First Drive: 2012 Volkswagen Passat

By all objective measures, and any subjective measure that you'd care to hold a Camry to, the Passat is a fine car. It offers adequate power, respectable fuel economy, generous space, a great ride, and a fair value. But in setting the price of the Passat to be competitive, Volkswagen paid a price to compete in the mainstream mid-size segment. The character, the specialness, and the allure aren't what they used to be. With the Passat, Volkswagen has traded soul for sales.

The Specs
On sale:
Price: $20,000/$25,000/$27,000 (I-5/TDI/V-6, est.)
Engines: 2.5L I-5, 170 hp, 177 lb-ft; 2.0L turbo-diesel I-4, 140 hp, 236 lb-ft; 3.6L V-6, 280 hp, 258 lb-ft
Drive: Front-wheel

Then & Now Volkswagen in America

In 1976, Volkswagen purchased an unfinished factory from Chrysler in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, to become the first foreign automaker since World War II with a plant in the United States. Ambitious plans for American expansion fell flat, however, in part because of quality problems, high pricing, and an undesirable softening of the Westmoreland-made Rabbit (and its Golf successor). The facility was operating at just 30 percent of its planned capacity when the last car rolled off the line ten years after the factory opened.

The location: New Stanton, PA
The car: Rabbit/Golf
The sticker price: $4220 (1978)
The investment: $250 million
The incentives: $100 million
Annual capacity: 200,000 vehicles
Ambitious goal: 5 percent market share
Sobering reality: 3 percent peak in 1980
Employment effect: 2500 laid off at closing

A return to U.S. manufacturing hedges against the volatility of currency fluctuations as Volkswagen aims to drastically ramp up its American sales. From a choice of 398 sites, Volkswagen settled in Chattanooga, Tennessee, because of the location's access to two interstates and two rail lines, along with a fat incentive package. The plant sits on redeveloped land that was formerly home to the old Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant. Just down the road, is developing a $139 million distribution center.

The location: Chattanooga, TN
The car: Passat
The sticker price: $20,000 (2012)
The investment: $1 billion
The incentives: $557.4 million
Annual capacity: 150,000 vehicles
Ambitious goal: 800,000 brand sales
Sobering reality: 256,830 sales in 2010
Employment effect: 85,000+ job applications

5 of 5
The 2012 Tiguan has a transmission problem. Earlier models don't have the problem. VW should do something about it, I own one and am having performance problems with it. Check out this link!
The car will sell well in the US if the drop in price doesn't show yp too much in the precieved quality of interior, etc.Quiter, cushier, yet controlled ride, much lower price, sounds good to me.Now, if someone would come up with a design that reduces that intrusive console and the rear floor hump in front drive cars. Why???
Tooooo bad VW dumbed down the Jetta and Passat for the American market. VW's plan to sell more of each model could work but in the end VW's image will be hurt because of cost cutting measures. I'll be looking at either a CC or a last generation pre-owned Passat when it's time to replace my '06 GLI.
This is not really my style of car, but I was very, very surprised. For those expressing doubt, go drive one. You think the Sonata is really that good? It is, until you get inside this. Before the key even turns you'll understand the difference.This car will sell because it seems to be what the American public wants, whether we like it or not. Take a look at the best selling cars; are any of them what you really want or drive?
--Really?VW's 170HP 2.5L 5-cyl. makes 30 LESS horsepower while using MORE gas than Hyundai's 200HP GDI 2.4L 4-cyl.? Really?! Wow. Hyundai is really kicking VW's a$$.--
It should be noted that VW in Europe is the most mainstream product out there. Even its name suggests proletarian. The suggestion that VW is traditionally a high-end product makes little sense. Most VWs have historically been nothing more than front-drive family sedans. Perhaps because of high labor costs they have been unable to compete on price in the mainstream segment. Clever marketing more than anything else has been able to mask the manufacturer's shortcomings.
Can anyone say 1997 Camry??
I think this car will sell well, despite its obvious omissions. In fact I think it might attract quite a few Mercedes and BMW shoppers, who have been "outstyled" by their own brands. This Passat, in character, looks very much like some of the German luxury midsize models of the not too distant past. Not a bad pedigree, I say.

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