Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Volkswagen in 2005

© 2005 The VW Gazette. Images by Volkswagen AG.
The past year will probably go down Volkswagen's history as one of the more eventful ones. It was during 2005 when Volkswagen began to make an attempt to revitalize an aging model line-up by introducing new versions of their "bread and butter" models. In total, Volkswagen introduced 11 new models worldwide this year. But 2005 hasn't all been rosy for Volkswagen. Arguably the largest event in Volkswagen this past year was the rotten scandal that shook the very foundations of the company. Fortunately, Volkswagen managed to recover but not before unearthing the corruption that had been going on.

The New Jetta

Volkswagen opened the year with the introduction of the much anticipated (and speculated) all new fifth generation Jetta. During months leading up to the introduction, the Internet was rife with speculation about the Jetta's styling. A few spy shots of the Jetta in camouflage taken while hot weather testing fuelled the speculation even further. When the Jetta was finally revealed, whole automotive industry was stunned. There was a great divide within the Volkswagen community: those who liked the new design and those who found it too, well, Japanese. Forums were flooded with "Jetta looks like a Corolla" posts, alluding to the strange similarity between the Jetta's taillights and the Toyota Corolla's taillights. Needless to say, the New Jetta took some time to warm up to people.

The Ragster Concept
Volkswagen shows a new concept at the North American International Auto Show, The New Beetle Ragster. Basically, it is a ragtop and a speedster all jumbled into one. It was basically a New Beetle sedan sort of flattened at the top to accommodate the Ragster's ragtop. This was more than a concept, however. This showed the things to come for Volkswagen's New Beetle line-up. From the windows down, The Ragster showed what the face lifted New Beetle would look like. It had sharper lines, especially around the wheel arches and the front and rear bumper, different head and taillights as well as different front and rear end treatments making for a newer, fresher, more muscular New Beetle.

NBC Universal and Volkswagen
Volkswagen and NBC Universal signed a worldwide strategic marketing agreement. With this agreement, Universal will incorporate Volkswagen products and brand into its films, DVDs, theme parks, and other entertainment properties. Volkswagen would support numerous media marketing and promotional offers. Perhaps the first major application of this agreement is with Peter Jackson's King Kong. The trailer was first released on Volkswagen's corporate site. Then, just earlier this month, Volkswagen launches the Volkswagen Touareg Kong.

The Golf Plus
Volkswagen ended the month with the launch of the Golf Plus in Europe. Basically a Golf but bigger in every dimension. Despite its Golf nameplate, the Golf Plus features different headlights and taillights, with the latter featuring LED lights. This model, however, is only available in Europe.

The New Passat

Volkswagen began February with the premiere of the sixth generation Passat. As with the Jetta, the months leading up to the premiere were rampant with speculation. This was only fuelled by spy shots of the Passat in black camouflage. Unlike the Jetta, however, the Passat was much more welcomed with open arms by the Volkswagen community. The new Passat exuded class and luxury, featuring a powerful front end and an elegant rear end. The interior was nicely executed however, people were anxious to see how the new keyless start worked. With the premiere of the Passat, speculation on the new Estate began.

Touareg V10 TDI Discontinued

An unexpected EPA test requirement led Volkswagen to suspend the sales of the Touareg V10 TDI indefinitely. The EPA took issue with the liquid additive that Volkswagen used in its exhaust system to reduce emissions. This additive had been successfully used in Europe, but the EPA felt it needed to conduct its own tests. Thus far, the ten cylinder 310 HP Touareg has yet to return on the Touareg line-up. Rumors are that Volkswagen may have to pull the TDI engine out of its other models.

The New Fox

The new Fox launches in Europe, now being Volkswagen's new entry level model. It is really a small car measuring 12.5 feet in length, 5.45 feet in width, and 4.76 feet in height. The wheel base is only 8.10 feet. The Fox was launched with two petrol engines and one TDI engine all complying with the Euro 4 emission standard.

IIHS Praises Jetta
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the new Jetta good ratings in both frontal offset and side impact crash tests. The Jetta is also the first vehicle to receive the top rating of good in every individual measurement category (injury measurement, head protection, and structural design) of the side impact test. It's a testament to the Jetta's crashworthiness.

The New Polo
Volkswagen introduced the redesigned Polo, featuring new headlights, new shape, new grille, and overall larger dimensions. The Polo launches with five petrol engines and four TDI engines all complying with the Euro 4 emission standard.

100 Millionth Volkswagen Leaves Assembly Line

The 100 Millionth Volkswagen, a 1.9L TDI Touran in reflex silver metallic, left the assembly line in Wolfsburg in May.

The VW Gazette

On June 2 at 9:50 PM, The VW Gazette is launched on the Internet. Starting out as a sort of project to combat boredom during the summer, it has grown to be one of the best sources for news about Volkswagen on the Web. It couldn't have been possible without you, the Volkswagen enthusiast. Here's to your continued support. Thank you very much.

