VW exec calls US ops a ‘disaster’

The head of Volkswagen's works council B

Today in the Tell Us How You Really Feel file we have Bernd Osterloh, head of Volkswagen AG’s Group Works Councils and member of the company’s supervisory board, labeling the company’s US operations “a disaster.” Why? Because Osterloh believes VW of America doesn’t have the models it needs to be competitive here, hasn’t been decisive enough about its plans and German higher-ups still don’t understand the US market.

In truth, the top labor rep at the German conglomerate is echoing sentiments we’ve heard from VWoA executives for years, and there’s been the same commentary from dealers: Germany doesn’t pay enough attention to what the US market really wants. Even ex-VWoA CEO Stefan Jacoby, who preceded the recently departed Jonathan Browning, said early in his tenure that one of his tasks was to get his German bosses to start delivering what the US market demanded. New CEO Michael Horn is saying much the same thing seven years later, telling Sky News that it has to increase “the speed at which we bring new models to the market and innovation to the market.”

Osterloh wants to get “more models” here, including a pickup truck, but we’d wonder if the economics have changed from when Jacoby said they’d need to sell 100,000 per year to make money. Osterloh also wants a decision on where the CrossBlue will be built. Although it looked as if the Chatanooga, TN plant would get the call, the Puebla, Mexico plant is still in the running because of lower operating costs. No matter what happens right now, Osterloh thinks the situation won’t get better for another two years when revamped models arrive, but at least the company can start taking the steps for a better US future.

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VW begins Golf production in Mexico

START OF GOLF PRODUCTION IN MEXICO MARKS ANOTHER MILESTONE FOR VOLKSWAGEN GROUP IN NORTH AMERICA

– Mexican Secretary of Economy, Dr. Guajardo, and Volkswagen CEO, Prof. Dr. Winterkorn, inaugurate production of the new Volkswagen Golf at the Puebla plant
– The Volkswagen Group is investing US$7 billion in new products and modern production facilities in North America in period to 2018
– Volkswagen de México celebrates 50th anniversary

Puebla (Mexico) / Wolfsburg, January 15, 2014: Production of the new Volkswagen Golf1 began today at the Volkswagen plant in Puebla, Mexico. The facility is to build further models from the Golf family for the North America region going forward. Dr. Ildefonso Guajardo, Mexican Secretary of Economy, Rafael Moreno-Valle, Governor of the State of Puebla, and Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, inaugurated Golf production on the occasion of the ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Volkswagen de México. 700 guests from politics and industry attended the celebrations.

“Volkswagen de México has a proud history and a promising future. One car in particular is a symbol of that: The new Golf,” Prof Dr. Martin Winterkorn said in Puebla. “The start of Golf 7 production will give Volkswagen a big boost in the North America region. And it underscores our commitment to Mexico as an automotive location. That is further confirmed by the US$7 billion our Group will be investing in North America in the period to 2018.”

The intelligent lightweight construction of the Golf, the “World Car of the Year 2013”, is based on the technological innovations of the Modular Transverse Toolkit (MQB), and the vehicle will be exported from Mexico to the USA and Canada. The new Volkswagen Golf will hit North American roads from mid-year as it continues its global success story. Volkswagen has invested some US$700 million in new production plant and modern infrastructure for the Golf in Puebla. The first Golf sedan to be built in Mexico is a red Golf GTI2. Production of further derivatives such as the Golf station wagon for the North and South America regions will begin during the course of the year. Golf production at the Puebla plant has a capacity of 700 vehicles per working day.

CEO of Volkswagen de México, Andreas Hinrichs, underscored the major significance of the Puebla location for Volkswagen: “Our Puebla factory is today one of the Group’s highest exporters and one of its largest plants worldwide. Over 10 million vehicles have already been shipped from here to customers all over the world.”

In addition to the new Golf, the Puebla plant also builds the coupé and cabriolet versions of the Volkswagen Beetle plus the Volkswagen Jetta. In terms of technology, these models also belong to the Golf class and are to be adapted to the structure of the Modular Transverse Toolkit (MQB) in the medium term. Furthermore, Volkswagen began manufacturing modern TSI engines at the Silao engine plant in early 2013. The Audi facility in San José Chiapa will strengthen the Volkswagen Group’s production network in North America from 2016.

The vehicles manufactured in Pueba and the engines produced in Silao are built in accordance with the state-of-the art environmental standards of the Volkswagen brand’s “Think Blue. Factory.” programme. This programme aims to optimise resource efficiency at all Volkswagen plants and to continually improve the environmental compatibility of the production process. 50 years of success unite Volkswagen and Mexico. Volkswagen began exports to Mexico back in 1954. 50 years ago, on January 15, 1964, the Wolfsburg-based company founded an import, production and sales company called “Volkswagen de México S.A.” The Beetle began rolling off the assembly line at the new plant in Puebla in 1967, with production of this model only finally coming to an end in 2003. Alongside the Bulli, the Beetle motorized Mexico for decades.

