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VW Focused on Prices, Quality

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Have you driven a VW lately? Okay, so I’m mixing ad metaphors here, but the point remains, when did you last drive a Volkswagen? If it’s been awhile, Adrian Hallmark can’t really blame you. The CEO of Volkswagen of America admits the company generated a lot of “venom” with the massive quality problems it experienced earlier this decade.

Now, add the fact that recent models haven’t been all that exciting – and yet they’ve carried a sizable premium compared to other mainstream marques, such as Toyota or Nissan – and, well, now you understand why the company has been losing sales and a lot of money in the U.S. market.

So, how does VW turn things around? Start by asking a lot of fundamental questions, as it did, several years ago, with Project Moonraker. Based in the L.A. suburbs, the program looked as much at what VW was doing wrong more than what was going right. And the answer was: lots. The question that it raised was how do you fix things?

In a long and surprisingly revealing interview, Hallmark tells TheCarConnection.com that there will be a lot of changes coming. Key products, notably the Jetta and Passat, will be repositioned, meaning price cuts of perhaps $5000 a vehicle. And there’ll be a number of new products coming. Not just the second-generation Touareg, which we review this week, nor the Tiguan, the second, upcoming VW SUV, but also high-style models like one codenamed CC.

Hallmark confirms for TheCarConnection that this “coupe-like sedan” will be added to the lineup late next year. And it will drop into the price ladder about where the current Passat sits today. That’s a significant discount compared to the striking Mercedes-Benz CLS, the first of the latest batch of so-called four-door coupes.

At the other end of the spectrum, VWoA is likely to start importing the tiny Polo, arguably a perfect antidote to the rise in fuel prices. The company is even contemplating a “reevolution” of the Beetle, reveals Hallmark, going back to the iconic nameplates roots as a super-cheap, super-efficient model.

Now, of course, none of this will do much if VW can’t get its quality under control. But if internal corporate numbers are to be believed, defects per vehicle have plunged fourfold in the last three years. On the Touareg, the numbers are even more impressive, the “problem” count down fivefold in two years.

It’s likely to take time to win back angry owners – if they ever trust VW again. But there are signs that the automaker may just be back on track.

2008 Volkswagen Touareg2—TheCarConnection.com
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Comments (18)
  1. Volkswagen needs to increase quality control at its Mexico assembly location. My loaded 2004 Jetta GLS 1.8T was a joy to drive; powerful motor, excellent handling, very attractive exterior styling, superb interior design, and great trunk space. However, the car had terrible build quality. The switches for the trunk and fuel filler door releases in the drivers door constantly broke. In fact, both switches broke with the first few days of ownership. Ignition systems problems (bad coils) were another consistent problem. It took the dealership 3 times to fix the ignition. Then the Monsoon stereo never worked properly after the ignition was fixed. CV joints went bad at 26,000 miles. VW dealership service departments and VWoA customer service were more interested in arguing with me and giving out lame excuses than accepting blame and giving proper resolution to quality control issues. I was finally told by a VW district service manager that there were "serious issues" with the Mexico assembly plant's quality control! I was absolutely floored by his honesty! Finally someone at VW gave me an honest answer after 3 years of constant issues with the Jetta! I sold the Jetta last year and am now the very satisfied and happy owner of a '07 Saturn Aura XR. I will NEVER own another VW product because of the terrible service departments and awful customer service provided to me; and I know several other previous VW owners that feel the same way.
     
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  2. I am the proud owner of two VDubs and while they have not been perfect, I will remain a loyal customer. My 03 Passat GLX 4Motion Wagon has just over 90,000 mile and still rides like a "knock-off" luxury car. It performs great in the Utah snow and is a great answer to the SUV's that everyone else has. My 06 GTI is one of the most fun cars ever to drive. Great looks, great handling and great MPG make it an awsome car to own. ALL automakers have reliability issues to some extent and basing the entire crop off of one bad apple makes no sense. (Both of my cars are German made)
     
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  3. As a former VW test driver working out of Florida, it saddens me to hear of these quality issues. When I was on the road with them, they had just started shifting Golf production to Mexico. The cars were horrible and the sales doubly-so. Door handles fell off in our hands, all types of dash board switches broke or fell off. By the mid-90s the quality jumped to make them a serious contender to German-built cars. I'm not sure now where which models are built. Here in Ireland VW holds a solid place in the sales figures and judging by the re-sale values are held in high regard too. This is amazing, on one hand as the cars cost about 40% more here than comparable models in the USA. My daughter-in-law has a 2006 Jetta TDI, excellent build quality on hers. She bought that new for about $22K, I priced an equivalent version here at €35K, with the weak dollar it makes it about twice as expensive here. But that's another matter. Good luck VW!
     
