Tag Archives: Porsche

Volkswagen’s big herausforderungen

"Das problem"

“Das problem”

China’s growing appetite for buying anything that has four wheels and isn’t from Japan has been a boon to many automakers, and Volkswagen is no different.

The German automaker joins the likes of GM, Jaguar and BMW in reaping the financial rewards of the voracious consumerism overtaking that society. However, the boosted revenue from the Chinese market  hasn’t corrected a growing problem at VW – and that is the stagnancy of the brand overall.

The Wall Street Journal reports that while the company’s net revenue rose 12.5% this last quarter (year-over-year), actual profits for the VW brand are dropping as costs rise.

(See article here: http://tinyurl.com/k2q9we3)

China notwithstanding, VW just isn’t doing the big business in Western markets that it had hoped to just a few years previous. The company’s luxury brands – Audi and Porsche – are the only VW products making gains in the U.S.

Invaluable vehicle sales website www.goodcarbadcar.net (bless their hearts!) shows Audi sales in the U.S. up 13.3% year-to-date compared to 2013, while Porsche is up 8.3% for the same period.

Volkswagen? Well, U.S. sales of its vehicles are down 13.6% compared to last year, dragging the company’s overall sales down 5.3% below 2013 numbers.

In Canada, a much smaller market that has traditionally been partial to small cars, VW sales saw a modest 5.2% year-to-date increase over 2013. However, this number takes into account a big sales month for July;  at the end of June, year-to-date VW sales were in the negative, down 2.3%.

Meanwhile, Audi and Porsche sales in Canada have risen 9.9% and 33.9% (respectively) so far this year.

Recent media reports have shown a serious sales slump in South American, which is traditionally a strong market for VW.

When Bugs aren’t enough

So, what’s an automaker like VW to do to lure back those buyers? What do the United States and South America want from it? A giant SUV? A super-cheap subcompact? Vans?

On the U.S. front, it has been reported that a seven-seat midsize SUV is America-bound, but one new niche vehicle isn’t going to turn the tide and hold it there. My personal feeling is that an exciting new small car that isn’t the Golf – something a little smaller, a little cheaper, and a lot more high-tech – could do well in North America, but it could be problematic as well.

Perhaps a four-door coupe version of the Jetta will turn things around...

Perhaps a four-door coupe version of the Jetta will turn things around…

Europe, Asia, South America and just about everywhere outside of the U.S. and Canada already have the super-compact VW Polo, and have for years. Slotting another small car there into the existing lineup wouldn’t make sense, and producing a new non-Polo vehicle for North America could be an expensive proposition given the limited market and the public’s yet-unknown interest.

Could something be built on a Polo platform? Maybe it could be called a Fox, for retro name recognition. Or: are there enough aging hippies and budding flower children to really make a Microbus or a mini-Microbus a success?

Another idea would be to squeeze more sales out of VW’s existing lineup. Is it possible to diversity the Golf/Jetta/Passat even more?

These aren’t decisions I have to make, and that’s a good thing. Time will tell what strategy VW employs.

Status update

"Do you mind not parking your Cobalt so close? I'm kind of a big deal."

“Do you mind not parking your Cobalt so close? I’m kind of a big deal.”

No one ever says, “Hey, jerk – you scratched my Kia Rondo!”

There’s a reason for this, something understood by pretty much everybody.

That is: it isn’t worth mentioning the specific make and model of your ride if it isn’t something special. Something prestigious.

Now, by association, that swanky ride makes the driver something special as well. But beware – with status comes stigma, meaning to some people, the arrival of your hood ornament heralds the appearance of a Grade A prick.

Sure, this isn’t really fair – and the rationale behind it is fallible at best – but our human nature insists that different makes and models of vehicle MUST imply a specific kind of driver lifestyle and mentality. In a world driven by emotion and identity politics, we’re all guilty of this to some degree.

I realized the lasting power of these thoughts the other night while on a Quebec highway. Humming along in the slow lane, I watched a 1980s-vintage Porche 911 Targa blast past. A nice ride on a summer night, for sure, but all I could picture was old money, tennis whites, and the jerk son of a local bigwig.

Have I ever met anyone like that? Nope, but I saw a hell of a lot of them on TV over the years.

Porsche 911... or is it 90210? (photo: Bull-Doser, Wikimedia Commons)

Porsche 911… or is it 90210? (photo: Bull-Doser, Wikimedia Commons)

Recently I was reading a news story out loud to colleagues. It concerned some bad judgement by a BMW driver, and was (of course) accompanied by a video of the incident, which involved the police and quite a bit of destruction.

After taking a peek at my monitor, a co-worker said he’s noticed that BMW’s are only mentioned in a news headline if the owner of that Bimmer is somehow being a jerk. With no evidence to back this up other than my hazy memory, this seemed to ring true.

Is the BMW brand being pigeonholed and stigmatized – even by the media? Are all BMW drivers – even those who don’t act naughty in public – being ‘vehicle-shamed’? Are we jealous of what they’ve attained, or is it something else? Am I a social scientist holding a fistful of studies?

Well, I know the answer to the last question.

Even former Chrysler chairman and all-around automotive guru Lee Iacocca can be heard going down this road in the following clip, where he describes (to the world’s media) BMW and Mercedez-Benz as “boutique cars…bought for snob appeal.”


True, I’ve seem some drivers behind the wheel of a 3-series that needed a slap upside the head, but the same is true for Honda Civics and a laundry list of other vehicles.

I will say this, though. I can’t recall seeing half as many Mercedes-Benz’s driven in a manner worthy of a one-finger salute as those wearing the blue-and-white propeller. Maybe Benz has a more reserved clientele. Maybe the brand’s offerings don’t appeal to the drive-it-like-you-stole-it crowd (“Hoon that diesel E-class, man!”).

Whatever the reason, I will make a valiant attempt to ignore my unscientific findings, suppress my knee-jerk emotions, and go forward in life harbouring no stereotypes – or ill will – towards other drivers.

Let’s see if old habits die hard.