the Smart, the 500, and the mini appear to find buyer.

      There are still a lot of euro cars that sell over there that we won’t buy. No one wants a fleet of 1.4 liter tiny gas cars, or 1.6 liter TDi cars, even if they do get 50 mpg. Americans would not buy these. It so happens that VW makes a lot of these over there. I don’t want $10 gas….which is where these make sense.

      Oh, and the jacked up version of the Golf one poster suggested is called the “Golf Plus”. We don’t get that either.

      VW needs to do what the other Germans have done. There ain’t a lot of Q7, X5 or GL Mercedes on the autobahn….they made them for the US and a few other rich markets (middle east, russia) that want big.

      There appears to be a huge conceptual thing VW does not get about the US market. If you know you are buying a hothouse flower which will need to be maintained you are OK. If you are thinking appliance, keep walking.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    There’s some mirthful barrel distortion going on in that photo. The wagon looks like my size 13 dress shoes. Can that be a VW corporate image?

    I gave a cursory glance at CR and they actually recommend the 4-cyl Jetta and Passat. But when you look at past reliability scores it’s like hearing Darrell hasn’t beat up a girlfriend in two whole months so don’t worry about your sister moving in with him.

  • avatar
    gasser

    How to sell more VWs in USA
    1. Have a compelling product: yes for GTI, meh for Golf, No for all the rest, including missing SUVS
    2. Extend warranty to 10 years (lose shirt on warranty costs)
    3. Put lots of cash on the hood (lose shirt on sales)
    4. Highly subsidized leases (lose shirt on residual value of lease returns)
    5. Have a new dealer network, with actually trained techs (Get sued by current dealers and lose shirt on legal costs)
    6. Have cars serviced by Japanese or Koreans with OEM parts made in China, not Germany (lose face, but might just work)
    7. Continue current waffling business plans and continue to blame the last VW administration (very popular in Washington, but not effective.)

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    What gasser writes is true. At the very least none of the electronics in VWs should be made or designed in Germany. In fact, the company should set up a design (and I don’t mean styling) center in Japan or Korea. When they finally begin turning out better and more-reliable cars, they should back them with a Hyundai-esque warranty. Short of that, I think VW is doomed to failure in this market.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    Haters will hate. Some people should get their heads out of the sand. I am being polite. When one of the posters mentioned that he was thinking about a Subaru or a VW i had to read the statement twice. Subaru owners are blinded by the 4 wheel drive and think it is the to have thing. In the meantime the car has an engine that dates back to the original VW air cooled flat four which Subaru copied much of the engineering. Today Subaru and VW are two different cars. My wife owned one Subaru about 20 years ago and like all good Subaru’s at about 80,000 miles the thing started to fall apart not to mention the tons of rust. At the time i had a 1986 VW GTI that i drove back and forth to NYC for work. When we dumped the Subaru my car was 7 years old with about 70,000 miles with no problems at all. My wife brought a new Golf and i traded in my GTI for a VW Corrado. Since 1993 we both have owned only VW’s and all of them have been trouble free, Today we are driving VW GTI that are both 5 years old and no problems. I will admit i have seen some VW’s that were worked on by so called mechanics and they almost ruined the car. I am restoring a 1990 VW Cabriolet that a young kid tried to turn into a Honda style race car and screwed everything up. I have corrected most of the errors but a car with 60,000 miles to screw up i have to wonder. He had to install a high powered radio. OK buy the proper plugs to install the unit. No cut all the wires under the dash board and start fresh. What a mess days to trace everything. Whatever for my wife and myself we love our VW’s.

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      I’m happy for you with your trouble-free VW’s, but the VW dealers here in the Dirty South are just scummy, about any other brand is much easier to buy and safer to own long-term. Not sure why you have a hardoff for Subaru, they are insanely popular here in the mountains of western NC, and deservedly so.

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        Lectro, you’re the third person on the board to mention the dealer network, and given the apparently widespread belief that it’s a problem, I’m willing to bet it must be a problem. But I have to say that the two dealerships I dealt with in leasing my GTI last week were both sterling: pristine, modern showrooms, salesmen who knew what they were talking about and didn’t lie about anything, and (relatively) upfront during the negotiating process. One was able to meet my price, the other wasn’t, and so I bought from Dealer A, but both were head-and-shoulders above the Ford, Mazda and Toyota dealers we shopped at a couple of years ago for my wife’s car, and neither had that faint whiff of death I’ve smelled around Acura dealers of late.

        • 0 avatar

          I guess I’m lucky. I have two BMW dealers, both of which are good. The local VW shop so far has been ok both for purchase and service. The only stinker in the bunch is my local Acura dealer, which is every stereotype you can think of from service to sales. Luckily the next one over is good, so they get all my parts purchases now.

