2006 Volkswagen Golf GTI by Conor Twomey
Recapturing enough essence.
VW Turns To GTI For Juice by Jim Burt
Company pins GTI hopes on a curious new icon.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Volkswagen. I was a soldier in the
occupation army in
I was on the job when VW started in the
And I was one of the cheering crowd when the New Beetle came out. For a moment VW was on the way back.
But they are in the dumps again. VW has been losing $1 billion a
What made me think of all this is VW’s new advertising campaign. According to the New York Times there will be a leggy blonde bimbo — Helga — in the skintight dress in the ads and phony German slogans like “Fast as Schnell” and a new slogan, “Make friends with your fast.”
Shades of Fahrvergnugen.
Bimbo attack redux?
Whatever you think of this, it won’t help. Now, I have nothing against leggy blondes, although I don’t think they sell cars. It’s that VW’s problems go deeper.
It isn’t the leadership of VW of America in
problem has been in
Three problems still exist:
1. VW has stayed out of the largest part of the American market: pickups, minivans, and SUVs. They did bring out one SUV, the expensive Touareg, $40,000 or so, instead of creating a $20,000 model which is what we want from Volkswagen as well as where the market has been growing.
2. The quality level of the cars, particularly the New Beetle, was terrible. Owners who loved their car gave up because they couldn’t take the repeat trips to the dealer. Possibly the quality has gone up, but when you’ve got that bad reputation, it sticks. It takes a huge warranty to win customers back — Hyundai’s ten-year warranty did it — and VW isn’t doing that.
And last, the inability to sell the Golf in
Problems need solving
Until these problems are solved, VW will continue to sink.
Start with the failure to come up with trucks. They designed a beautiful minivan but said they couldn’t figure out how to build it at a reasonable price. They should have figured out how to do it. Now they’ve made a deal to buy minivans from Chrysler, which will put on some VW touches. Okay, it’s a start. Ten years late, but a start. The problem is that if we want a Chrysler minivan, why not buy it from Chrysler?
On SUVs, sales of that expensive Touareg are tanking: 18,000 last year, down from 28,000 the year before. There’s supposed to be a low-priced SUV coming, but again, too little and too late. They could have had a small SUV years ago.
Pickups? They actually showed a concept pickup a few years ago. It makes me think of Honda’s Ridgeline. The difference is Honda built it and VW didn’t.
Why did VW ignore the great trends in
Tips for the volk
Will things get better? It’s difficult to see any quick changes, bimbo blonde ads or not. The new models mentioned will help but how much is still a guess. What surprises me is how unimaginative VW has been in coming up with models for the American market. They haven’t had a good idea for this market since the New Beetle.
Since they can’t do it, here are some suggestions:
small SUV, built in
Four doors for the New Beetle. The two doors are a pain and NB sales are sinking — only 36,000 last year. More doors could help.
As for the Golf, that may just be a lost cause. The car is quite expensive for its size, but even when the currency situation was reversed — when the Euro cheap and German exports here had an advantage — it didn’t sell.
I think the Golf just looks dated to
Americans. Worse, it looks like a $12,000 cheapie that sells for $18,000 and the
Koreans are mopping up that cheapie market now. I think the best hope for VW is
to build models designed for
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the
lineup and new ads will turn the business round. But I wouldn’t bet on it.