By on July 28, 2016

passatr36

Is there anybody left in this country who gives a single damn about Volkswagen? If so… why?

This is a company that has spent the past 40 years treating their American customer base with the kind of contemptuous disdain that most of us associate with the wait staff at Le Bernardin. The thousand injuries of Wolfsburg we have borne as best we could — from the Westmoreland Rabbits to the 8-valve Mk2 GTI to every single aspect of the Phaeton ownership experience — but when the company ventured upon insult to the very air we breathe, that should have been enough for all of us to abandon the brand permanently.

The problem is that some of us just can’t let go. Maybe it’s misplaced loyalty. Maybe it’s dim memories of the Corrado VR6. Maybe it’s just a certain delight in the way that Volkswagens feel when you’re driving them. Whatever the reason, there’s still some goodwill left in the United States on which the company can capitalize. One of the ideas being floated is a “hot Passat”, or at least a slightly sportier Passat. Our own Steph Willems made the case earlier in the week that such a car would be a waste of time.

I disagree, and I’ll tell you why.

Twenty years ago in this country, VW was well on its way to becoming a minimal-volume niche brand like Volvo or Saab. Its showrooms were dead-quiet reliquaries of eclectic and unwanted adjunct-professor-bait like the five-cylinder “EuroVan” and the Jetta Trek. We didn’t even have a true GTI; in a thoroughly typical display of contempt for the New World, Volkswagen put the GTI badge on the pig-nosed VR6 for American consumption.

What happened next was nothing short of a renaissance. The MkIV (pronounced “Emm-Kay-Eye-Vee” by certain idiots on VWVortex who think they are making hilarious fun of other idiots on VWVortex) Golf and Jetta created a whole new generation of VW loyalists overnight. Virtually the entire VW “scene” as we know it now comes from the cars that VW introduced right before the turn of the millennium. The aggressive cost-cutting by Dr. Piech and his hired guns sacrificed long-term quality in favor of rich-textured showroom appeal, but by the time everybody figured out what junk the cars truly were, they’d already been seduced by the miniature-BMW feel and inexplicable snob appeal of the VW brand.

Yet it wasn’t the 1999 GTI that heralded VW’s return to form. Rather, it was the Audi A4-based Passat that debuted the year before. The B5 Passat was an utter revelation, offering the freeway poise of a C-Class, the interior space of an E-Class, and the dynamic vigor of a BMW 323i at the MSRP of a Camry LE. Like the Golf and Jetta that followed it, the quality wasn’t really there, but to a generation that had been raised in Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosports and the like, the sheer visceral delight of entering an on-ramp behind the big soft-touch wheel of a Passat V6 was worth any amount of service-department misery.

The goodwill, loyalty, and upscale image created by the Passat, Golf, and Jetta in those first few years after 1998 seemed impossible to destroy — but only a fool would bet against VWoA’s ability to destroy its own brand. After all, this was the company that, much like the legend of the phoenix in reverse, had managed to return from flaming majesty back to the ashes multiple times from 1960 to 1998. So the MkIV was replaced by the underwhelming, cheap-feeling MkV and a series of completely inept marketing campaigns. The B5 Passat gave way to the completely uninteresting B6 Passat, and when the American market declined to worship at the feet of a car that was somehow both worse to drive and considerably more expensive than its predecessor, VW’s response was to call its most patient customers ignorant hicks and give them a parody-Passat that resembled nothing so much as a bigoted German’s off-handed libeling of the 2003 Camry given actual sheetmetal form.

And that’s where we would be now — with an aging lineup in which the current GTI is perhaps the only truly outstanding product, but which is also priced in a manner that can only be described as “feverishly optimistic” — except that there’s also this little matter of Volkswagen knowingly deceiving the American public for several years. Given the general attitude of contempt which the adjunct-professor crowd treats any mention of the United States, perhaps VW can be forgiven for thinking that it could win the public-relations war between themselves and the EPA. The problem is that there are two kinds of Americans nowadays:

  • People who love this country and believe in it
  • People who take the EPA very seriously

And somehow VW managed to pull off the heretofore-impossible feat of pissing both groups off at the same time. The self-consciously patriotic crowd is angry because a bunch of Germans abused the trust placed in them by a government agency that tended to adopt a test-it-yourself method. The snail-darter sympathizers are utterly aghast that Volkswagen has knowingly pumped millions of pounds’ worth of pollutants into the air. Right now, you could probably get Hillary and Trump to denounce Volkswagen. That’s how bad the situation is.

So. In a situation like this, you have to go to the mattresses. By that, of course, I mean that you hunker down and fight with every weapon at your disposal until the storm has passed. You should know that. Didn’t you read The Godfather? VW doesn’t have a lot of weapons at its disposal, but they do have one card they can play, and that is the pandering-to-the-VW-enthusiast card. There are still a lot of people out there who believe in the company and the brand. Embarrassingly, I’m one of them, my experiences through a half-million dollars’ worth of new Volkswagens notwithstanding.

This is what you do. You revamp everything you’ve got to be as maximum-aggression, as Autobahn-focused, as stereotypically German as possible. That means deep bumpers, V-Tex interiors, shockingly low prices, and home-market aesthetics. And just like in 1998, you lead with a Passat that attracts auto enthusiast’s attention. There’s no new metal on the horizon, but it would be possible for VW to deliver a heavily bespoilered V6-powered Passat with as much power possible for as little money as possible. Leave out the nav systems, the leather interiors, the sound insulation. Build a Passat that out-handles and out-accelerates competitors from Hyundai and Kia. Give it a manual transmission.

Then market the hell out of it. Make sure it’s on TV and on the Internet ripping up to 165 miles per hour in the left lane of a derestricted six-lane to Frankfurt. Make it all black with red trim and all white with white trim and make it look so aggressive that the current C-Class and 3 Series look like bloated, curvaceous boats by comparison. The furious purpose of this vehicle should be apparent from a Google Maps satellite.

Will a lot of people buy it? Of course not. But selling the hyper-Passat will do a few things: It will reassure the faithful. It will help people forget about the TDI and the “green police” business. It will re-position the brand back to where it was in 1999. And the same treatment can be applied to the Jetta six months down the road to seal the deal.

Most importantly, it will show VW’s confidence and commitment to the American market at a time when a lot of potential buyers have good reason to doubt both of those qualities. It will shine some halo light on the more prosaic offerings and it will wipe some of the tarnish off the Volkswagen logo. In short, it will fly the flag just when it needs to be flown.

