Volkswagen Looks Toward the Future

2011 VW Passat

Well, what did you think it was going to do? Look to the past? The interesting thing about VW is how ambitious it has suddenly become. First, it’s building a new plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to produce cars for the American market – for example, the Passat reconfigured for 2011-12 (above) to compete with the BMW 3 Series, the Benz C-Class, and the Audi A4. The Tiguan and Routan (decent cars despite their foofy names) will also get pushed in the U.S. market.

According to VW North America CEO Stefan Jacoby, the company also plans to build a bigger SUV to compete with the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. It will redesign the Toureg as a hybrid for next year, plus another edition (God save us) of the Phaeton. VW is also moving to more personalization, i.e., custom-tailoring, which will improve the marque’s low reliability ratings, Jacoby says. Yes, that is a little hard to follow and swallow. But who can quibble with the idea of Honda-izing customer choices and reducing build combinations?

2010 VW GTICar Lust has a really adolescent review with videos to match of the GTI Mk. V, which is nonetheless a very nice car, and a revision of that, too, is in the offing. BTW, I’m selling my 2003 with 59,000 miles, and it has been a joy to own. On the reliability question that bothers some buyers, I’ve had no repairs at all, just regular service with Mobil 1. However, you cannot beat on these cars, and maybe that’s why some have had problems.

There are also some negative rumblings that, after all the hoopla, Porsche’s Panamera may get canceled after the present model cycle (7 years). And the Cayenne, too. Why, you ask, are the Germans so full of beer and sausage that they’ve lost their marbles? Vell, mein freund, it’s das auto biz. VW is king now, and it has the platforms to build its own cars—to compete with other German cars (see first paragraph)—and reduce Porsche to flunky status. Maybe that’s what their recent car wars were about. The Germans, you know, aren’t really the rational engineering types they want you to believe they are.

Who will win, finally, in the VW-Porsche contest? Is VW overreaching?

—jgoods

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