By on June 28, 2021

2009 Volkswagen Routan in Colorado junkyard, RH rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBadge engineering! Always near the top of my search list when poking through car graveyards, obscure examples of marketing-inspired rebadgitude will jump right out from the ho-hum ranks of Elantras and LaCrosses in any yard. I haven’t managed to find a discarded Suzuki Equator yet, sad to say, but I have documented such rarities as a Mitsubishi-badged Hyundai Excel, an Isuzu-badged Chevy Colorado, and a Dodge-badged Renault 25. Today we’ll visit one of the most puzzling examples of badge-engineering history in the North American automotive marketplace: the Volkswagen Routan.

2009 Volkswagen Routan in Colorado junkyard, hatch emblem - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsVW stopped selling the EuroVan here in 2003, which meant that Volkswagen of America had nothing van-like to offer shoppers while competitors raked in cash from their minivan sales. Just as Honda had been forced to turn to Isuzu in order to provide a luxury SUV in North America (even as Isuzu sold Honda minivans here), Volkswagen turned to another manufacturer in order to avoid spending billions developing a minivan from scratch. Yes, Canadian-built Chrysler minivans were given some minor modifications and sold as Routans… for way more money than a same-year Grand Caravan or Town & Country.

2009 Volkswagen Routan in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMinivan shoppers figured out the vehicle-per-buck disparity between the Routan and its Chrysler/Dodge siblings and so very few of them signed on the line which is dotted for the Routan. Total sales of Routans barely cracked 60,000 units, from the introduction in the 2009 model year through the Routan’s demise in 2014.

2009 Volkswagen Routan in Colorado junkyard, front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI’ve found a few Routans in wrecking yards in recent years, and most have been crash victims picked over hard by shoppers looking for running gear for members of the Chrysler minivan family. Just about any running minivan less than 15 years old can find someone willing to keep it on the street because these are useful machines, so I don’t expect to see clean/unwrecked Routans in U-Wrench-It yards for another couple of years.

2009 Volkswagen Routan in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsVolkswagen did their best to add interior touches that reminded Routan owners of the old air-cooled Transporters, but the addition of a faux-metal dash covering didn’t compensate for the lack of the helpful Stow-n-Go seats found in Grand Caravans and Town & Countries.

2009 Volkswagen Routan in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWas it worth paying thousands more for a Grand Caravan with Volkswagen badging? Not many buyers thought so.


Just the van to have when you’re carrying live frogs on a family road trip.


They should have hired Sean Penn to do the Transporter’s voice in this ad.

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28 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2009 Volkswagen Routan...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Those ads were so disingenuous – trying to claim some ‘German engineering’ for the Routan by placing a VW Bus next to it.

    A coworker bought a Routan, but I never figured out why. He said his wife liked the interior, and I think maybe the VW dealer was giving them away.

    As for this example, I wonder why someone would cut the engine out and then leave it laying on the ground. Did they just want the transmission?

    • 0 avatar
      mmreeses

      some people would never want to be caught dead in a ChryCo.

      But a (unknown to them badge -swapped) Routan? Why not.

      behold the power of a little icon

    • 0 avatar
      mmreeses

      some people would never want to be caught dead in a ChryCo.

      But a (unknown to them badge -swapped) Routan? Why not.

      behold the power of a little icon

    • 0 avatar
      mmreeses

      some people would never want to be caught dead in a ChryCo.

      But a (unknown to them badge -swapped) Routan? Why not.

      behold the power of a little icon

  • avatar
    grein002

    Yep, in one of the pics there is writing on the van that says “sold martin trany only”

  • avatar
    watersketch

    In 2009 Chrysler was bankrupt. I know one family who bought a Routan thinking at least we know VW will survive.

  • avatar
    Kyree

    Right. I imagine it had less to do with VW of America wanting a minivan *specifically,* and more to do with them wanting some sort of three-row vehicle, when–prior to the advent of the Atlas and the vestigial third row in the current US Tiguan/Tiguan Allspace–they had none. It makes sense that they went with the Chrysler minivans, too. Chrysler was already used to flagrant rebadges within its own hierarchy, let alone those of other automakers, and the styling fit with VW’s post-Bauhaus design direction of the late aughts and early teens better than any contemporary borrowed crossover would have.

    However, I don’t know how they could justify the price premium. The lack of Stow ‘n Go (which I suspect was upon Chrysler’s insistence) was a huge detriment on part of VW. Also, the Town and Country and Grand Caravan received major overhauls, including all of the interior electronics (instrument cluster, steering wheel, HVAC controls) and most of the switchgear. Of this, the Routan only got a new steering wheel, with the then-new Chrysler button packs, and of course the 3.6. And, of course, diehard VW van/bus fans were not fooled.

    I mean, it was a cheap way to get larger families in the doors for VW showrooms, but with 60K units sold, I can’t imagine it even paid for the tooling.

    What’s more, I bet most VW dealers no longer service these. Supporting them required the ongoing cost of Chrysler diagnostic software and equipment, and these days, I’m sure most VW service departments just quickly disabuse their customers of the notions that these are genuine VWs in the first place, and then send them on down the road to the Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram store. I bet buyers of other orphan-partnership cars (like the INFINITI QX30 that’s in fact a restyled gen 1. Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class) will suffer the same fate.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “but with 60K units sold, I can’t imagine it even paid for the tooling.”