Would your humble author, veteran of many a new-Volkswagen delivery and many a 30-day stint in a service loaner, pay his own money for such a car? Not a chance. VW lost me as a buyer the moment they decided to extract a couple grand’s worth of profit from a flawless lease return back in 2009. But that doesn’t mean that other loyalists won’t step up to the plate. All VW has to do is make the pitch.

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119 Comments on “Volkswagen Needs A Hot Passat — Once Again...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    ” Build a Passat that out-handles and out-accelerates competitors from Hyundai and Kia. Give it a manual transmission.”

    how will it help to do the exact opposite of what the market wants? Handling isn’t helping Mazda sell cars. Acceleration is pretty low on the list of priorities for sedan buyers, so long as it’s “fast enough.” and the manual transmission just made it poison for 97% of car buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      But not for 97% of VW buyers. Certain brands sell a much higher percentage of manuals than the norm. VW and Mazda are two of those.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      “Handling isn’t helping Mazda sell cars. Acceleration is pretty low on the list of priorities for sedan buyers, so long as it’s “fast enough.””

      I dunno, the Mazda3 is selling pretty well, and it has the right combination of handling and power (in the “S” variants) for the compact class. The Mazda6 isn’t selling well, but being a potential Mazda6 buyer (as soon as VW buys back my TDI) I have to say that NOT having more power in the 6 is a major strike against it. There’s more than a few people who think that Mazda would move more 6es if they had a 250 HP option.

      Of course the bigger issue with the midsize sedan market is that those of us who would buy them seem to be a dying breed. Most of my peers have moved on to CUVs.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        but again, you lot are enthusiasts, with enthusiast thinking. Enthusiasts don’t buy many cars, certainly not enough to sustain a brand. Even Jack eventually displays the same mindset by the last paragraph:

        “Would your humble author, veteran of many a new-Volkswagen delivery and many a 30-day stint in a service loaner, pay his own money for such a car? Not a chance. VW lost me as a buyer the moment they decided to extract a couple grand’s worth of profit from a flawless lease return back in 2009.”

        and that’s the problem here, Jalopnik, and elsewhere. Begging automakers to build a unicorn car which you won’t buy anyway, but complain that nobody else does either.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        “Acceleration is pretty low on the list of priorities for sedan buyers, so long as it’s “fast enough.””

        True ‘dat. (While wanting to strangle the idiot in the new-ish Jetta entering the freeway ahead of me at ** 45mph ** yesterday morning!)

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Waingrow

      JimZ, I couldn’t agree more. Jack’s imagined car would be poison in the marketplace. And, unlike a base GTI which I don’t think is exactly feverishly priced, the theoretical Passat would likely be. The days for this kind of car are way over. Another point: the service at Le Bernardin (if he means the NYC restaurant) is unfailingly warm and friendly. Last point: the FDA/love of country thing is drivel.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      As BTSR would say, make it BIGGER, make it FASTER, make it BETTER and they will come. I question VW’s ability to do so, however…

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      If you only offered what people said they wanted, Thomas Edison would have been bankrupted by a company offering bigger candles.

    • 0 avatar
      jeffzekas

      During a recession, what sells cars is reliability. Give every VW a 10 year/ 100,000 mile warranty. Have excellent dealer service (i.e Lexus). Build cars that are fun, cute and don’t fall apart before the loan ends. These are the “secrets” of the success of the Camry, the Miata and the Corolla.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      He did not say this car would set sales charts ablaze. He did contend that it would set VW enthusiasts hearts ablaze and it would therefore keep the brand on the radar for those who actually like VW, instead of them moving on to, say, a Fusion Sport or a hotted-up Subaru.

      Handling isn’t what keeps the Mazda6 sales low. Its the lack of power. The I-4/automatic Camry (or Accord) far outsells the V-6 models, yet Toyota (and Honda) continue to offer it for those who want it…even those who want it but end up with an I-4/Auto anyway. At least it gets them in the showroom. Mazda offers no upgrade. Since they and Ford have parted ways, their parts bin is much smaller and doesn’t include anything with 6 cylinders. They need to at least fast-track the turbo 4 for the 6.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Unfortunately, the V6 is going away in the Camry for 2018, and as Jack has opined, Honda may follow suit with the Accord. (Camry is losing the top-end engine for a gerbil wheel, while the base Accords will be turdos. Unlike Toyota, Honda doesn’t have a large car above the Accord, so that gives me some hope.)

        On another matter, it seems that this Camry is going to stick around for an extra year, so both top midsizers will enter the ring at the same time with new designs.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    We had a couple of bad experiences with VW and I gave my wife instructions to shoot me if I ever bought another. I need to re-evaluate this joke as we have since purchased a firearm.

    Regardless, 15 years later, I find myself drawn to VW again. Our Infiniti G37x is more car than we need and less than we want. My wife has been making noises about replacing it with a Juke or a HR-V and I’ve been casting around for alternatives that are neither ugly nor wholly gutless.

    Of course, the Golf tops the list (with the Mazda3 being my sole opportunity for salvation). She even said she likes everything about it except our previous memories of hideously unreliable VW ownership.

    I think I have a solution, a loophole, to avoid lead-based kinetic energy poisoning: put my wife’s name on the contract/title. That way she bought the car, not me.

    I don’t WANT to be a VW fan (Ye Gods, do I not want to be a fan of ANY brand) but I don’t seem to have much of a choice.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      That’s the problem I’m running into with coming up with a replacement for my TDI. The emm-kay vee-eye-eye Golf is a very nice car and the TSI is a nice engine and it’s easily tunable. I don’t want to get another VW but it might happen.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      As someone smitten by a brief stint in a G37, the thought of trading in for an HR-V makes me wince. There’s enough injustice in the universe already, please don’t add to it….

      Honest question as someone who considered the GTI and a used G37 last year: what about the Infiniti are you tired of and how would the Golf or Mazda3 fit your needs better?

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        Ditto here, 30-mile fetch, the thought of replacing a G37 with those two poopboxes he mentions makes me retch.

        • 0 avatar
          notapreppie

          Yah, it will be hard to let go of.

          We haven’t driven the HR-V yet but we spent about 20 minutes in one at the Chicago Auto Show. I have to admit, standing still, it wasn’t a bad car. I really liked the interior packaging.

