2012 Volkswagen Passat- Das Amerikanische Auto

DSCI0264It used to be so simple in the automotive world.  Cars were cars and trucks were…..uh….trucks.  There were no crossover thingy-majigs or niche markets.  And when it came to selecting a national origin of a new car; the choices were even more clear.  Japanese cars were technologically advanced and well-made.  The Koreans aimed for the thriftiest of shoppers.  The Americans had the sumo-sized accommodations in the bag.  And the Germans graced our roads with performance oriented, but pricey, status symbols.  But things are no longer what they seem, and when a car that hails from the land of Autobahns and bratwurst starts off with a lower base price than its main Korean competitors, something is, as they say, “whack”!  Volkswagen, having nearly lost its way in the American market two decades ago, is determined to seize its share of the 16 million cars sold in the US market annually.  But to do so, they’ve fought back with larger interior dimensions and a lower price tag, addressing common complaints about the big V’s prior offerings.  In fact, the all-new 2012 Passat’s base price is $7,000 cheaper than the outgoing models ($19,995 vs. nearly $28,000 on the 2011).  This new version takes direct aim at the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, and Chevy Malibu.  Uh oh, we’ve heard this approach before with the Jetta and the results weren’t so flattering; a mediocre car that felt cheaper than some of the Germans you’d find on Oranienburger Straße.  With that dark cloud looming over, how does this transformation work on the new Passat?

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2012 Volkswagen Jetta- Suit And Tie

DSCI0158There’s a stage in all of our lives when society expects us to disappoint Peter Pan and grow up.  A time to do away with the baggy pants, blue hair and the McJob, and replace them with a grey iron-pressed suit and a career.  Losing that uniqueness  can be a painful transition that tears away at one’s very soul, but there’s no choice when it’s a matter of survival.  Otherwise. Mom and Dad aren’t bringing out the welcome mat anytime soon.  It’s a predicament that Volkswagen has recently faced with its Jetta.  Since 1980, the small sedan has always gone to the beat of a different drummer.  It’s been continuously marketed as a premium compact sedan and proudly geared toward niche consumers who are into indie rock and give normalcy a shrug of the shoulder.  With quirky features coupled with a higher price than the competition, the Jetta has always possessed an eccentric character .  Although the Jetta, and VW in general, has gained a small cult following for its “sticking it to the man” attitude, the more serious and conventional Toyota Corolla outsold the Jetta by three and half times in 2008.  Being peculiar and wacky can be fun, but it doesn’t pay the bills.  And Volkswagen, like any other company, is out to make money.  So what’s the manufacturer to do?

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