Len Hunt Speaks
Perhaps one of the most exciting times this past year was in June when Len Hunt, the then Executive VP of Volkswagen of America, used the public forums of the VWvortex in order to communicate with enthusiasts in North America and provide reassurance. He addressed Volkswagen's ongoing problem with quality and the possibility of bringing over the 5 door GTI, which we now know will come around June 2006.

EPA Fines VW $1 Million for Emission Glitch
The EPA fined Volkswagen AG $1.1 million for failing to fix or notify officials about a defective oxygen sensor in the Golf, Jetta, and New Beetle. The faulty oxygen sensor increased pollution from the models. This was the largest fine ever issued by the EPA for this type of violation, one that Volkswagen AG has agreed to pay. The defective sensor was found on 326,000 models from 1991-2001. Volkswagen has already conducted a recall, costing $26 million to implement.

Meet Stanley
Meet Stanley, your not so average, run-of-the-mill Touareg. Stanley is literally a computer on wheels. Made through the collaboration of the Volkswagen Group's Electronics Research Laboratory and Stanford University, Stanley utilizes many sensors, laser guided detectors, and complex satellite guided GPS systems in order to propell the Touareg without any input from a driver, whether in the vehicle or remotely. Stanford University has entered Stanley in the DARPA Grand Challenge 2005 where other autonomous vehicles will compete with Stanley.

Spying the Eos

It was in July when the first set of spy shots of the Eos surfaced. The photos featured an orange car with camouflaged rear and front ends. The unique folding roof, however, was obvious. The prototype also had design elements from the Concept C car introduced by Volkswagen in the 2004 Geneva Motor Show.

Jetta's First Recall
Volkswagen issued a recall for 39,583 units of the new Jetta. The recall involved a fuel supply clamp in the engine compartment that may not be positioned properly, which could cause a fuel leak running the risk of a fire.

Scandal of the year
Perhaps the biggest news story of 2005 was the shady scandal within Volkswagen AG. It was found that Peter Hartz, head of human resources at Volkswagen AG, bribed union officials with pricey vacations, prostitutes, and prescriptions for Viagra all at the company's expense. Volkswagen immediately launched an internal inquiry, which subsequently revealed the troubling possibility that up to 60 people may have been involved in a ring of corruption.

The New Passat Estate

Volkswagen continues its new model offensive with the introduction of the new Passat Estate. Again, spy shots surfaced of the Estate with camouflage but not much was revealed about the critical rear end from the C-pillar back. The premiere of the Estate in August revealed a dynamic rear end from the C-pillar to the rear hatch. Many people even favoured the Estate's design over the sedan. The new Passat Wagon will premiere in North America at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit with a North American launch in February.

Crispin Porter + Bogusky

Volkswagen announced in September that Crispin Porter + Bogusky will replace Arnold Worldwide as its new advertising agency. CP+B will have full responsibility for the marketing of all products effective December 5. Burger King and Mini are some of the successful accounts that CP+B hold.

iPod in your Volkswagen
Finally, Volkswagen owners have a new option of integrating their favourite music player into their cars. Apple announced in September that they will be offering an integration solution for Volkswagen and Audi cars. The cable would run from behind the dash to either the glove compartment or the centre console. Commands can be made through the radio controls or steering wheel buttons. The iPod integration is available to the majority of the US 2006 models.

Len Hunt leaves Volkswagen of America
September was a sad day for all Volkswagen enthusiasts in North America. It was in September when Volkswagen made an announcement that Len Hunt would leave Volkswagen of America to move to Bentley. Len Hunt was known to be the advocate for Volkswagen enthusiasts, trying hard to get more models over to North America. Adrian Michael Hallmark replaced Len Hunt as Volkswagen of America's Executive Vice President of Volkswagen of America, effective October 1. The grounds of his moving to Bentley have not officially been revealed however, enthusiasts believe some sort of conflict of interest between Len Hunt's wishes and the wishes of Volkswagen AG. Just a few months ago, Len Hunt resigned from Volkswagen AG and went to Kia.

The Golf R32
The legendary R32 returns marking the launch of the most powerful Golf ever. It features a narrow angle VR6 engine producing 250 HP. The Golf R32 also comes equipped with permanent 4MOTION four-wheel drive. The new R32 features the now recognizable MKV Golf shape with subtle changes, most notable of which are the aluminium effect shield grille unique to the R32. Also unique are the air intake ducts which stretch around to the side of the front bumper. The R32 also features a fully painted front and rear bumper and side skirts and have centre mounted twin tailpipes. Unfortunately, we won't get this in North America. However, as every cloud has a silver lining, what we will get in lieu of the powerful R32 is the even more powerful R36 either in Jetta or Golf form or maybe even both.

The Eos
Volkswagen launched the anticipated Eos cabriolet-coupé at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and confirmed the name days before the event. The name refers to the goddess of dawn who rose from the sea in her chariot to bring daylight to people. The Eos features a unique folding steel roof with an integrated sunroof. Top up or down, the Eos has perfect proportions and a perfect stance when viewed from the front. The Eos was expected to be launched by June but due to delays, we can expect a Fall or Winter launch for North America.