      • 0 avatar
        notapreppie

        I’m so with you on transitioning between the G37 and an HR-V.

        Mostly, it’s less utility being a sedan. We don’t need the bigger vehicle but would like more useful packaging. We’re fairly active in our mid-30’s living in downtown Chicago with a 50lb dog and no kids. It’s surprising how small the parking spaces around here get.

        The Golf, Juke and HR-V are all ~2 feet shorter and have more useful cargo areas. The Mazda3 is the odd one out being nearly the same length as the G37.

        Also, our G37 is nearly 8 years old now and I like the additional safety features available in the newer cars.

        Ultimately, it’s her primary car and I only drive it when I break my RX-8 at an autocross or trackday. So, beyond agreeing that more utility would be nice, I’m trying to limit how much I interfere with her decision.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I can’t imagine being happy with either of those lame duck choices after having a well-made car with a VQ-HR in it.

      • 0 avatar
        notapreppie

        I think my ideal scenario would be an EX35 but that’s almost as large as the G37.

        Sadly, nobody seems to sell a small hatch with a big engine driving the rear wheels.

  • avatar
    benders

    Midsize sedans are dying. It’s not a bad idea but it needs to be a compact CUV.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    It isn’t 1999 anymore. Mid-sized sedans aren’t as important a segment to the pretentious automotive ignoramuses VW needs to buy their insubstantial junk.

  • avatar
    burnbomber

    Having owned both a 1st generation Rabbit and a last (only) generation Celebrity, I can honestly say the Celebrity was not only a better car but lasted twice as long. This experience killed my Euro car desires and drove me to domestics for my daily driving pleasures. My VW ownership (had a Beetle, too) did have one lasting trait–it taught me how to fix my own autos.

    Glad I didn’t ever succumb to the leasing frenzy. I would be afraid to drive at all knowing I had to pass a test upon completion of the lease, and pay big bucks if I lost the test.

  • avatar
    brettc

    What’s the story with the lease return? Sounds like a greasy VW story.

    Like I said the other day, they should sell a hot Passat wagon with the 2.0 GTI engine, 4Motion availability and a manual option. They wouldn’t sell a ton of them, but it would be a good halo car. Of course that would require federalizing a US spec wagon, which probably doesn’t exist even on paper from the NMS platform. But they could bring the Euro Passat wagon over. I know there are some people that would like to buy a Passat wagon because the Golf wagon isn’t quite large enough.

    • 0 avatar
      JRoth

      I was in a dealership Friday (nothing ridiculous: needed to recharge the AC on my ’04 Passat wagon), thinking about a new car, when I remembered that they don’t sell Passat wagons anymore. I would buy a sporty manual wagon in a heartbeat. As it is, I’m nursing my B5 along, hoping that someone will again make a car that I want to buy.

      I should actually just start hunting for a used B5 with fewer miles than mine.

  • avatar
    ...m...

    …no, volkswagen have lost the plot: what they need to do is recede entirely from the public consciousness, spend about a decade as a marginalised boutique brand seldom seen, patronised only by rare fringe aficionados, and then return to the public afresh with a new clannad moment…

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    You’re a bit harsher on the MkV here than in previous work (the MkV Jetta and Rabbit to me are the best mainstream products VW has released here) and have written a lot of positive things about the current standard Golf and even Jetta, but overall I’d agree that VW’s lineup is getting dangerously stale.

    “Maybe it’s just a certain delight in the way that Volkswagens feel when you’re driving them”

    Yes. They often provide a combination of driving feel and ergonomics that appeals to me. I’m not one of the faithful though. I like some of the brand’s products and entered into VW ownership through the safest possible channel–5 cylinder, 5spd manual. As such, I haven’t been burned and a GTI has a fairly strong chance of being my next car. My loyalty ends when the ownership experience becomes difficult, though, so a super Passat interests me not at all unless it provides MkV Jetta levels of reliability. And keep the sound insulation in there, or there’s little reason to get one over a Honda.

    The diesel scandal also doesn’t bother me like perhaps it should. It was comically brazen and I don’t know if it made a measurable difference in air quality given the multitude of aging Superduty Powerstrokes in my area visibly belching soot at every throttle application.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      I don’t think that there was anything cheap feeling about the MkV as compared to the MkIV. I’ve driven a bunch of both and like the MkV vehicles better. Sure, the Jetta sort of looks like a Corolla. Whatever.

      It’s way nicer vehicle to drive and sit in than it’s contemporaries. We need to remember that when we first got the Rabbit/Jetta/GTI/GLI in 2006, the Focus was old, GM still had the Cobalt and some Saturn Opel thing they didn’t know what to do with, the Corolla is the Corolla, the Mazda3 was not nearly as refined, the Civic was good, and Chrysler was selling the Caliber. What mass market compact car was more refined and upscale at the time? None.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        Count me in for the defense of the MKV cars. When I drove the MKV GTI in the fall of 2006, I had every intention of buying a WRX wagon. There wasn’t even a question. It was a test drive just for the fun of it. The overall feel of the car seduced me, though. The seats hugged me. The shifter was buttery smooth. The clutch was easy to modulate and precise. That flat bottom steering wheel, oh my. Then, you bury the throttle and the car would scoot. The chassis felt 2x as stiff as the WRX and there were no Subaru Rattles to be found [yet]. I had never considered a VW before and was completely underwhelmed by the MKIV GLI and GTI (heavy VR6 rocket sled or 180hp 1.8T while the WRX was making 227hp, window regulators were already notorious by the time I was out of college). I ordered a Candy White 4 door GTI with the awesome plaid seats, 18″ huffs, and Votex factory aero kit. I took delivery 4 months later. In a snapshot, the MKV GTI was a really great car. It wasn’t a great car to own due to various reliability issues I had over the 58k miles I had it, but when everything was working, it was a sweetheart.

        I’d also argue that the MKV was rebirth of the GTI and each iteration since has just improved upon the basic formula. If I had to replace my FR-S today with a new sport compact, I’d have a hard time choosing anything but the MKVII GTI PP. It is the complete package.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        “What mass market compact car was more refined and upscale at the time? None.”

