Challenging VW to take a risk and make a classic
Any way you look at it, 2,000 jobs is incredible news. Not just manufacturing jobs, but the downtown building (which, why? but good), a whole US R&D center and more than $600 million in construction. And not in 2018, either, but now, this fall.
I literally have trouble believing it—if Chattanooga (officially) has about 16,000 people unemployed and all the new jobs come out of there (which they won’t, but still), that would cut the unemployment rate from 6.2 percent to 5.4 percent, not even counting the construction.
The final details of the CrossBlue haven’t been released yet, but we’ve all seen the photos of a Generic Midsize Crossover with a Passat grille. As they’ve made an official announcement, the final shape is probably set in stone, and VW has undoubtedly spent the last 36 months with focus groups, market research and benchmarking competitors to produce a car, as VW USA President Michael Horn said, “[fulfills] the wishes of our dealer network.” Inspirational words.
Even with the millions of hours and billions of dollars of development work already done, there’s still time for VW to screw it up. Because what the world absolutely does not need is another one of the cars that VW dealers want. One Toyota Venza or Chevy Equinox is more than enough.
You know how many aircooled VW meets there are in an average summer month? I stopped counting listings at thesamba.com at 20 in August, and I was only up to August 6 (hit print and it would take 61 pages).
When was the last time you saw an “I’m OK, I saved a Santa Fe!” sticker? How many $100,000 Toyota RAV4s are there at auction? None—because there’s zero magic in those cars.
Think about the great Volkswagens of all time. The Beetle has to be #1, then probably the Transporter, and then some lesser-known but still terrific cars, early GTIs, Sirocco, Squareback, Synchro van, even the Eurovan. They all shared the classic VW mix of practicality and fun, even if they were being sold for next to nothing (the Eurovan excepted).
The Beetle didn’t have to be that shape; a square probably would have been cheaper to stamp out. Why on earth would you put 21 windows into a van? It’s hard to come up with an answer that doesn’t involve saying, “...plus it just looked cool.”
The CrossBlue will be none of those things, starting with the name. Admittedly, VW didn’t originally use Beetle or Samba, but they sure came around and embraced them in time. For people really deeply in tune with German cars, “Blue” denotes a diesel, so great.
But VWs are supposed to be friendly and approachable, not sound like a fitness regimen. Some friendly and approachable names include Hamster, Pot Pie, Sandal, Toddler, Sunbeam, Teapot, Pillow, and Mist. They can add Blue to one of those. My vote is for Hamster.
We all know the diesel is expensive to make, reportedly something approaching $7,000 for the engine. The BlueHampster’s hybrid diesel is not going to be cheap, but the car needs to be.
Remember the Phaeton. Great car. Amazing car, in fact. Everyone said, who’s going to buy a luxury VW? They were right, because the answer was, “No one.”
You’re Volkswagen. Your name means People’s Car. You make cheap, wonderful, fun transportation. You go your own way. You put the engines in the back, you lift the inside wheel in corners and you make people happy. My mother just bought a new six-speed Mazda CX-5. No hybrid, no diesel, cost next to nothing, gets 35 mpg and for the first time in years she gets out of her car with a smile on her face every time. The CrossBlue may make people satisfied, but it won’t make people fall in love.
Lastly, and this is going to be hard for you to swallow, VW, throw the current design away. It’s nice enough and has the new family grille, but—and this is probably what Mr. Horn’s dealers wanted—it is completely anonymous.
There’s nothing there.
Is it a Highlander?
The BlueHamster should be instantly recognizable from any angle, not just from studying the grille.
This is the 65th anniversary of the VW Beetle in America, by some measures the best-selling car in history. It was in production for 65 years, more than half the total time that cars have been sold to the public, period.
That is Volkswagen, the perfect car for two generations of people throughout the world, not a niche vehicle to capture sales and fill in a gap in the lineup. Have the courage to build a car for people to love, not for dealers to sell.
Build a Volkswagen.