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VW Passat Makes an Awkwardly Timed Debut

New model, critical to US, debuts as maker faces fraud charges.

by on Sep.22, 2015

A new look for the 2016 VW Passat.

If timing is everything, the debut of the new 2016 Volkswagen Passat probably couldn’t have come along at a worse moment.

When the German maker scheduled the New York unveiling, it was clearly hoping to set in motion a much-needed turnaround for its struggling U.S. operations. Instead, the new Passat could get lost in the brouhaha surrounding news that VW apparently used a so-called defeat device to improperly pass emissions tests with a number of its diesel-powered models.

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The scandal could lead potential buyers to ignore the 2016 VW Passat. But the maker can only hope it will be able to overcome the negative headlines, the new midsize sedan getting a much-needed styling update, plenty of new safety and infotainment technologies, and a new, sporty R-Line model. Ironically, the new Passat will be the first to get a diesel engine.


VW Passat Captures Euro Car of the Year

German automaker continues reeling in the honors.

by on Mar.02, 2015

The Volkswagen Passat captured the 2015 European Car of the Year award at the Geneva Motor Show.

If Volkswagen can rack up sales this year like it’s racking up awards, they could set records. The German maker nabbed another honor when European auto editors named the Passat was named 2015 European Car of the Year at the Geneva Motor Show.

The large sedan beat out six other finalists including the Citroen C4 Cactus, Renault Twingo, Mercedes C-Class, Ford Mondeo, Nissan Qashqai and BMW 2-Series Active Tourer. The Passat succeeds the Peugeot 308 compact, which took the crown from Volkswagen’s Golf in 2013.

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The Passat is the largest sedan in the company’s line-up. In a bit of irony, the European press honored the company’s largest sedan while the North American motoring scribes named the considerably smaller Golf this year’s Car of the Year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January. (more…)

Volkswagen Reveals Passat Performance Concept

More punch from a midsize package.

by on Jan.11, 2013

A show car for now, the Volkswagen Passat Performance Concept may yet return in production trim.

Like many of its competitors, Volkswagen has a handful of offerings to share with the media and mainstream masses next week but while it’s keeping a reported new SUV under wraps for now the German maker has decided to pull the covers off another new entry.

And the Passat Performance Concept suggests we’ll be getting a little more punch out of the maker’s midsize mainstay in the near future, even though VW is only suggesting the show car is meant to “explore this practical four-door’s sportier side.”

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The overall look is still that of a practical sedan.  While some makers have been emphasizing show over go – witness the new Dodge Dart GT – Volkswagen appears to be downplaying the visual excesses.  The only real upgrades to the exterior include larger bi-xenon headlamps, LED taillights, 19-inch Luxor alloy wheels, a dual exhaust system, two-tone leather seats and carbon fiber interior accents.


First Drive: Volkswagen Passat

VW says Americans want a big, smooth midsizer with nondescript styling. Is that true?

by on May.09, 2012

Volkswagen aims to take over the title of world's biggest automaker with cars like the new Passat.For decades, Volkswagens were the car you bought if you wanted something just a bit different than the Camrys, Accords and Malibus. If you lust after a more expensive German sedan, but you’re spending Chevrolet money.

For a long time, it worked well enough. The brand’s small, but loyal band of fans bought them because they had real German engineering at a much more manageable price than BMW, Audi or Mercedes and because they weren’t Camrys, Accords or Malibus.

But the objectives in Wolfsburg have changed. VW has made it very clear that it wants to be the largest automaker in the world. You may be thinking “Geez, I probably see eight Toyotas for every VW,” but Volkswagens are more popular throughout the rest of the world. VW also has nine other brands – a couple of which Americans don’t even know exist. Besides the eponymous brand, VW also has owns Audi, Bugatti, Bentley and Lamborghini. But it also has SEAT and Skoda – European brands that have never been sold here.

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While Europe and other world markets are far bigger to VW than is the U.S., the automaker still decided it needed to increase sales here to reach its goals.

So, the automaker decided that if it was going to increase U.S. sales, it would need to follow the script written by Toyota, one of the automakers it will have to surpass. It would make cars tailored to the tastes of the American majority, rather than the few who appreciated the slightly quirky VW of old.

One of the products of that effort is this Passat, a car that VW expects to help lead its U.S. sales surge. The automaker has made a $1 billion bet on the Passat with a sparkling new plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.


VW Adding Another 800 Jobs in Chattanooga

Maker struggling to meet booming demand.

by on Mar.22, 2012

Workers assemble a 2012 VW Passat at the maker's assembly plant in Chattanooga.

Volkswagen will create another 800 jobs at its new assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee as it pushes to meet soaring demand. That comes on top of previous plans that will now bring a total of 1,000 new workers to the factory that opened only last year.

The Chattanooga plant is the first the German maker has operated in the U.S. in a quarter century and is a critical part of the maker’s commitment to boost sales to record levels by 2018.  But equally significant has been VW’s decision to develop cars specifically for the U.S. market for the first time, including the new Passat sedan being produced in Tennessee.

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Sales of the new Passat got off to a fast start for the 2012 model-year, helping Volkswagen score its best monthly volumes in four decades in February.

“This is a clear sign that the plant ramp-up has been successful and is a validation that the Passat is of the highest quality,” said Frank Fischer, CEO of the Chattanooga operation.