        That’s not hyperbole, either. I have a MkV Jetta now simply because I sat in one at an autoshow. The interior materials and driver comfort blew away everything else in the price range. I never would have bothered with the subsequent test drives and reliability research if I hadn’t, because VW wasn’t even on my radar before then.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      I think the biggest problem with the MkV Jetta is that it followed the MkIV Jetta, which is honestly probably one of the best looking compact sedans ever built coupled with having one of the worse reliability of any compact built in the last 30 years. And since the MkIV was a sales success everyone knew it. So you got an uglier (it is not ugly ugly, but not as nice as the MkIV) looking car saddled with a terrible reputation.

      Other than that in my admittedly limited experience the MkV seemed much superior.

      Isn’t the MkIV GTI seen as kind of the low point of the GTI, along with the MkIII? I know the MkV is considered kind of a renaissance of the GTI brand.

    • 0 avatar
      5280thinair

      The MKV did look too Toyota Carola like, and so I’d dismissed it out of hand when it came on the market. In 2010, though, when I was car shopping I decided to try one out after having had a VW TDI rental in the UK and really liking the motor. I had driven a number of other cars, including a couple of CPO Mercedes, and just flat liked the MKV Jetta better. The combination of German simplicity of the controls, handling, cargo space, and better luxury feel than a car at that price point deserved, sold me. It even turned out to be reliable, amazing considering VW’s reputation.

      Unfortunately, other than the new Golf, VW seems to have lost the plot.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Jack I think that they’re already applying the strategy of selling a premium feeling/driving product crammed full of tech at firesale prices to try to stay relevant.

    You may pan the American-market Passat as a lame duck Camry-copy, but as I’ve written several times, I was nothing short of blown away by my rental 1.8TSI SE this spring, especially as the miles and hours rolled on during a full day of driving. I was nothing short of shocked when I learned that the car I drove was a pretty plebian trim SE, one that I can buy for $18k after discounts. V-Tex interior with what I call high quality feeling trim (if not particularly durable), moonroof, classy looking multi-spoke alloys with some surprisingly wide tires, and the piece de resistance: adaptive cruise control! I previously had poo-pood this feature as a gimmick, but boy does it make highway driving across I-70 for hours on end effortless. Set the cruise at 77mph and enjoy the ride, while getting a honest to goodness 38 calculated mpg (39-40 indicated) with the A/C going. Between that, the well-managed NVH, the way the car holds the road at high speed, the torque-rich motor, and comfy seats, this car blew my fiance’s ’12 Camry SE out of the water. Sure the Camry is the safer bet for longer term ownership (60k miles and counting, just a battery replaced and a few un-Toyota-like minor interior rattles in the cold). Stories of year old Passats and Jettas with leaking rear main seals is not encouraging. I also understand that I’m comparing the Passat to the pre-refreshed Camry that has a substantially better interior now. If I were mid-size car shopping, I’d honestly be tempted to go against every Japan-inc bone in my body and scoop up the Passat SE.

  • avatar
    MrGrieves

    I’ve owned 3 VW’s since 1998 and my overall ownership experience hasn’t been *that* bad. It’s probably because I’m lucky enough to live near a marginally competent VW dealer who can fix all the bizarre problems that crop up.

    They basically have 4 hurdles to overcome: Terrible marketing, lack of appealing vehicles for U.S. consumers, a dealer network that just doesn’t give a hoot about customer service, and a reputation for awful reliability. These problems can be fixed but it’s going to take a lot of time, money, and effort.

    As far as a performance Passat, it might work but VW would price it in the stratosphere. The only people I know who are driving Passats have low-end strippers that they got for well under invoice. A Jetta R might make more sense, but it would need AWD which the current platform won’t support.

  • avatar
    Paul Alexander

    I did a Google image search for ‘MkIV Jetta’ and literally every car shown was stanced. Are there no unmolested versions left? I never see any on the road, stanced ones included. I do remember when they were the college girl’s car of choice back in the early to mid aughts, and you could reliably expect to find the cute visage of a sorority sister at the wheel when you pulled up to one.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “… pay his own money for such a car? Not a chance.”

    I’d at least buy the hypothetical 5.3L or 6.2L ATS that I pine over sometimes.

    I admit I don’t entirely understand the mindset of Ze German car buyer, but I doubt that a Passat V6 SSE Blacktop Edition will do much sales or reputation-wise for VW, however it wouldn’t be expensive to give it a shot.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Nope, it won’t work. A shiny special edition Passat will make 8 people on VWVortex happy, and nothing else. It’s not going to distract the American public from their pollution and lying, and it’s not going to get suburban pleebs into the show room for a CUV which doesn’t exist. It wont modernize their aging and limp lineup.

  • avatar
    Mike N.

    When my wife was going to school in NJ, we used my birthday one year as an excuse to try an actual Michelin starred restaurant, and went to Le Bernardin. We received exceptional service, the same as every other diner there, even though it was obvious we did not run in those circles (though I knew enough to wear a jacket and tie). My wife was especially impressed that they brought her a little stool for her purse. Food was fantastic too.

    The same cannot be said for my local VW dealers (or VW, generally, like you say) over the course of my ownership of 3 Passats and a GTI over the years. My experience has been mediocre as best.

    I did love my B5 Passat though, everything Jack writes about was true, except for the fact that because it was A4 based, it was nose heavy as all get-out, and the suspension was tuned more for comfort than sport.

    • 0 avatar
      Schizoid

      That’s been my experience, too, starting from when we were young and poor and clearly out of our depth.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      I really do have to say that the service at Le Bernadine is great from the moment you walk in the door. They even bring you some snacks as you wait for your table if you’re early which I don’t recall other 3 star joints doing. Honestly it isn’t my favorite restaurant just because I’m not obsessed with fish but if you like fish this the nicest place you could eat it and everyone was super nice and not at all disdainful.

  • avatar
    jmo

    “contemptuous disdain that most of us associate with the wait staff at Le Bernardin.”

    When was the last time you were there? In my experience the service is exquisite.

  • avatar
    Schizoid

    Why the needless dig at Le Bernardin? The food there is spectacular, and the service warm and competent. VW, on the other hand, is now a sick joke. Owned two, and would never think of owning another.

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    VW needs to be the darling of the hipster car buyer again.

    Pulling that off means making reliable, German themed cars at FCA prices. Not unreliable ,shoddy piles of crap at Bentley cost.

