VW Smart, Smart, Smart...Dumb; Buh-Bye VW Routan - Ahhh If They Had Only Offered a TDI Diesel Option To America's Soccer Moms and Old Hippies
By Milton Snide
Speaker of Truth
The Auto Channel
Auto Central March 28, 2013; With yesterday’s remarks from Jonathan Browning, President of VW of America, that Volkswagen will be “tailoring down” retail marketing of the unsuccessful Routan, another supposedly smart car maker is paying for their mistakes with stockholder money and lost prestige.
In 2008 at the Chicago Auto Show, VW was all smiles as they unveiled the Routan a van from Volkswagen designed and built especially for the US market.
"Routan", VW gushed, was a newly coined word indicating the bond between Volkswagen and America. "Routan" contains both the English word "route" as well as the "-an" suffix which is appended to the names of Volkswagen's European vans - Touran and Sharan.(Huh? I Still Say.)
Their new van with a VW marque, was to be built in Windsor Canada by Chrysler, no, no it wasn't a Dodge or Chrysler mini van, but a Canadian VW which was to be "ride tuned" by good old German engineers, so it drives and feels like a German Car even though it isn’t.
So here’s the rub, why did America need just another low MPG minivan, albeit one that was "ride tuned" for the autobahn, apparantly it didn't/doesn't. But even in 2008 I and other car guys knew it, at that auto show and for more 6 years I have been asking VW execs why they are not offering the Routan with a TDI option, which would create a unique differentiation from the minivans already in the U.S. market.
Another great idea I thought along with many thinking auto journalists and a select group of Soccer Moms’. The answer I continue to receive was that VW was ”still not sure that Americans would accept a diesel powered vehicle” – HUH! Even though a large percentage of VW’s sold in the U.S. are TDI’s, with their clean diesel engines made at VW’s Mexican plant.
I suggested that VW offer the Routan TDI as an option, and when they had enough orders build them…if no orders no build what a concept. New VW buyers would actually go into a dealer and order a car spec’ed out to meet their needs and pocketbook…not the dealer’s or the manufacturer's but the customer’s needs, a novel idea if I ever had one.
I believed, and still do that every soccer mom in America would put aside their emotional distaste for minivans (which stems I guess from their derogative High School Yearbook heading “Most likely to drive a minivan”), even though the minivan is the sanest and most practical vehicle for a family and a TDI van that gets over 40 MPG, how could even the coolest soccer mom not embrace and LOVE HER ROU?
No car company but VW can offer America’s Moms a minivan with virtually double their existing vehicle's MPG and gives them the room and convience they REALLY need along with an "autobahn tuned" ride. With the TDI offering VW can own the Green Mom's of America hearts and minds, and will hasten the minimization today's popularity of Mom's 20 MPG (or less) default 7 passenger crossover.
Hey Jonathan, it’s not too late to turn Routan sales around. No car company was or is more able to give buyers a diesel option than VW. VW has the TDI engine already available and I’m sure that the nice folks at the Windsor plant would love to have the additional production a hugely successful Routan TDI would bring.
So what do you think?