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  4. I have had 8 VW's and my 96 Passat will probally be my last. The car is fine but dealer service departments have become a joke. I think they aren't used to customers who know more about the vehicle than the "service writers". I took my Passat in,telling them the glow plugs were bad and check engine light was on,throwing a P 605 code-ROM test Error.They called me and said three glow plugs were bad so I said change them.When I asked about the check engine light "They hadn't got to that yet". I stated that it was more important than the glow plugs and to check it out. After 2 hours they call me and tell me the ECU is bad and do I want to replace it for $1600 plus labor.I said no,don't do it. When I went to pick up the car I looked at the bill and they hadn't done anything,charged me $130 for telling me what I told them was wrong.I had been considering a Eos or Toureag but not now.They wanted $450 to change the glow plugs-I got them at Adirondack Auto Parts for under $70 and it took me 15 minutes-The ECU I sent out to be rebuilt for $490.And they wonder why sales are down.
     
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  5. I note two writers blame Mexican assembly for stuff like breaking switches, burning coil packs, and failing CV joints. Hey, folks? You know what? No Mexican was involved in designing the cheap-jack easily broken switches they were given to install. I am sure some very pure Nordic designed those coil packs that seem to burn up in more cars that Mexican-built VWs. The CV joints in my Mexicam-built Plymouth Acclaim are still fine at 160,000 miles of rental, my,and then my sister-in-law's service.

    Don't blame Mexicans for the FACT you have cars with under-built parts and over-complex electricals. German does not automatically mean "good".
     
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  6. I've been driving both new and used VW's for years and I always read with interest the quality problems people seem to have. I just keep driving them and they just seem to keep going (knock on wood!) and my friends who drive them feel the same and have the same experiences I do.

    My mother's '96 Passat Wagon did have an auotmatic tranny computer issue earlier on that I kept after VW service about for a few days but it was fixed free of charge still under warranty. I do believe that most 'service writer's' don't have much of a clue and not meaning to offend, but, the big, mechanic-tech education houses are not exactly the best source for mechanics. VW has lost their way in this country and that is largely a management issue.

    So where do I get my VW fixed? I drive to Upper Michigan to one of the best mechanics in the business - I save money - and I know it's fixed correctly. It's a long drive from Chicago, but it's also what I like - a chance to really drive it. Hang in there and good luck.
     
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  7. I am one of those former VW owners that will never, ever go back. I'm the local "car guy", and friends and family constantly ask my opinions about all things automotive. The first thing I always say is - "don't buy any VW or Audi product. Ever." I owned a '99 Passat for several years, and I loved it. Loved it. But - the machine had engine problems since day one. And two different service departments constantly acted as if these problems were my fault - when I knew more about it then they did. My neighbor owned the same year and model VW and had the same problems, and my sister's 2000 A6 (basically the same car in many ways) had the same problems too. In short - VW deserves to die in this country. I could have lived with the problems, if they were acknowledged and fixed - but I personally can claim that at least 35 people have not bought VW products because of me and my experience. Thanks VW - payback is tough! BJH
     
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  8. How do you spell Sh** in German? Answer = "VW". I'm another former Sh** owner who will never go back! My father pointed out the benefits of Japanese cars 15 years ago. The engineering and more importantly, Quality control is amazing. Honda engines sing for 200k no problems !
     
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  9. I am german originally and have lived in the U.S. for my whole adult life. It amazes me that VW has dropped the ball so badly. All these companies in Germany have Phd's running them. They are really going to have to earn this market again. I would be scared to own a VW and won't until consumer reports and other magazines consistently report that the cars are comparable to the japanese brands. I am actually right now looking for a fuel efficient commuter car. I want a car that is fuel efficient and totally trouble free. I know too many owners who have had trouble with their cars to even consider VW. If at least the service departments, dealerships, and the company had a reputation for helping resolve issues that would be a plus, but they don't.
     
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  10. I'm the Marketing Manager for a central Minnesota Volkswagen dealership. While it is true that Volkswagen has had reliability issues, the most important difference between the Japanese car companies and the Germans is safety and build quality. Volkswagens are heavier cars, with fuel-efficiency ratings not so lovingly inflated like that of the Toyota Prius. However, I challenge any Japanese car driver to park their Camry, Corolla, Civic or Accord next to a Volkswagen Jetta or Passat and compare them. Look at the quality with which the door seals, hinges, and engine components are designed, laid out, and protected. Hop into the back seat of a Corolla, unlatch the fold down seat and give it a shake. Its something you have to experience for yourself. You'll soon realize why its difficult to say that while the Germans may have had a bad run of electrical problems, I'd be happy to have my warranty cover the install of a new door latch in my Jetta than have the engine of another car or SUV in my lap if I got into an accident. When you check out the weight-saving build of the Japanese brands and realize the matching fit and finish inside...you might (read:should) consider a V-Dub.
     