    Toss in a pro-environmental angle; make everything they sell stateside hybrid or low emissions , and they’ll have the “vinyl turntable & alt rock” demographic on lock. After that ,Mr and Mrs Mainstream will follow suit.

    Enthusiast cars? How funny.

    Did the Chevy SS somehow become the top sedan sold in America ?

  • avatar
    threeer

    It’d be dead BEFORE arrival. Sedan. Manual transmission. Oh, and Volkswagen. None of which are moving mountains. I’m not sure where VW goes from here. The easy answer is CUV/SUV. Or, they decide they are content with playing the role of niche manufacturing and provide such gems as the Golf/GTi and live with being (remaining?) on the fringe here in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “I’m not sure where VW goes from here.”

      Me either. Their CUV playbook is an obvious blunder. They made strides in sales numbers with the Americanized Jetta and Passat but it didn’t last long. They are long in the tooth now and instead of rapidly introducing completely new models they are transplanting turbo engines into old platforms. That gets attention in the auto press but probably isn’t noticeable to consumers who just see the same sheet metal as 6 years ago.

      It’d be nice if they decided what they wanted to be. The “premium feel at a slightly premium price” model didn’t work to their liking (although I adore it in my 2010) so they went bigger and cheaper but didn’t fully commit.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The answer?

    CUVs…and lots of ’em.

    I mean, hell…look at how the Tiguan is selling.

    http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2011/01/volkswagen-tiguan-sales-figures.html

    If they can sell more of this ancient, radically overpriced thing, even AFTER the diesel disaster, the course is obvious.

    And these buyers ain’t gonna give one whit that there’s a performance equipped Passat out there. Still, why not make one? It can’t sell any worse, that’s for sure.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      A woman who works here and drives a Tiguan happened to click her remote to lock it as I was near in the parking garage this morning.

      It makes the cheapest sounding HERNNNNK sound with the horn I think I’ve ever heard.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…the sheer visceral delight of entering an on-ramp behind the big soft-touch wheel of a Passat V6”

    I almost stopped reading right here. You see, my B5.5 Passat V6 couldn’t get out of its own way, because the electronic throttle response wasn’t just sluggish, it was dangerous. The dealer shrugged their collective shoulders.

    This issue was the subject of just one of the *12* dealer visits I had to make while owning that miserable car for 3 years. Let’s see… ruined brakes, repeated electrical failures, broken A/C, exorbitant oil consumption, poor throttle response, failure to start, wandering steering, inaccurate fuel gauge, and so on.

    So I happily traded that lump for an xB1. The Scion was roomier, more responsive, cheaper to own, and never broke – and I drove it twice as far and for twice as long.

    VW’s diesel scandal doesn’t surprise me; they’re just being the same arrogant company I knew them to be back in 2002.

    When Steph’s article came out, I thought of you, Jack:
    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/07/volkswagen-shouldnt-bother-creating-enthusiasts-passat/#comment-8119210

    But if *you* won’t buy a hot Passat, then who would?

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    V-Tex interior? I had the misfortune of renting a Touareg decked out with that vinyl garbage, and thought I’d need skin grafts after driving it for several sunny days. Sorry, cloth or real leather upholstery for me.

    And don’t tell me that leather gets just as hot as vinyl. It doesn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yep, I drove a Golf on a 95-degree day in July last year – red, with the black vinyl seats.

      I sweated so much that it soaked into my clothes, and then every time I shifted in the seat, I made this weird semi-farting noise. No sale.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      I owned a black VW with black V-Tex and no window tint when I moved to Arizona. I had no idea of the consequences of that combination.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    …It will help people forget about the TDI and the “green police” business. It will re-position the brand back to where it was in 1999…

    I humbly disagree. For some context I purchased my first TDI VW in 1998. Loved the car. It was reliable (I know right? I must of had the only one), efficient, & fun to drive. Bought my 2nd TDI in 2005. I was a VW fan because of the perceived awesomeness of the TDI. Now that I know we have been duped to the benefits, I am done with VW. The GTI has been the performance VW on a budget but now that budget stretches into Audi land.

    A performance version of the Passat already exists: S4, S5, S6, S7, S8.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      The S8 makes me wish Lexus would go insane and make a LS-F.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        An LS-F with a naturally-aspirated 550hp V10 would be gloriously ridiculous.

        Aside from maybe the Panamera GTS and Quattroporte GTS the top-dog executive cars have all moved away from offering exotic engines in this last generation. Now they all have stuff better suited to a Ford Super Duty or ’76 Cadillac Sixty-Special.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          At least the Mulsanne Speed still exists.

          Speaking of the S8, I dunno why someone would buy a V8 Bentley Flying Spur when a S8 is probably almost as good for a significant savings.

          The S8 starts at $114,900 while the V8 Flying Spur starts at $201k apparently. Don’t see why I should spend almost 90 grand more to get the same engine and a more luxurious interior.

  • avatar
    tedward

    Great rant. I don’t really brand-fan but the part of me that does wholeheartedly agrees with your summary of vw’s boom and bust cycle. I can’t help but totally and completely disagree with your take on what vw should have done after mkiv though. The mkiv, b5, b6, phaeton and touareg (1st gen) should stand as shining examples of what never to do in the us market. It sounds like this is the product that got your interest from vw in the first place.

    A few corrections from my point of view. The current passat doesn’t suck at all though, and neither does the jetta. They aren’t for me, but they finally got their equipment upgrades and the drivetrains are stellar. Also, I really don’t understand the skepticism on gti price. It costs exactly what is competitors do, and, shades of mkiv, is doing it with better interior materials (hopefully mqb isn’t german code for mkiv supplier abuse).

