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January Car Sales Off to Good Start

VW up nearly 50%, Toyota regains momentum, but GM slips.

by on Feb.01, 2012

The new VW Passat helped the maker score a nearly 50% sales gain in January.

With Volkswagen and Chrysler Group leading the way, the U.S. auto industry is off to a good start for 2012, a number of key analysts upping their forecasts for the full-year.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate, or SAAR for the new vehicle market appears to have hit 13.5 million units in January providing support for predictions that 2012 will be another year of growth in the automobile industry. While General Motors went into negative territory, the overall automotive market saw significant gains, some makers — including Audi — reporting best-ever sales.

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Chrysler reported U.S. sales of 101,149, a 44% increase compared with sales in January 2011 (70,118 units), the group’s best January sales since 2008. It also marked the maker’s 22nd consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains and eighth-consecutive month of sales increases of at least 20%.

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A Second Opinion: the 2012 Volkswagen Passat

In praise of the Passat Owner’s Manual.

by on Jan.03, 2012

Volkswagen's Passat is one of three finalists for North American Car of the Year.

Here we go again. Years ago, I wrote a column for Publisher Paul (at one of his previous enterprises), concerning the gems to be found in the world’s least read book of useful information: a new car or truck Owner Manual.

This time my particular candidate is the exceptional Owner Manual for the 2012 VW Passat, the new Chattanooga product that has made the cut as one of three finalists for North American Car of the Year. (The others are the Ford Focus and the Hyundai Elantra.)

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For me, the Passat—albeit the first VW I have encountered since a retro look at a Beetle some years ago—is pure Vanilla. Driving it for a week doesn’t leave an impression either favorable or unfavorable. It meets all the driver’s needs and pleasures for a solid family five-passenger sedan (except for the $34,000 sticker price including all the standard upscale goodies), plus it has exceptional rear seat legroom and trunk space. There’s nothing at all wrong with Vanilla—Passat should be a conservative buy for those who otherwise likely would lean Camry- or Accord- or Malibu-wise.

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First Drive: 2012 VW Passat

Striking a balance between German engineering and American tastes.

by on Jun.14, 2011

The new, 2012 U.S. version of the Volkswagen Passat shown at the maker's new plant in Chattanooga.

Volkswagen is betting big on the United States, as evidenced by the construction of a brand-new plant just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

That plant, which will build the North American version of the new 2012 Passat (Europeans will get a slightly different version), is set up to produce up to 150,000 units annually on two shifts.

That would mark a significant expansion for the German maker, which has long struggled to regain the foothold it had in the U.S. market in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  It would also help move VW ahead as it takes aim at rivals Toyota and General Motors in a big to become the world’s number one automaker by 2018.

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The redesigned Passat, following close upon last year’s updates of the Jetta and Touareg, is the next step in that plan. So is the production shift to the States.

The company is hoping to keep production and distribution costs low, so that the sticker price of the Passat can be brought down to a level that won’t send price-sensitive American motorists screaming in horror and heading to the nearest Hyundai showroom.

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