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First Look: Volkswagen Golf Estate

A favored European company car makes its world debut.

by on May.21, 2009

Volkswagen Golf Estate

VW sold 95,000 Golf Estates in 2008.

The fourth variant of the  new Golf goes on sale in Europe this week, the station wagon or Estate version. While wagons are out of fashion in the U.S., they are wildly popular overseas – VW sold more than 95,000 Estates in 2008 alone. So it’s not surprising that the sixth generation Golf continues the tradition.

For Americans, the Golf, aka Rabbit, aka Golf, aka Rabbit, has had a checkered marketing history. Since VW in the U.S. markets the previous version as a Jetta SportsWagen, we will have  to see how the name ultimately sorts out.

Volkswagen Golf Estate

The Estate picks up the latest Golf design cues, sheet metal and interiors.

Starting in Germany at €18,500 ($25,472), which at first seems expensive until you look at the standard equipment list that includes electronic stability control, six airbags, daytime running lights, roof railing, power windows, upshift indicator, power and heated outside mirrors, split folding rear bench seat, central locking and air conditioning. The cars won’t be delivered until this September.

Two driver assistance systems are also available as options for the first time: “Park Assist” or an automatic parking system, and “Rear Assist,” a rearview camera. Another popular option being the large “panorama” sunroof carries over from previous versions.    (more…)

First Look: 2010 Volkswagen Golf

Pulling a non-rabbit out of its Mütze.

by on Apr.11, 2009

Six generations later, Golf remains VW's best seller.

Six generations later, Golf remains VW's best seller.

It takes a certain confidence to use the word “momentum” if you’re an automaker these days. However, that’s precisely what Stefan Jacoby, CEO of VW of America, did as he introduced the Golf, aka Rabbit, aka Golf, aka Rabbit, in New York. In his view, Volkswagen Group’s record sales and $1.8 billion in profits in 2008 makes “momentum” appropriate, even if sales went down in the loss-making U.S. to 223,128 total units, a decrease of 3.2% versus 2007.

The year 2009, when the sixth generation Golf appears, will be an entirely different matter. VW Group is projecting a loss for the first quarter and thinks even with the new compact that debuted at Paris last fall – its most popular selling car globally – production will decline 10%. The U.S. market is running at a 10 million annual rate, reflecting the worst economic collapse in a generation, and where VW has struggled for decades against higher quality Japanese makes. It’s telling about attitudes in the parent company that the new Golf debuts first in Europe,  Africa,  Asia and Australia before finally arriving here this autumn.

The Golf, though, is a bright spot, even though it is again suffering from VW’s latest reinvention of a reinvention of itself in the U.S. While Rabbit is an appropriate marketing moniker for easy going ‘mericans, it won’t do for the rest of the world where an auto purchase is a more serious financial matter. And apparently it won’t do in the U.S. — once again — as VW’s stated goal to “outperform” the industry as a whole and to gain additional share globally is hinged on universal marketing names.

As a relatively fuel efficient two- and four-door hatchback offered with an extremely efficient, if unfashionable, 2-liter turbocharged diesel engine that’s capable of 30 mpg in city driving, the Golf is the right car at the right time. The turbocharged, 200 horsepower GTI performance version comes with a six-speed manual transmission or on optional six-speed dual-clutch automatic. It provides some advertising sizzle, if not some high sales numbers. (more…)

Run, Rabbit, Run

VW brings the Golf back -- again.

by on Mar.31, 2009

Run, Rabbit, Run. VW is dropping the Rabbit nameplate...again...and bringing back the all-new, sixth-generation Golf for 2010.

Run, Rabbit, Run. VW is dropping the Rabbit nameplate...again...and bringing back the all-new, sixth-generation Golf for 2010.

We’d like to think that this time Volkswagen has finally made up its mind.  Reversing its decision to revive the old Rabbit nameplate, for the 2007 model-year, the German maker is “realigning with our global heritage” for 2010.  That means the Rabbit is gone…again.  And the Golf nameplate is back…again.

Three decades ago, when VW set up an assembly line in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, it decided to Americanize the name of its fuel-efficient small car, adopting the Rabbit badge.  When that factory closed and the car was again imported, the automaker switched to the global nameplate, Golf.

Three years ago, desperate to reverse sliding sales, VW revived the Rabbit badge, relaunching it with a catchy ad campaign that included a TV spot featuring Rabbits multiplying fast as they raced through the streets of New York City. (more…)