    As far as the grudge thing you’re working on…why? If you had owned any interesting product through this time period you’d be full of angst. It’s a known thing. The particular owner and industry enthusiast has never had an easy time of it, and it seems like a waste of emotional energy. Brand means nothing, the car is everything.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    Nobody will miss VW besides a few dedicated diesel loonies. I just want VW go. Please, once and for all.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I think you are right about vw and the enthusiast market btw.I didn’t mean to focus solely on the negatives in my first response. It’s borne out by the cars that have done well in the tdi crisis. The gti/r has been moving apparently, which sells to enthusiasts. The other growth car is the tiguan right? As a cuv it’s selling mostly to people who read no industry news or who couldn’t care less about the antics of the industry players. To cater to the first group vw needs more performance variants that don’t sell in volume. To cater to the second group they need to have a pulse, a strong lease and more cuvs. They should probably be doing both of those things.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      Nein, du schtoopid Amerikaner! SUV/CUV is ein krime against the environment. You vill get only low slung B-segment electric vehicles mit our latest and greatest experimental powetrain innovations und German engineering. If anything goes wrong, it vill as usual result from your American failure to do ze proper maintenanz. We are right, you are idiots. If you were not idiots, you would buy more VWs, obviously. Mein Gott, ve cannot stand you…

  • avatar
    don1967

    We love the Golf wagon and tried to buy one for my wife. But the rather imposing blond-haired-blue-eyed sales manager offered $4,000 below wholesale book value for our late-model Hyundai trade, insisting with take-it-or-leave-it authority that “zere is no market for zose”. We headed across the street where it took 10 minutes to negotiate a vastly more reasonable deal on a shiny new Mazda3.

    Conclusion? While I don’t disagree with Jack about VW needing to build more hot cars, the company also needs to tone down the undeserved snobbery and get with the 21st century marketplace. One cannot live on far fig newtons alone.

  • avatar
    manny_c44

    The current Euro Passat comes in an AWD 280hp version. Just release that under a different name and make it the halo car.

  • avatar
    PartsUnknown

    The current Jetta already has two sport variants: the Sport 1.8T and the GLI with the 2.0T. Doesn’t seem to be helping at all.

  • avatar
    BiturboS4

    Of course Jack couldn’t resist a troll-jab insinuation that squishy liberal types aren’t true Americans. At the risk of being labeled a mouth-breathing aspie basement dweller, I can’t help but point out that it is possible to love your country AND want to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and avoid catastrophic damage to the only known life-sustaining ecosystem within a billion billion miles. The private sector is great, but absent a price mechanism that forces companies to price externalities into their products and services, the EPA is fundamentally necessary to ensuring a good quality of life for us and our kids.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      I wasn’t even gonna comment on that statement, but I was thinking some of the same thing.

      Like any arm of the gubmint, the EPA probably gets more wrong than right, but wanting clean air and water isn’t the same as “hating America.”

      Any “true American” please go help yourself to a pint of water from the Hudson River. Or spend some time in America 2.0 (aka China), where the benevolent capitalists sent all the jobs anyway. They have 100% EPA-free air and water.

  • avatar
    TheDward

    I have a couple of problems with this article.

    Number one, college professors don’t hate America. One of my professors made it a point to buy a brand new Malibu at the height of the recession because he believed in the product and wanted to support GM. He also just plain liked the car. Although one of my other professors nearly shit herself when I informed her that the Routan she just bought was just a Dodge Caravan (although she didn’t panic because it was American – she was concerned because it was a Chrysler).

    Loving America and believing in the EPA is not a mutually exclusive thing. One could argue that not wanting American citizens to inhale toxic fumes is a very patriotic endeavor.

    Anyway, Volkswagen does not need a hot Passat, it needs competitive crossovers.

    “You revamp everything you’ve got to be as maximum-aggression, as Autobahn-focused, as stereotypically German as possible. That means deep bumpers, V-Tex interiors, shockingly low prices, and home-market aesthetics. And just like in 1998, you lead with a Passat that attracts auto enthusiast’s attention. There’s no new metal on the horizon, but it would be possible for VW to deliver a heavily bespoilered V6-powered Passat with as much power possible for as little money as possible. Leave out the nav systems, the leather interiors, the sound insulation. Build a Passat that out-handles and out-accelerates competitors from Hyundai and Kia. Give it a manual transmission.”

    This is exactly what Ford is already doing in every car segment. Even in non-ST trim, the Fiesta, Focus, and Fusion bring Euro handling to the table, with yourself and other auto journos recognizing it.

    And now Ford has the Fusion Sport, which more accurately carries the legacy of Taurus SHO than the current model. Sure, it may not be the completely stripped down, no-holds barred performance sedan you’re asking for, but my guess is that it absolutely destroys everything else in its segment and is competitive with pricier vehicles. Volkswagen has no match for this.

    And that really is the kicker. Ford has emulated the best of Volkswagen – euro handling and styling – while avoiding the worst – horrible reliability (except for some blind spots like the DCT transmission and all their recent product launches). Dearborn can do all that while making competitive crossovers and pickups. Volkswagen is done for.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      I love the new fords as well. But, they have in no way escaped the reliability issues that come with the widespread manufacture of high output turbo di cars. It’s a pretty serious hump to cross, with vw, gm, h/k, ford and fiat all showing so far that the transition is a painful process. All of these companies now handle quality issues in a far different manner than was the case not too long ago on the other hand, so it may be never ending recalls as opposed to cynical fight club math that meets the issue.

      • 0 avatar
        TheDward

        Please point me to your source that says Ford’s GTDI engines are a problem. I sold Ford and Lincoln vehicles from 2012-2015 and the only problem encountered by one of my customers was an early F-150 EcoBoost that had a screwed up air intake, quickly resolved by a service bulletin.

        That being said, Ford has dropped the ball on a number of occasions. The first 2013 Escapes, Fusions, and MKZ’s all had Yugo-like build quality. Some Focus and C-Max models creaked and vibrated like crazy, especially if you ordered one with a sunroof, and the MyFordTouch systems equipped with Nav would fail more often than not. Don’t even get me started on the Powershift transmissions.

        Eventually those problems (except the DCT) were fixed, and as long as you buy a Ford or Lincoln with a Job2 build you should be fine.

        • 0 avatar
          Detroit33

          The 1.6L Ecoboost has been recalled numerous times (6x, the last I heard) for various issues, here is just one example:

          http://www.greencarcongress.com/2013/11/20131126-ford.html

        • 0 avatar
          tedward

          Dward

          Detroit33 provided one link but there are other sources for it and its not just one engine. I’ve personally seen valve stem coking, turbo failure, fuel pump failure, etc… the usual list for di turbo. I’m not criticizing ford for this, if anything their reaction through recall had been quite commendable. Annoying for owners, but less chance of being financially crippling than the old way. Subaru, Toyota, honda and Nissan are on deck next, it will be fascinating to see how they handle this as the, by far, most technologically conservative brands in our market.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      As a longtime VW owner and current Ford owner, I would say Ford is exactly what VW used to be. Compared to its competition at any given price point, the Ford is going to be a little classier inside and out and a little more rewarding to drive, albeit a little more expensive, making you feel a little smarter than everyone else for choosing it–until you realize it’s also a little less reliable.

