Volkswagen BlueSport: The On-Off Sports Car

A new report from Germany's Auto Motor und Sport quotes Volkswagen design chief Walter de Silva as saying the company is interested in launching a small roadster. Such a car would be based on the Volkswagen BlueSport concept and, initially, sounds like a tempting offering. Trouble is, we've heard so many conflicting reports about the BlueSport for the past four years, that it's hard to take de Silva's comments seriously.

2009 -- Full Of Promise

Volkswagen revealed the BlueSport concept at the 2009 Detroit auto show. The mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive roadster was touted as a rival to the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Sporty yet green, the BlueSport used a turbodiesel engine and promised both a 0-to-60-mph time of 6.2 seconds and fuel economy of 55 mpg. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder would produce 177 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque; a six-speed DSG dual-clutch or manual transmission would direct power to the rear wheels. Curb weight was projected to be just 2645 pounds. Despite a nose inspired by the Golf and Scirocco, the BlueSport's athletic bodywork resembled a three-quarters scale Audi R8. Its interior bore minimalist gauges and buttons, and a rotary transmission selector.

Almost immediately after the car's Detroit reveal, rumors began swirling about whether it would ever reach production.

In February 2009, we reported that the Volkswagen BlueSport would go into production in 2014. Volkswagen, Skoda, and Seat would each build their own version, with prices starting at the equivalent of $28,000. In the April issue of Automobile Magazine, we asserted that the BlueSport was headed to production but warned, "The biggest obstacle standing in its way is Porsche (which owns a controlling stake in VW), whose management could view it as unwelcome competition for the Boxster."

Then in our September 2009 issue, Georg Kacher nabbed an early drive of the car and promised, "We are convinced that the BlueSport -- whose approval by VW brass is only a formality -- has the potential to become a hit." He reported from Germany that the car would go on sale in mid-2012 for a starting price of $30,000.

2010 -- Still On Track

By early 2010, reports suggested that the Volkswagen BlueSport would be built on a chassis shared with the rumored Audi R4. Our June 2010 magazine confirmed that, "The BlueSport previews a mid-engine sports car shared with Audi and Porsche." And in July, we said that Volkswagen executives had green-lit the BlueSport. "The two-door sportster is indeed in the final stages of development and has been given the go-ahead for production," we wrote, promising the car would launch by 2013 for about $30,000.

Things started to look a little shakier by September; we said that the planned turbodiesel engine might not materialize but that a lightweight roadster was still in the cards. Automotive News warned that, "No decision has been made on whether to offer the BlueSport in the United States." On the other hand, we followed up later that month with a report that the Audi R4 was slated to launch in 2011 on a platform shared by the BlueSport.

2011 -- Internal Disputes

In January 2011, Georg Kacher wrote that Porsche had taken over engineering control for what was now called Project Mimo -- a shared roadster alternatively known as the Audi R4, Porsche 550, and Volkswagen BlueSport. He said the Volkswagen was still on track for production: "The VW version will almost certainly use a 180-hp four-cylinder and will incorporate parts from mainstream VWs in an effort to keep the costs down."

The story continued to drag on without any solid progress on indication that car was any nearer to showrooms than when it bowed in 2009. By summer 2011, we said that the Audi R4 was to go on sale in 2014 or 2015, and claimed, "the Volkswagen Bluesport and a Porsche version are still on track for production."

2012 -- Almost Forgotten

Early the next year, then-Volkswagen of America boss Jonathan Browning announced the likelihood of the BlueSport reaching production was slim. He said a sports car was a low-priority model for Volkswagen, as the company was instead focused on increasing its volume nameplates' sales to 800,000 units annually in the U.S. (this ultimately led to the cheaper American-market versions of the Jetta and Passat).

But, confusingly, at that year's Detroit auto show, Volkswagen board member Ulrich Hackenberg promised that Volkswagen would show a mid-engine roadster that year (in 2012). "No word on whether or not the new concept will be an evolution of the BlueSport roadster from a few years ago," we said. Then later in January 2012, Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller told reporters that plans for the 550 -- which would have shared its bones with the BlueSport -- had been canceled. Porsche was apparently afraid a cheap roadster would dilute the brand's cachet.

After that, things went quiet. It sounded like plans for the Audi/Porsche/Volkswagen roadster had been totally scrapped. We hadn't seen any sheetmetal since the Volkswagen BlueSport concept premiered in January 2009 -- and Volkswagen seemed to have given up on the idea of a low-cost roadster. Until, that is, Walter de Silva told Auto Motor und Sport this week, "This is a vehicle that we particularly like, and we always have in mind."

Given that de Silva proffered no more details on a car, and that we haven't seen either an updated BlueSport concept, or any spy shots of development vehicles undergoing testing, it's hard to believe a roadster is on the way. It's more likely that the plan for the lightweight two-door got lost inside the complex maze that is the Volkswagen Group.

Source: Auto Motor und Sport

Sorry, folks, undercutting Audi and Porsche prices is bad policy.  The only way VW could offer a Mazda-like price point for a North American vehicle is if 1) the quality and design are dumbed down, as VW is forced to do on most of its NA models now, and 2) build it in a NA plant that may or may not be able to offer the same quality of, say, a Wolfsburg-built VW.  Most people would agree that the market for cheap sports convertibles simply doesn't justify the risk and expense for VW.  You will note that GM built the Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice -- excellent little roadsters -- but decided against transferring the vehicle to the Chevy or Buick divisions when the overdue brand consolidation finally occurred.  Why?I think VAG would be better served offering niche vehicles that simply don't exist in North America:  modern small pickups, shooting brakes, 3-door cute-utes (think Panda competitors), and the long-overdue return of the microbus.    The demand is there, all VW has to do is deliver its European design and build quality while remaining competitively priced with North American vehicles which are at least 30% too large and 40% too massive for urban or suburban drivers.  Sure, middle America still loves its pickup trucks, but all the population is shifting to the cities where the jobs are -- but also where road space is increasingly congested.  VW: think different.
Porsche, the same people who brought you the 914, is worried about competition for the Boxster from this VW? I don't get it. Mazda might have reason to worry, but  not Porsche. It sounds like a great idea, and I'd love to see it put into production. The turbodiesel engine would definitely deliver lots of torque and fantastic mileage--and would be even better if diesel fuel weren't so much more expensive than premium gasoline these days.
I'd like to see a $28-$30 k mid engine roadster. I don't see it a threat to Porsche or Audi. Their base prices are about double that like Rick said, and try to find a base car. Not happening. They come loaded up with so many stupid and expensive options they are not in the same buyer market. VW, put a true sports car out there. Light, quick fun to drive without all these high tech options. Car guys just want to have fun and we all don't make $100k+ a year like those Porsche guys.  
A $28k VW roadster is not competition for either the Boxster or even the Audi TT-  since both cost twice that amount plus. In fact, the only competition in the market is The Miata , now that both the Solstice and Sky are bye-bye.

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