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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 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.


First Look: 2016 Volkswagen GLI

Adding more performance to VW’s compact sedan.

by on Jun.10, 2015

The VW Jetta GLI is the 4-door equivalent of the German maker's sporty Golf GTI.

After putting the emphasis on its broad “family” of small hatchbacks, Volkswagen is turning its attention back to its compact sedan line with the launch of the 2016 Jetta GLI.

The four-door equivalent of the Golf GTI, the sedan is based on the sixth-generation Jetta first launched in 2011. According to VW, the goal was to come up with “a compelling blend of value, performance and practicality.”

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On the powertrain side, the 2016 Volkswagen GLI will carry over the current turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four making 210-horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. The GLI is one of only two Jetta variants to offer buyers the option of a six-speed manual, as well as a six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox.


Surprise: Volkswagen Names New Midsize Sedan the Passat

First model planned for maker’s new U.S. assembly plant will start at under $20,000.

by on Jan.10, 2011

Volkswagen sticks with the time-tested Passat name for its New Midsize Sedan.

Drum roll, please?  And the name for the sedan that could determine the future of Volkswagen’s U.S. franchise?  Passat.

Say that again?  Passat.  The all-new 4-door, until now known by its codename, NMS, or New Midsize Sedan, is getting a familiar name, the same one that VW has used for nearly two decades.

Nonetheless, the maker asserted, at an invitation-only event prior to the opening of the Detroit Auto Show, the 2012 Passat sold in the U.S. will be a very different car from the sedan bearing that nameplate in the rest of the world.

It will need to be.  VW has very ambitious plans for the U.S., the only major market where it has been stuck in also-ran territory.  By 2018, the maker wants to roughly triple sales volume to 800,000 a year – critical if it expects to meet its corporate goal of displacing Toyota as the world’s largest automaker.


Jonathan Browning Takes Over as VWoA CEO

German maker putting increased emphasis on U.S. market, says new Volkswagen of America boss. It's not a new claim.

by on Sep.13, 2010

New VWoA CEO Jonathan Browning.

Volkswagen has appointed industry veteran Jonathan Browning the new chief executive officer of its U.S. subsidiary, filling a critical vacancy created by the unexpected departure of Volkswagen of America CEO Stefan Jacoby, who left unexpectedly in June.

It comes as something of a homecoming for Browning, who has lived in the U.S. twice – once to earn an MBA from Duke University – and who previously worked for both General Motors and Ford Motor Co.

“We know we have a lot of work to do,” Browning declared during a news conference at the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C., not far from the automaker’s suburban U.S. headquarters.  Noting that VW aims to boost sales to 800,000 by 2018, the new CEO said, “We have set ourselves some big goals, but I am confident we can do this.”

With an expertise in marketing and sales, the 51-year-old Browning has had something of an unusual career for a European automotive executive, moving from one maker to another a number of times since launching his career at General Motors in 1981.  He eventually left for Ford, where he served as Managing Director of Jaguar from 1997 through 2001.  He eventually returned to GM, but left following  the maker’s plunge into bankruptcy.

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In June of this year, Browning resurfaced, this time at Volkswagen headquarters, in Wolfsburg, Germany, where he was put in charge of national sales efforts for all 10 of the company’s brands.  It was a plumb assignment overseeing sales that have risen, on a global scale to 6 million annually.


First Look: 2012 Volkswagen Midsize Sedan

First new product for new Chattanooga plant revealed.

by on Oct.28, 2009

VW provides a first sneak peek at the 2012 Volkswagen Midsize Sedan, scheduled for production in Tennessee.

VW provides a first sneak peek at the 2012 Volkswagen Midsize Sedan, scheduled for production in Tennessee.

It isn’t much.  Let’s get that out of the way right up front, but it’s nonetheless the first glimpse we’ve been given of the midsize sedan Volkswagen plans to produce at its all-new Chattanooga assembly plant, which is still more than a year away from opening.

Volkswagen of America’s high-flying CEO, Stefan Jacoby, has set some tough targets for the automaker.  It’s aiming to more than double sales, by 2018, to 800,000 units a year, significantly better than it did even back in the days when the original Beetle dominated the subcompact and import market segments.

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Of course, it’s a very different VW today.  The so-called “New” Beetle is little more than a market afterthought, and the company now offers a wide range of products, from the compact Golf up to the big Touareg sport-utility vehicle.  But VW is betting that it needs to take a big step up from its current midsize offering, the Passat.