      The one thing Ford doesn’t have that VW does, or did, is that vague tech-bro/artist/hipster allure: no car brand is more likely than VW to sport an Apple logo in the back window.

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    I bought my daughter a new Rabbit in 08 for $18,000. Eight years and 140,000 miles later Ive replaced the battery once, tires twice, brake pads once, and replaced two light bulbs. Thats it…never had to back to the dealer for any warranty work. Seems to me that cars dont get much better than that, especially since even with those miles it handles rough roads (she lives on a farm), corners, high speed, wind, etc better than most brand new small cars.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I don’t doubt it, but the problem is that even an excellent C-segment hatchback cannot keep a car brand strong in the American marketplace. If VW could provide the premium feel and reliability of that Rabbit across several major market segments–C, D, compact CUV, and midsize 3-row CUV, then they might have something here. Long warranties and fully competitive infotainment suites wouldn’t go amiss either.

    • 0 avatar
      NickS

      ToTitan, you said this in the other thread also, and I left it unanswered, but you are an extreme outlier by VW ownership experience standards. You are talking based on a sample size of *one* (and a rather unrepresentative model), so you cannot possibly draw any conclusions about the overall brand. The Pueblo plant is not the issue.

      I have talked to hundreds of VW owners over pretty much the entire lineup. I talk to industry people all the time. And I know several VW mechanics all of whom drive Asian cars. From that data set absolutely NO-ONE has gone 140K on a VW and only needed consumables like you list. And all of these folks don’t beat on their cars, slam them, or neglect them.

      The fact that VWs have a reputation of poor reliability is no accident at all. Same for the dealer experience.

      It all depends on your sample size.

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        Maybe not so unusual. That generation of Golf/Rabbit was simple and robust, and the 5-cylinder was a torquey, reliable beast. It would not surpise me if that Rabbit held up better than the critic’s darling of the day–the car I bought instead, the Mazda3 2.3.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    It just doesn’t matter; VW will limp along. Ford started making “one Ford” cars and brought us the Focii’s and Fusions. GM brought us something that was at least cheap, the Japanese brought us cheap, quick, and reliable, and the Koreans mimicked the Japanese and VW told us we were stupid for not buying their cars. VW jumped the shark by building the Phaeton; a V/W/X/Y/Z 8 cylinder at a laughable price to offend most enthusiasts (and most sensible ones) and the V/W/X/Y/Z 8 cylinder engine to offend the hipsters who had been farfegngening. The final choices are be a fanboi, ignore them, or laugh at them. 2 out of 3 ain’t bad

  • avatar

    After five transmission component failures on my three year old Honda, (and Honda basically telling me to go fly a kite) I am planning on plunking down my money on a new Golf this weekend. I took a look at the competition, and nothing else felt as “right” as that little VW. Sure, Ford has great chassis engineers, but I can’t get past the poor assembly quality of the current Focus and Fusion. The Golf reminds me of the Ford Contours I once owned, and while they were hardly paragons of reliability, I can’t imagine this car being any worse, so I’m going to give it a try, and document my ownership experience on my website…I’m hoping for the best.

    • 0 avatar
      TOTitan

      The new Golfs are great. I have a 16 Golf Sportwagen SE tsi and with the new MQB platform and their MIB II infotainment system, for me anyway its the perfect daily driver. For road trips I break out the torque monster 335d…;)

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      The Contour Sport was one of my favorite cars: best suspension behavior I had ever encountered, a sweet little 2.5 V6, a serviceable-enough 5-speed, and dimensions exactly big enough to make it accommodating for passengers and not one millimeter more. What a treat to drive–like an Audi A4 with zero body fat. Too bad about the droopy-butt styling but at least that made it easy to see out of, unlike any Fusion ever. I found the one I wanted and was set to buy it until the salesman’s tactics pissed me off so much that I walked instead. I ended up being grateful for the ghastly salesman, because my employer was sold I was laid off literally about a month later. Ah, memories.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Buy Audis if you want better VW’s goddamit. VW haven’t engineered a single watercooled car by themselves ,ever, and even their aircooled designs were probably mostly stolen too.

  • avatar
    Paragon

    OK, Jack, you mentioned the “green police” commercial. It was great!!! I’m totally serious that I positively LOVED that spot. Should I feel bad now? No matter what we’ve learned since then, I still love “the green police.” For me it rates in the upper levels of Top Ten favorite car commercials. Now I’ll just sit back and let people tell me what an idiot I am, though I’m sure there must be a few who agree with me.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Enthusiasts weren’t into the Passats. They were into any and every variation of the Jetta/Golf VW pawned off here. Plus being that the Golf/Jetta are now as roomy as that famed Passat, and the current Passat is about as big as a long wheelbase Avalon, I think it’s clear where they should put their $$$.

    As far as tending to the faithful? GTI with optional LSD? Got it. Big daddy Golf R in all its highly competent Eurosmug demeanor? Got it. Cynical econospec crap engines? DO NOT WANT. If anything we now have it better than the folks across the pond… we have all the good stuff without their draconian VAT.

    If VW wants to go back to its roots and appeal to the faithful they need to bring over (and inject some character into) the Polo. If VW wants to SURVIVE it needs to swallow its Fazzerlund pride und quadruple up on its SUV assault on the US. New Tiguan, new Passat based Touareg with a LWB 3 row version, and a “CC” coupe version of each. Their volume will triple overnight, which will allow them to bring over cars nobody will buy that legitimize the brand and cannibalize Audi sales like the Scirocco.