The Golf GT
Volkswagen presented the new Golf GT at Frankfurt. Volkswagen also showcased the 1.4L TSI engine and 2.0L TDI, both producing 170 HP. The TSI is a technological marvel combining both economy and performance utilizing a twin-turbocharged FSI engine.

Porsche and Volkswagen
In September, Porsche buys 20% stake in Volkswagen. This action would eliminate any possibility of a hostile takeover, especially if the VW Law is stuck down by the EU thus leaving Volkswagen vulnerable. Porsche's reason for eliminating a possible hostile takeover is that they wanted to maintain their ties with Volkswagen.

Building two new Volkswagens
In September came confirmation that Volkswagen is planning two completely new models. One is a compact SUV (possibly based off of the Golf/Golf Plus) and the other is unknown but could be a sedan positioned above the Passat (maybe a coupé version of the Passat). The confirmation came when Volkswagen announced the production location for both the compact SUV and the other unknown model. The compact SUV is to be built in Wolfsburg and the other model is to be built in Emden.

Stanley Wins DARPA Grand Challenge 2005

A Volkswagen Touareg named Stanley wins the DARPA Grand Challenge 2005. Stanford University won $2 million after crossing the finish line in 6 hours, 53 minutes, and 8 seconds with their fully automated and driverless Touareg, Stanley. The competition involved 23 driverless robots all having to traverse over 130 miles of desert, mountain trails, dry lake beds and tunnels near Primm, Nevada. These vehicles all packed complex sensors and GPS systems which enabled them to move without human assistance.

IIHS praises Passat

The Passat follows in the Jetta's footsteps earning a "Double Best Pick" for excellent performance in front and side tests done by the Institute for Highway Safety.

24 Million Golfs
The 24 millionth Golf was produced in Wolfsburg in November. It was a 2.0L TDI Golf Comfortline in Tornado Red. The Golf was first produced in 1974. In 2002, the Golf surpassed the Beetle's record in production.

Volkswagen released the press release and the first official photos of the North American GTI in November. With many potential GTI buyers waiting eagerly, many who finally saw the GTI in North American form became even more impatient as the GTI scheduled to arrive at our shores in February for the US and March for Canada (but expect it to arrive in Canadian dealerships by the end of February). A few noticeable changes in the North American GTI were the obvious increase in ride height and also the lack of the large bolstered seats, as offered in the European GTIs. Nevertheless, many are still excited to finally have the best GTI since the original MK.I.

The CrossPolo
To be launched in February, Volkswagen premieres the CrossPolo during the Essen Motor Show. It features a funky two tone exterior and interior. This Europe-only model will have three petrol engines and two TDI engines.

The Passat Lingyu
The Passat Lingyu is a China-only version of the new Passat. The Passat Lingyu is distinctly different from its Passat cousin featuring different headlights, taillights and overall shape.

Touareg Kong

With the launch of the movie, Volkswagen released a special edition Touareg called the Touareg Kong. The Touareg Kong features cosmetic differences such as silver coloured front and rear underbody guards, silver-look side view mirror housing, and a chrome surround of the bumper air intake. The rear contains an oval tailpipe. Most importantly, the Touareg Kong has a "King Kong" badge on the B-pillar.

Phaeton Lounge
Ever thought of a Phaeton limousine? Never? Well, now you really don't have to because you can just own it (after taking multiple mortgages on the house, of course). Volkswagen debuted the Phaeton Lounge at the Dubai Motor Show in December. Measuring 6.8 meters, it is hardly your run of the mill Phaeton. The Phaeton Lounge may look restrained from the outside but enter and a lavish interior of wood and leather greets you. The Phaeton Lounge features two 2-seating benches facing each other. Amenities includes an intercom, refrigerator, mini-bar, space for champagne glasses (and the champagne, of course), and a humidor. The multimedia entertainment system includes two 17" monitors, two separate DVD players, and PC integrated into the trunk. A USB port in the console allows a laptop to be connected while a UMTS connection delivers high-speed internet access.

Volkswagen at Sea
Volkswagen Marine has signed a distribution contract with Ring Power in the US making Volkswagen Marine engines available for the first time in the US market. Volkswagen Marine engines were first distributed in Europe in 2001.

From model launches to scandals, 2005 has proved to be a full year for Volkswagen. 2006 should bring a lot of excitement to Volkswagen enthusiasts with the launch of the highly anticipated GTI, Golf, Eos, and the Passat Wagon. Stay tuned for The VW Gazette's Rumor Mill 2005 where we'll go over the past year's speculation regarding Volkswagen's future.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surprised not to see any articles on the DARPA Challenge and the Stanford Toureg "Stanley"?

Fri. Dec. 30, 12:12:00 p.m.  
Anonymous Lorenzo said...

Yes, an oversight on my part. I have now added an article about Stanley and the DARPA Grand Challenge 2005. Look in June and October.

Fri. Dec. 30, 08:44:00 p.m.  

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