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  11. I grew up on VWs and Porsches and considered myself a long time VW fan. However, VW Service department customers are no longer treated with respect. I got rid of my last Rabbit in 1994 because going to the dealer was no longer enjoyable. Good car, bad service.

    In 2005, my daughter bought a used 97 Passat GLX VR4 (75K miles) against my better judgement. It is a wonderful driving car. However, our local VW dealer couldn't have been more discouraging when she tried to to get a Check Engine Light diagnosed/fixed. The prognosis was vague, but they let her know she should prepare to spend at least $1700.00 for repair; they actually asked if she had considered buying a new VW? A local mechanic found the trouble in melted/deteriorated vacuum hoses on an EGR valve and repaired it for $200.00 including "diagnostics". Since then, she's had heater problems, the security system died leaving her with a car that wouldn't start. When the battery died because of the security system issues, her radio memory was erased. The same VW dealer mentioned above wanted $200.00 to recode it. She put the money into a new Sony radio with CD. 2 door handles have simply broken; turns out it a "trait" of the car. She still has the car because the actual trade-in value is about zero. What happened to the "Peoples Car"??? Even if this car was "reliable" the dealer support has been worse than abysmal. VW's recent ad campaign, that I find arrogant, jingoistic, & anti-Japanese, seems to capture all that is wrong with VW's approach to the American market: We can't fix our own, so we'll destroy the ones that work. I'll never buy VW again nor would I recommend them to anyone. VDub is not in this haus...Word.
     
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  12. Though I am a Volvo guy at this time, I've always been VW. I've had good ones and bad ones. How cool it would be if I still had my '67 fastback. The letter I received after contacting the original owner of the used '75 Rabbit I bought some years ago said, and I quote," You have bought the worst car I have ever seen." Everything went wrong so i sued the dealer for knowingly selling me a bad car.
    But...my '86 Jetta was the best car I have ever had. The odometer did go out at around 190,000 miles...I had it for a long time after that. Very likely I had over 300,000 miles on the original engine and transmission.
    Do you ever have a car that ends up just fitting your rear end and just becomes a part of you? This was the car. Oh, tops of 36 mpg once on the highway, too.
    So now I'm looking closely at the new Rabbit. I don't think the diesel pays for itself but it would be nice. (If I'm not mistaken, diesels put out less greenhouse gases than hybrids)
    Anyway...They look great. Still checking out things for quality ratings.
    The Volvo c30 looks interesting, too.
    To mee the japanese cars have the sewing machine feel. I can't think of any american cars that fit into this category.
     
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  13. "with fuel-efficiency ratings not so lovingly inflated like that of the Toyota Prius."

    What a tired line. Did it not occur to you that the EPA conducts fuel-efficiency testing in the USA, not the automobile manufacturers themselves. Any anger or disappointment over a discrepancy between as-tested and real-world fuel efficiency should be directed at the EPA, not any automobile manufacturer. Additionally, the real-world fuel-efficiency of hybrid vehicles is much more sensitive to driver behavior than in a conventionally-powered vehicle. If you regularly gun the accelerator and slam the brakes, you are not able to fully utilize the benefits of the electric motor and regenerative braking system that is so important in achieving the EPA-posted mileage figures. Diesels are not as dependent on driver behavior to receive their EPA-posted figures, but they do not quite compare to hybrid vehicles in terms of particulate emissions; both technologies have their strengths and weaknesses.
     
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  14. I've owned a number of VW's over the years, and would really like to own another, but somehow WV has gotten away from the qualities (economy/durability)which made them international icons years ago. The criticisms offered above are all valid. VW has veered away from the qualities most desired by the driving public and tried to copy the exotics, the wannabe-luxury-sport cars. I'm a middle-aged man trying to get kids through college, trying to pay $3.50 per gallon for gas, trying to exist despite the Bush Administration. I want an economical, quality built car, and when something goes wrong with it, I want it fixed without delay and excuse. I'd like that car to be an American car, but if not, then I'll look elsewhere.
     
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  15. I've owned a number of VW's over the years and will probably always be a VW owner. Yes, I have experienced a few minor issues, but Volkswagens still have better safety and build quality than most.

    I also believe that VW is focused on quality. It shows in the new Eos, Jetta, GTI/Rabbit and Passat models. We currently own a 2007 Eos and GLI and have not had any issues at all.
     