    • 0 avatar
      Paragon

      yes, I like the idea of bringing the Polo to the US. And, no, I don’t expect it to happen unless the price of oil (and gas) spikes. But, seems like the Polo GTI would be the one to get people’s attention. It really appeals to me if it’s a good car and available here.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Count me as another person who would dearly love to see a Polo GTi over here. And also count me as another one that realizes it will never, ever happen. Current gen Scirocco is very pretty (I have one photograph of a deep blue metallic variant I parked next to during my last trip to Germany) and also stands zero chance of making it here. No, VW’s future in the US is tied to SUVs…

  • avatar
    George B

    Jack, if Volkswagen makes an enthusiast version of the Passat, I’d recommend also creating some way for the retail customer to special order the car. Rather than focusing on highest performance, I’d go for the Mazda6 and Honda Accord Sport moderate price relatively fun to drive end of the market. Take the already EPA certified 1.8 turbo/manual transmission version, improve the suspension and wheels, and let customers special order it with some actual color in the paint. Volkswagen already has an underutilized US plant and most of the required parts in production.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    There are two basic reasons to make cars like this:

    -Enthusiasts will talk up the brand to their non-enthusiast friends (who probably tune out their car chatter most of the time…until they’re ready to buy another car and need some advice). So if done right, then it produces the best kind of marketing that you can get: Word of mouth from people who weren’t paid to provide it.

    -They keep good engineers engaged, since the normal cars are boring.

    Since it doesn’t cost much to do it, there is no reason not to. Bolt some go-fast bits onto an existing car, make a few trivial changes that alter the appearance just enough, and you’re done.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    I believe that 3B Passat (often described as the B5 passat) was based not on the Audi B5 but the C5 A6 type 4B. Mostly because the contemporary 8D A4 (the actual 5th generation of the B platform) had a rear suspension design carried over from the 8A Audi 90. The 4B and 3B share their rear suspension designs with one another, all three 3B, 4B and 8D use the four link front suspension which dates to the 94 type 4D A8. I think the 4B when compared to the 8D usually used the outer bolt up points on the front subframe for the front lower control arms to widen the car’s track width when using the same control arms, spindles, hubs, bearings and very similar wheel widths and offsets.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    If VW had the reliability of a Japanese or Korean car, I’d come back to the brand. I can’t trade reliability for comfort. I’ve never sat in a GTI that I didn’t love, but I’m flat out scared to own one.

  • avatar
    IAhawkeye

    VW’s biggest crime to me is not offering the GTI with plaid seats and a sunroof. I’m not really a fan of hatches(or cars for the most part) but I do want one of those!

  • avatar
    hreardon

    Jack –

    Perfect summary of Volkswagen in North America to date.

    It’s unbelievable that a company can be so successful around the globe and botch things so badly here.

    Are they trying to stick it to us for that little dust up we had 70 years ago?

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The US auto market is very different on a lot of levels. VW is trying to do what works in Europe in a place that is very different from Europe, and it won’t/can’t change its culture to match American demands for reliability.

      To be fair, American companies often suck wind in foreign markets. It can be difficult to understand the nuances.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    There are two kinds of Americans nowadays:

    those who recognize any statement following this BS as complete crap
    mouth breathing morons

  • avatar
    Ooshley

    Rebadge a Skoda Superb 206 TSI 4×4. Call it the Passat Superb Edition. Job done.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    Currently I’m driving an ’09 Passat CC with 2.0T and automatic. It was given to me as part of a job a couple of months ago, and I’ve put 5500 miles on it since. Last night I went out and was struck with how good looking the car was with the sidewalk light shining on it and thought about how different/improved it was over my past VWs. But all cars have made improvements over decades. My first was ’73 Super Beetle and at 18 I got a ’75 Rabbit that had drum brakes up front. Both forgettable in terms of performance, yet I recall them both very well. Years later I had a ’89 Audi 100 and nothing that large has ever felt as light and tracked as well. Most of its parts under the hood were stamped VW.
    In today’s world of give me an autonomous car so I can concentrate on social media and Pokemon, a stripped performance version would offer little credence to a questionable brand. In the 80s I couldn’t figure out why I was the only one I knew with a GLH Turbo when regular Omnis and Horizons were everywhere, but I did get low teen mpg occasionally. Thirty years later, I have the same question about Fiesta and Focus. Why is there not a greater percentage of STs on the road? Buyers like it soft, automated and teched out.
    Since I’m driving over 100 miles a day now, I want something with more practicality. It took 10 minutes to fit a couple of boxes in the trunk, and I miss shifting. When VW was aping the CLS, why couldn’t this car be a shooting brake also? With the 6-speed. Not out for a few more years, VW could have gone first.
    My Passat CC is a lovely car, makes a nice growl, has great acceleration and a pretty check engine light. The paint remains lustrous and the V Tex looks like new vinyl so I’m cleaning it up this weekend to sell. Last week I ordered a Fit EX with a manual.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    The B6 Passat was one dorky looking car.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      Yep. “Loved the B5/5.5 except for the reliability? Here, we have something better for you: the B6 Passat! It’s ugly instead of beautiful, the interior is cheap instead of rich, the ride is worse than a Jetta instead of better than an Audi, and the price is higher than before! Wait–where are you going?”

  • avatar
    JSF22

    Jack, this is the single smartest article I have read about what VW did to itself. Key points worth emphasizing:

    1) They attracted hordes of new buyers with incredibly appealing — and beautiful driving — cars like the ’98 Passat and ’99 Jetta. Then they kicked all those potential new faithful right in the nuts with shockingly bad durability, quality, and reliability, and didn’t take one ounce of responsibility for it out of warranty ( sometimes not even in warranty).

    2) They had a way better chance selling cars that felt and drove 20% better than the competition for 10% more money, than cars like the current Jetta and Passat that are as boring as the competition (and feel flimsier) — for 9% more money.

    Your suggestions for them make great sense. They won’t do it, of course, and their spin is now probably unrecoverable anyway, so that’s that.

  • avatar
    mikeyboy74

    It couldn’t be just another 1.8L turbo automatic, with a thin warranty. Problem is, they need an affordable V6 option, or a Hyundai-like warranty. Otherwise, it’s just an alternative to more reliable Japanese competition. I don’t mind the styling, other than a few generic Chevy touches (grill, rear quarter window).

    Back in the B5 days, the Passat really was an A4, with less to go wrong, but still temperamental like it’s European counterparts. There was an enthusiast following because it was a true sports sedan, albeit high strung for city driving in US traffic conditions.

    On the good side, entry level Passats (and Jettas) are now dirt cheap in real world purchasing prices. I searched online for my parents, to replace an aging Acura TL. Got quoted $17.8 for a Passat, including all the nuisance fees, everything but sales tax, out the door. Online quote for a Jetta (manual) was $16.1, and with an email or two, I found it could be hand for around $14.3. We’re talking Kia Rio and Nissan Versa prices here. These cars are a steal at prices like that, whatever happens to VW in the US.

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