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First Drive: 2016 Volkswagen Passat

Solid safety, great performance.

by on Nov.16, 2015

Volkswagen's 2016 Passat comes with two gas-powered engines only as the maker isn't offering the diesel model.

I’ve long been a fan of Volkswagen products.  For many decades, they’ve been big on safety and reliability, and fun to drive. Think Rabbit, Golf, GTI, CC and R32.  But they also offer a good value when it comes to affordable sedan performance.  Think Jetta and Passat.  For those who like the ability to carry families and gear, Tiguan and Touareg SUVs foot the bill.

On a recent fall day in beautiful Stowe, Vermont, Volkswagen gave members of the automotive press an opportunity to test drive the newly updated Passat. The largest passenger car model in VW’s U.S. line-up, the 2016 sedan arrives at an awkward time for the automaker, caught up in the fiasco over its cheating on diesel emissions tests.

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And, notably, there’ll be no diesel version of the 2016 Volkswagen Passat, the German maker deciding it best to put that version on hold, at least for the time being. That’s a disappointment for fans of the maker’s oil-burners – which account for about a quarter of its U.S. sales. (more…)

VW Steps Up Operations in Tennessee

New stamping plant partnership will add 500 jobs, simplify supply chain.

by on Jun.23, 2015

VW will build a version of its CrossBlue Concept when it completes the Chattanooga plant expansion.

Volkswagen continues to expand its operations in Tennessee, and with the German maker already set to double the size of its Chattanooga assembly plant it will also partner with supplier Gestamp to set up a new stamping plant near the assembly line.

The $180 million project will create another 500 jobs, improve basic logistics and allow the use of an advanced hot stamping process yielding ultra-high-strength steel panels that are lighter, more fuel-efficient and safer, according to Volkswagen.

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“The importance of this expanded partnership for Volkswagen and Chattanooga cannot be overstated,” said Christian Koch, President and CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga. “We have put another crucial pillar into place for our future success and the benefits of this expansion will impact the community for years to come,” Koch added during a news conference in Chattanooga.


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…)

VW Hustling to Meet Demand for Diesel-Powered Passats

Diesel sales in July topped 40% mark for Tennessee-built sedan.

by on Aug.13, 2013

Volkwagen's Chattanooga, Tenn. plant is struggling to keep up with the demand for diesel-equipped Passats.

The rise in popularity of diesel engines – largely due to better mileage than gasoline engines – has put this country’s leading seller of diesels in a bind.

Volkswagen of America (VOA) is scrambling to improve the availability of the engines to satisfy demand for the diesel version of the Passat built at the automaker’s new plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

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Nearly 4,000 or roughly 40% of the Passats sold in July were TDI Clean Diesels. (more…)

Booming Sales Put Volkswagen of America Back in the Black

First profit in over a decade.

by on Mar.29, 2013

Workers at the new VW plant in Tennessee have had trouble meeting the growing demand for the American-made Passat.

For the first time since the original Beetle dominated the American import market, Volkswagen of America is moving solidly back into the black.

The German maker’s U.S. sales and marketing arm had steadily lost sales, share – and lots of money – ever since Asian rivals like Toyota and Honda became dominant forces in the market back in the late 1970s. In fact, VW’s decline was so severe that the maker came close to abandoning the U.S. in the early 1990s.

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But, over the last several years, it has picked up significant momentum with a mix of new products, aggressive marketing – and the addition of its first U.S. factory in decades, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.


VW Moving Golf Production to Mexico

But gen-7 model still won’t reach U.S. shores til 2014.

by on Jan.25, 2013

The seventh-generation, or G7, Volkswagen Golf.

Volkswagen has scored quite a hit with new products like the Passat that have been retuned for the American market. But the maker still retains one frustrating German habit – delaying key product launches in the U.S. until long after they’re already on the road back in the European home market.

So, it seemed like we might be in for some good news when we heard that production of the seventh-generation VW Golf would be shifted from Germany to Mexico.  Unfortunately, we still won’t get the G7 model until sometime during the first half of 2014, still a year late.

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But VW is promising that the shift to the Puebla plant will help it better sync the launch of future generations, as the maker has come closer to doing with the bigger Passat line which is now being produced at the Volkswagen plant that opened in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2011.


VW Facing Serious Challenges Even as Sales Soar

Maker rolls out 100,000th Passat from Chattanooga plant.

by on Jun.01, 2012

A VW Passat body under inspection at the maker's Chattanooga plant. Quality will be critical to meeting VW's ambitious growth target.

Half empty or half full?  When it comes to Volkswagen, Jonathan Browning is looking at the glass from both angles.

By most measures, it’s been a particularly good week for the German maker.  With sales for last month up 28.4%, VW is today reporting its best May since 1973.  That news comes less than a day after the 100,000th new Passat rolled off the Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

There are plenty of other reasons to be in a positive frame of mind, starting with the growing number of potential buyers who are now aware of products like the Passat, as well as the newly updated Beetle, the recently redesigned Jetta and the expanding line-up of Volkswagen diesels.

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Nonetheless, the British-born Browning, CEO of the Volkswagen Group of America – which includes Audi and Bentley, as well as the VW brand – also sees quite a few reasons to worry whether the maker is operating “at a level that will support our growth.”


New Volkswagen Midsize SUV “Under Discussion”

Maker considering range of additional products, including Polo and Up! to support soaring U.S. sales.

by on May.30, 2012

VW Group CEO Jonathan Browning -- shown here at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show -- wants more product in the U.S. line-up.

With U.S. sales expected to increase by as much as 30% for May Volkswagen is looking at all its options to keep that momentum going – including the addition of all-new products to its American line-up.

The maker could start importing several models not currently sold in the U.S., said Volkswagen Group of American CEO Jonathan Browning.  But the executive says the more likely move would come with the addition of an all-new midsize SUV now “under discussion.”

“A midsize SUV would be a great opportunity for us,” Browning said following a speech to the Detroit Automotive Press Association.

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The vehicle would slot into the line-up between the compact Tiguan and the full-size Touareg sport-utility vehicles.  It might be developed as a joint project between the U.S. and “another region around the world,” Browning hinted, but he stressed that the American market would take the lead in the vehicle’s development.


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.

Anything But Nondescript!

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.


Midsize Makers Set for Shoot-out

Automakers see opportunity as motorists downsize.

by on Apr.09, 2012

Nissan reveals the redesigned Altima sedan.

Potential buyers are getting a first good look at the new 2013 Nissan Altima, this week, at the New York Auto Show where it is making its global debut.  Betting show-goers will like what they see – especially the 38 mile-per-gallon highway mileage number — the Japanese maker is betting it can jump from midsize also ran to a leader in the critical automotive segment.

“We are expecting to compete at the top level, and we are going to take a shot at being number one in the segment,” says Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.

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Industry analysts anticipate Nissan will, indeed, gain some ground with the launch of the more stylish and fuel-efficient Altima.  But they caution that the maker can’t take things for granted.  It is far from the only manufacturer looking to gain ground in the midsize market – which is expected to generate nearly one in six new vehicle sales in the U.S. market this year.