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  16. No doubt VW's are overweight, and their engineering technology is old school lazy. Even the new brochure for the Rabbit can only think to say "laser welded" unibody...um hey, that's great...except a 1981 Chevy Citation had a "laser welded" unibody...and we all know how well THOSE held up. Point is, who cares - everything is laser welded now. and 'Door beams'? uh huh - so does a Yugo. Get real VW!

    HEAR THIS VW: The last thing I ever want to do with a car is have to take it in for ANY unscheduled maintanance or repairs. Who gives a crap about 'heavy doors' on your Jetta when you are driving a rental because you VW is broke down! It is inconvenient and unnecessary when you simply can go invest in a Toyota or Honda instead and not have to worry about your turn signal shorting-out or your window falling down into the door.

    I hope that the 'Marketing Manager for a central Minnesota Volkswagen' dealership takes note of how fed-up people are with VW dealership's arrogant attitude, such that he displayed. Stop trying to blame your customers for your own crappy cars!

    Interesting site:
    http://myvwlemon.com/

    Oblio
     
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  17. I am another one of the "never again" former VW owners. My last VW was a 1994 Passat. It was a great car to drive -- on the days when it worked. But there weren't enough of those days. It got so bad, I was spending over $600/month on repairs -- consistently for six months. Every month, something else would break. I was paying for a new car without actually driving one. So I replaced the Passat, and joined the legion of former VW customers. I find it very interesting to note that whatever went wrong in 1994 continued for quite some time, based on the other posts.

    While VW works on the quality issues, they need some help from the dealers. Consider what happens on a routine service appointment. The "service advisor" (for just about ANY brand of car) will suggest a number of actions based on "what the mechanic found", or just recommendations that are somehow above & beyond the manufacturer's maintenance schedule. Most people say, "Yes" to the optional stuff, not knowing what is truly necessary vs a profit-building add-on. But everyone is aware of the overall maintenance cost of the car. Sooner or later, something REALLY needs to be fixed. By then, the customer is already agonizing over all those $500 oil changes, and is evaluating the cost of their "unreliable" VW compared to a nice new Toyota. By the time the dealership service department is finished selling additonal services, there is zero margin for error. Either the car runs perfectly or it is considered "high maintenance".

    A car without maintenance expense would APPEAR to be of higher quality than the Japanese competition. BMW figured this out. They include maintenance during the warranty. Dealerships can perform whatever service or maintenance is necessary. The cars don't have to be perfect because the customer is not paying for service. There is no need to convice the customer to order additional services. Compare this to VW where you can spend quite a bit on a car that is not actually broken, to the point where the first real problem sends the customer looking elsewhere for a new car.

    If customers were assured that maintenance and repair would not be their expense, they would evaluate VW on style, performance, handling, and gas mileage. In today's world, potential customers think about the VW quality issues and the high maintenance cost of the car, and the evaluation ends immediately.

    VW needs to offer a BMW-style warranty that includes maintenace, with a higher mileage limit than anyone in the industry. Either the cars are truly built to not need the coverage, or VW can eat the parts and labor to make everything right. The dealers need to stop making excuses, fix whatever the customer complains about, and send the bill to VW.

    There is truly no alternative. Customers are tired of paying for VW's quality issues -- they won't do it anymore. If they don't want to reorganize service as I have outlined in this article, the BMW 1-series will sweep VW completely out of the US market.
     
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  18. I am a proud VW owner. My first was an 81 rabbit with an ECO diesel engine. I put four hundred thousand miles on that one. My second was an 87 jetta, same diesel engine. That one got me three hundred thousand miles. My latest is the 98 Jetta TDI. I currently have two hundred and fifty thousand miles. The trick to being a happy VW owner like myself is to stay away from the dealerships. I belong to various clubs, like TDICLUB.com and I stay active in those clubs. That way I learn to fix my own vehicle and I stay away from the dealerships. I agree with all the bad statements on this BLOG about VW dealerships because I have exsperinced the same attitudes at a dealership in Auburn WA. VW needs to start investing in thier customer service because right now they have none which turns allot of US buyers away. Notice that Toyota is cleaning up in the US market, it is because thier customer service is unmatched. My wife drives a RAV4, 2002. It has had it's fair share of problems but the dealership makes it so easy for the problem to get taken care of, unlike many exsperinces I have had with VW. VW dealers are unwilling to accept fault and always point the finger at the customer. As I said earlier I will always own a volkwagon, I love my diesels that I have owned. They leterally run for ever, but you have to learn to fix them yourselves. If you want to be a successfull VW owner, dont buy a gas model and become active in the VW clubs like www.tdiclub.com, and the much anticipated www.tiguanclub.com
     
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