In 1997, Puebla became the only plant in the Volkswagen Group to build the New Beetle, exporting the model all over the world. Production of the fourth Jetta generation commenced at the same time. Both models lent key growth momentum to export business at Volkswagen de México. From 1964 to the present day, the Volkswagen Group has already invested a total of US$8 billion in Mexico.

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Watch what happens when angry elephant charges a VW

Bull Elephant vs. Hatchback

Wild animals regularly pose a threat to drivers. Here in Michigan, we worry about deer. In Colorado, the animals are a bit bigger (your author once saw a dead mountain lion on the side of the road outside of Telluride). Sweden, meanwhile, has to deal with moose. South Africa, though, trumps just about everywhere else, because occasionally drivers will need to contend with elephants.

Don’t be confused by this video; adorable pachyderms aren’t simply wandering major highways. This is a video from inside Kruger National Park in northwest South Africa, showing a bull elephant facing down what we think is a Volkswagen Golf, before ramming and goring the hatchback with its tusks. The British couple at the wheel suffered some injuries during the attack, although none were life threatening and both driver and passenger are out of the hospital.

According to The Independent, the park’s general manager, William Mabasa, said the couple’s instinct “to stay quiet and still,” was not incorrect, although he did point out the situation could have been avoided. “It’s a big animal,” Mabasa said. “There’s no need to get close.”

In the elephant’s defense, it looks like it gave the Golf plenty of opportunities to back up and escape before it turned its tusks on the German hatchback. Mabasa said the animal was in the midst of a “musth,” which can raise testosterone levels 60 times above normal, which may have contributed to the aggressive behavior. The animal was put down following the incident.

Scroll down for the video, and be warned, although most of the video is spoken in a mix of English and Afrikaans, there is some foul language.

UPDATE: The originally linked video has been taken down. We found another, which is available below.

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Volkswagen Passat goes green with the BlueMotion Concept

VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT BLUEMOTION® CONCEPT MAKES GLOBAL DEBUT AT THE NORTH AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW

– Estimated highway fuel economy rating of 42 mpg
– Highly efficient powertrain uses 1.4-liter EA211 TSI® engine and DSG® dual-clutch automatic transmission
– Engine is world’s first inline four cylinder with cylinder deactivation

Chattanooga/Detroit – The Passat BlueMotion® Concept that is being presented by Volkswagen of America at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit shows just how fuel-efficient a non-hybrid, gasoline-engined mid-size sedan can be. Based on the current Passat that was developed specifically for North America, the BlueMotion label defines the version that has the best efficiency in the model lineup.

The Passat BlueMotion Concept features an all-new version of the Volkswagen 1.4-liter EA211 TSI® engine with direct injection and turbocharging. On top, this Passat also offers Active Cylinder Management (ACT) technology, previously seen on the European Volkswagen Polo and Golf models. ACT deactivates the valvetrain on cylinders two and three for situations when the driver only applies light throttle pressure to maintain specific city speeds.

Another Volkswagen innovation that helps save gas is the coasting function, used also on the Jetta Hybrid. As soon as the driver releases the accelerator pedal, the DSG® transmission decouples the engine, allowing the Passat to roll with the lowest possible mechanical drag from the other moving components.

Additional fuel savings come from the stop/start system, which shuts off the engine when the car comes to a temporary stop. As soon as the driver lifts their foot off the brake, the 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine starts again. All these measures result in a manufacturer estimated highway fuel economy rating of 42 mpg. The Passat BlueMotion Concept also delivers 150 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque.

The Concept’s striking Reef Blue Metallic color will be introduced on other Passat models, too. The interior of the Concept also offers two-tone seats that carry blue dividing lines between the darker and lighter leather seating surfaces. The stitching indicates this is a member of the BlueMotion family, which has been rolled out globally since 2006 on many highly fuel-efficient Volkswagen models.

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VW midsize crossover production headed for Chattanooga

Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept

Potential labor woes aside, it looks like Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, TN factory must have done something that impressed the bosses in Germany, because it sounds like the three-year-old factory is set to score a second model.

The factory currently builds the Passat, and has been in the running alongside VW’s Puebla, Mexico factory to build a new crossover vehicle, likely based on the CrossBlue Concept. According to Bloomberg, a pair of unnamed sources have confirmed that Chattanooga is the favorite ahead of an official announcement.

When last we heard about the CrossBlue Concept, word was that a production decision had been delayed over concerns about the three-row CUV’s business case. That August 2013 story claimed that a decision regarding the CrossBlue would be pushed back until early in 2014, which means we’re ripe for some sort of news, whether good or bad.

Us? We’d be a little shocked if VW didn’t pull the trigger on a CrossBlue-sized utility sooner rather than later. After all, the automaker has hugely ambitious volume targets that are slipping away, the CUV market is red hot, and the two-row Tiguan is aging (and a bit too expensive) and the five-seat Touareg is a premium-priced offering. In other words, there’s a hole in the company’s lineup big enough to drive a CrossBlue-shaped truck through.

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