  • avatar
    Thomas42

    Problem with VW in my market is only one dealer and he is greedy. Toyota, Honda, Kia and the rest of the group has 4 or 5 so they are competitive. I live in a smaller market about 300,000 folks. If they want to increase volume they need to become competitive with additional dealers and products. They seem to want to play in the same ballpark as the other European manufacturers, MB, Audi,Jag etc. they have forgot they are and always will be the “Peoples Car”to most Americans. In Europe and the rest of the world they compete all kinds of small and large car companies very well, they are the second or third largest manufacturer in the world. If they don’t get their act together the Japanese and Koreans might just run them out of the US market in the next 20 to 25 years.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Even in other major markets, such as China, VW is not highly regarded either.

    They once dominated the Chinese market. Not because the cars are better. But because the management was quick to make the decision to enter the market and was willing to yield to the Chinese government on certain terms.

    They flooded the Chinese markets with cheap taxis and went downhill ever since. Chinese buyers were later presented with choices from Japan and the US. As far as market segments, VW can only hold the lower end well (i.e. sub-Civic). As for higher up models, they completely lost.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      That is absolutely not my experience, and I travel through China quite a lot. VW is considered a prestigious brand in the PRC and most of my Chinese colleagues would burst with pride if they could actually own one. From Beijing to Shenzhen to Dalian, I see Polos, Golfs, Santanas, Jettas, Tiguans, and Touaregs in significant numbers. Most of the taxis I have been in have been Toyota Crowns with a smattering of Hyundais.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Well, if you’re Volkswagen, you can take heart knowing that you’re tied with Chrysler in beating these brands for US market share:

    Mazda
    Lexus
    BMW
    Buick
    Audi
    Cadillac
    Acura
    Infiniti
    Mitsubishi
    Lincoln
    Land Rover
    Volvo
    Scion
    Porsche
    Mini
    Fiat
    Maserati
    Jaguar
    Smart
    Bentley
    Alfa Romeo

  • avatar
    nels0300

    It’s the reliability reputation. That’s it.

    And they KEEP killing themselves. They don’t fix any of their problems. If it’s not ignition coils, it’s carbon build up or bad water pumps.

    And the negative word of mouth will continue to BURY them.

    Look at the other mainstream automakers that tried to sell crap. GM, Ford, and Chrysler were all near death. The only reason they’re still around is the US Government and patriotic buyer goodwill. VW doesn’t have that.

    It’s really too bad, because every time I buy a car, I want to consider a VW. I love the GTI and GLI.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      The statistics from Consumer Reports, JD Power, and True Delta show a slow and steady improvement in VW brand reliability over the past seven years, which is more of an achievement since the entire industry is improving as a whole. Consumer Reports latest car survey puts VW in the 15th slot, out of 28 total manufacturers. Infiniti is in 17th place, and Nissan is 18, yet you don’t hear these constant harangues about Nissan and Infiniti reliability. The dreadful early 2000s era cars are gone and VW’s current lineup is quite reliable. But one wouldn’t know that given all the decade-old horror stories repeated on automotive fora over and over again.

      My 2010 GTI has had one minor issue in five years of daily driving, a door lock that was cheerfully replaced under warranty. That’s it. The new mark VII GTI is a brilliant vehicle. If you like it, seriously consider getting one.

      • 0 avatar
        nels0300

        Carbon build up isn’t old news, VW still hasn’t fixed it with the GLI or GTI in the US. In Europe, and in some Audis, they use port and direct injection, like Toyota and Lexus, that solves the issue.

        I was going to buy a brand new GLI and researched the issue, and yes, a brand new GLI is going to eventually have a carbon build up problem that will cause drivability issues and will need to have the cylinder head cleaned. WTF.

        And the water pumps are recent too, have they fixed those? What about the TDI and DSG problems?

        • 0 avatar
          LeeK

          What DSG problems? There were Mechatronic unit failures in the mid 2000s which Volkswagen replaced and extended the warranty for ten years. I’ve had two Golfs (R32 and now a GTI) with DSG transmissions and neither have had any issues whatsoever. TDi high pressure fuel pumps failed in Jettas and Passats and VW replaced them as well under warranty and also changed suppliers. Water pumps? I’m not aware of any broad sweeping issues with these.

          If ultra-reliability is your primary factor for purchasing a car, then Toyota, Honda, and Mazda have many offerings for you. But to deny yourself of a professed desire to own a GTI or GLI based on anecdotal reports is your loss, unfortunately. Nothing I can say will sway your concerns.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    When Golf/GTI production was shifted to Mexico and the SportWagen joined the rest of the planet as a Golf, it looked like VW was finally going to lean on the Golf lineup as a volume car in the U.S. The thing is, they haven’t, and I don’t understand why.

    Compared to a similarly equipped Jetta, a lease on a Golf is oftentimes $100/month more. That makes no sense. If they were to get Golf and Jetta leases somewhere close to equal, they would move all the Golfs and GTIs they could get their hands on.

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