VW More Than Doubles Profits in 2011

Sales up nearly 15% as maker punches past Toyota.

by on Feb.24, 2012

Workers assemble a 2012 VW Passat at the maker's new assembly plant in Chattanooga.

If the latest numbers are any indication, Volkswagen is clearly on its way towards world domination.  The German maker is reporting that its profits more than doubled last year while global sales jumped 14.7%.

Volkswagen, no longer limited to the “people’s car,” but owning or partnering with a dozen different brands, has set out a goal of ending the decade as the world’s largest automotive manufacturer.  It didn’t quite get there in 2011, but with sales soaring to 7.2 million it punched by struggling Toyota, landing second only to revived U.S. giant General Motors.

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But shareholders and analysts are, for the moment, focusing on the earnings numbers, which totaled 15.41 billion Euros, or $20.5 billion, up from 6.84 billion Euros in 2010.  The latest figure is a full 1.5 billion Euros ahead of what analysts had been collectively forecasting – and triple what rival GM earned in a record year of its own.


Domestics, Transplants Adding More Auto Jobs

Chrysler, VW, Honda responding to booming sales.

by on Feb.02, 2012

Chrysler will add another 1,000 U.S. workers to support production of the Dodge Dart.

The strong upturn in U.S. car sales will translate into a wave of new jobs for American auto workers.  Chrysler, Volkswagen and Honda all are announcing plans to expand production – meaning more workers – at plants across the country.

The biggest increase announced this week comes at Chrysler.  During a call to discuss the maker’s $183 million profit for 2011, CEO Sergio Marchionne revealed the maker will add another 1,000 workers at a plant in Belvidere, Illinois.  That will come in the form of a third shift to handle production of the new Dodge Dart sedan.

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Chrysler has added thousands of jobs in the last 12 months and is preparing to ramp up production – and employment at several other facilities, including about 1,600 workers who will man a third shift at the Jeep plant near downtown Detroit and another Motor City facility that will begin production of the newly-updated Dodge Viper sports car later this year.

But the domestic makers – Ford and General Motors also on a hiring binge – aren’t alone, a new study suggesting 100,000 U.S. auto jobs will be added this year and next.


Detroit Aims to Regain Control of Midsize Market

But Japanese makers aren’t ready to roll over.

by on Jan.04, 2012

Ford's new Fusion will borrow heavily from the design cues of the Evos Concept - minus the gullwing doors.

It’s been more than a quarter century since the original Ford Taurus made its debut – the last Detroit sedan to dominate the large and critical midsize market segment.  But the number two U.S. maker is hoping to score another home run with the launch of an all-new version of the four-door Fusion at next week’s North American International Auto Show.

While the maker is being tight-lipped with details, the new sedan is already generating quite a buzz, the 2013 Fusion expected to borrow many of the design cues of the Ford Evos Concept first seen at the Frankfurt Motor Show last autumn.  Along with cutting-edge styling, the new Fusion is expected to offer luxury-segment technologies – like lane departure warning – at mainstream prices.

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Ford won’t be the only domestic maker putting the emphasis on midsize models at the Detroit show, Chevrolet rolling out the production version of its new 2013 Malibu Eco, a “mild” hybrid model getting more than 40 miles per gallon in a segment that has become highly sensitive to mileage.


Low Pay Big Advantage as VW Opens New U.S. Plant

New factory could help Volkswagen double U.S. demand.

by on May.23, 2011

The first 2012 VW Passat will officially role off the maker's new assembly line in Chattanooga on Tuesday.

When Volkswagen opens its new U.S. assembly plant tomorrow, it will be a critical step in the maker’s plan to double sales by 2018 – in part by relying on low wages to help make models like the all-new 2012 Passat more competitive.

The average blue-collar worker at the new factory, Chattanooga, Tennessee, will earn just $27 an hour – including wages and benefits – or barely half the average $52 an hour for workers at Detroit’s union-organized plants.  VW will also have a significant cost advantage over other so-called transplant assembly lines operated by Japanese and other European makers.

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That could provide a significant boost for a company that has been saddled with a heavy premium on products imported from Germany, where high labor costs have been compounded by the weak U.S. dollar.

VW has been pressing hard to emphasize value – something that worked for the legendary Beetle nearly half a century ago – rather than focusing on German engineering as an excuse for higher prices.  When it launched an all-new Jetta, last year, it introduced a stripped-down model, the Jetta S, at just $15,995 — $2,000 lower than the starting price for the 2010 model.


VW Passat Will Bring 12,000 Jobs to U.S.

Passat will be major part of VW's plan to sell 800,000 cars in U.S. by 2018.

by on Jan.10, 2011

VW's new Passat is bigger and will start at less than $20,000. It will be built in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Volkswagen is making a $4 billion bet that building its new Passat in the U.S. will help the automaker drive its sales up to 800,000 per year in the U.S. market.

But it will also be a boost to the U.S. economy.  VW’s Ulrich Hackenberg said as the drapes were pulled off of the Passat at the Detroit auto show, that the car will create 2,000 direct jobs at its new plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. In addition, a study shows that it will create 10,000 jobs at suppliers, he said.

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VW has said that the U.S. version of the Passat has a more spacious interior than the European version that was introduced at last year’s Paris Auto Show. The U.S. version.

(Click here to read more about the 2012 Passat).