      I’m confused, to what tooling do you refer Kyree? These were built by Chrysler for VWoA in their Windsor Ontario Assembly, not by VW under license.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_Routan

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        There’s a number of body panels on the Routan that differ from the Grand Caravan/T&C. The tailgate and rear sail panels plus the header panel and grill are VW only.
        The sheer irony of the company who pretty much invented and popularized the mini van in the 50’s going to the folks who revived and improved it in the 80’s for a restyled version to get people in the showroom in the mid 00’s.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree

          It has more to do with how much of a joke VW seems to consider the US market to be. It took years for VW to concede that it needed to develop a US-specific three-row vehicle (the Atlas).

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree

        What MRF 95 T-Bird said.

        While superficial, some of the Routan’s changes required unique dies and tooling. And that stuff isn’t cheap. That wraparound rear windscreen, in particular, wasn’t on the Chrysler and Dodge counterparts. The taillight apertures were also unique, as were the front/rear fenders and hood.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      The Vanagon and Transporter were never competitive here (not to mention glacially slow), so I think they wanted a minivan to sell, without having to federalize another existing Euro product. And yeah, they wanted something with three rows to sell. Maybe they thought their customers weren’t smart enough to figure out it was just a badge-engineered Chrysler?

      On a related note, about ten years ago, I was regularly seeing a dark blue T5 Transporter (RHD, wearing UK number plates) here where I live in Texas, during my daily commute. I never got to speak to the driver, and I always wondered how they brought it in – were they some kind of consular official, or an expat with special privileges?

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        Living in the NYC over the years I would see the occasional import or gray market car driven by a consular official or an expat. Many are parked by the UN or in neighborhoods where they tend to reside.
        You would see vehicles like W123 Benz’s with Euro lights and bumpers with the cloth interior and crank windows. Or a base Euro 190 W201 Benz’s with the steelies and plastic hub caps as well as the occasional oddball Fiat or Lancia.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    I was getting my GTI serviced once and there was a guy in the waiting room with one of these. It had a problem with the ignition interlock so the van wouldn’t start. The service advisor was telling him that the part would be unavailable for months. I interjected that the guy just needed to go to a Chrysler/Dodge shop. He looked at me incredulous that I would suggest such a thing. I explained that his vehicle is a Chrysler/Dodge with a VW badge. The service advisor sheepishly confirmed the same and also admitted the reason why the part was unavailable was that DC wasn’t providing them to VW in a timely manner.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I understand that not everyone is a car enthusiast. However, I’m always surprised at how people spend $20,000+ dollars without even doing a cursory internet search first about what they’re buying.

      I also think there was a relatively simple workaround for interlock problems on those years, but the VW person maybe didn’t know?

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        “However, I’m always surprised at how people spend $20,000+ dollars without even doing a cursory internet search first about what they’re buying.”

        It is shocking. And they often spend double that without so much as reading / watching a single review. Dealers must love these clueless shoppers. I’ve talked to co-workers who bought vehicles purely because they “liked the color” and had no other knowledge aside from a random marketing fact like “it has Bluetooth!”. They couldn’t even tell me what kind of mileage it gets.

  • avatar
    KOKing

    Chalk it up to badge snobbery, I suppose, that there were (are) LOTS of Routans in my neck of the woods. Though a friend of mine intentionally got one because customer service at his local VW dealer was far better than the Mopar shop.

  • avatar

    I see a fair number of these still. VW’s have always sold well in the North East so not that surprising. I know one family that bought one new. Hardcore VW types (they used to have a W8 passat) , and they had just had twins (with two older kids) so 3 rows were required. They really liked it, but it did have a few issues with electronics needing to get replaced early on. It died an early death from an accident and was replaced with a pathfinder as the Atlas was still a year away from release.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    On the one hand: this was the best-styled of all of the Chrysler minivans of this ugly and uninspired generation.

    On the other hand: do you really want to downgrade yourself from CDJR dealers to VW dealers for sales and service?

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I considered these (used) when I was contemplating a vehicle for senior-shuttling before the ‘rents went into full time care. They are not unusual in my area and seemed to be priced slightly under Mopar counterparts.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    We test drove one in 2010, because we had such a good experience with the VW salesman for our EOS in 06. VW was giving them away and we decided to spend 8k more for a comparable to the then new 2011 Sienna. IIRC a loaded Chrysler product wasn’t that much cheaper than the VW.

  • avatar
    ADent

    My son wanted to get some magnetic letter ‘C’s and stick them to the back to improve the name.

    ‘Routan’ to ‘Croutan’

  • avatar
    Polka King

    I wonder whether I can get my Hyundai lifted. You know, to make it easier to get in and out? Oh, Bronco? It’s probably easy to get in and out.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    We bought a 2011 brand new. There was a Volkswagen dealership in NE Ohio that was selling them for $7.500 off of list price – An SE trim MSRP around $34,500 for $27,000.

    I knew it was a Chrysler, but I bought it because it has leatherette seating, 17 inch wheels, and a dual DVD video player, all which required buying a much more expensive Chrysler to avoid cloth seats and 16 inch wheels.

    It’s had the typical issues of a 2011 Chrysler minivan – eats brakes, oddball starting issues from a transmission safety switch issue (if it doesn’t start, move the shifter to neutral and start), etc.

    First year for the 3.6.

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