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Car companies may need to start curbing model proliferation

Mon, 17 Nov 2014 17:59:00 EST

Looking at the current automotive landscape, especially from German makers, you quickly get the impression that less definitely isn't more. BMW alone offers its 3 Series platform in practically every segment possible, including the regular sedan and 4 Series Gran Coupe, which would seem to be direct competitors. Porsche might be the winner, though, with 20 different variants of the 911 listed for sale on its US website. However, some of this model madness might be reaching an end as companies begin cutting back spending or shifting money to other priorities.
According to Yahoo Finance, the offerings from the German automakers are up 25 percent over the past three years to over 200 models in Europe. The peak is expected to come around 2018 at 230 separate vehicles, according to consulting company PwC.
Amazingly, BMW, which is among the poster children for this model explosion, might be changing its tune. "I'm sure there will be points in the future where we look at certain cars and say, 'Maybe we need to think differently now,'" said head of sales Ian Robertson in an interview, according to Yahoo Finance. The statement certainly sounds shocking coming from a company rumored to have 23 front-wheel-drive vehicles all using a single platform on the way.

This Or That: 1987 VW Vanagon Syncro vs. 1987 Land Rover Defender [w/poll]

Thu, 13 Nov 2014 12:44:00 EST

As I scoured auction sites and classified ads for the perfect vehicle to take into battle with Autoblog Associate Editor Brandon Turkus, I knew I needed to find something unique. You see, I'm currently 0-2 at winning a round of This or That, in which two of our editors agree on a category, choose a side, and argue it out over a (mostly) friendly chain of emails.
The first time we did this, my chosen Fiat 500 Abarth took about a third of the popular vote in our reader poll. The second time, my lovely 1980 Oldsmobile 442 did just a little bit better against a 1989 BMW 635 CSi. Despite holding the opinion that my automotive choices, though perhaps a little bit more... obscure than my fellow editors, are still better, an outright win would go a long way toward boosting my vehicular self worth a few notches upward.
With all of that out of the way, even if three isn't my lucky number after all, I go into battle against Brandon knowing full well that I've made the perfect choice: A 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro. My rough-and-tumble van/'ute has a formidable opponent in the form of a 1987 Land Rover Defender, which, truth be told, is exactly what I was expecting from Turkus, a self-proclaimed Rover aficionado.

VW Chattanooga plant very close to UAW representation

Tue, 11 Nov 2014 10:30:00 EST

After months of fighting from both sides, it looks like the Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, TN, might unionize under the United Auto Workers after all. According to a letter acquired by The Associated Press, VW and the UAW reportedly struck a deal last spring where the union agreed to stop its challenge of the organization vote with the National Labor Relations Board to help clear the way for the CrossBlue to be produced in Tennessee. In exchange, the automaker would recognize the UAW at the plant. Leaders of the Local 42 at the facility reportedly signed the letter.
It seems that such an agreement would clear the way for the factory to unionize after months of dispute. According to The Detroit News, under Tennessee law, workers aren't required to join the organization. Although, that might not be a problem. As of a few months ago, Local 42 already claimed to have signed around 700 of the plant's roughly 1,500 workers.
Controversy has constantly swirled around the possible unionization at the Chattanooga plant. The UAW held its official decision in February and lost 712 to 626. However, there were allegations of intense political pressure to make sure the ballot failed. A later report also found that VW was offered $300 million in incentives well before the vote to make sure things progressed to the "satisfaction of the State of Tennessee," but the deal was later retracted. In July, the UAW opened Local 42 on the campus in hopes of signing up a majority of the workforce by volunteering to be a part of it.

VW recalls 1.1M Jetta, Beetle models in US, China over suspension fears

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 17:45:00 EST

Volkswagen is recalling about 1.1 million vehicles in China and North America in a newly announced campaign affecting the rear suspensions on some models. For the US, the action covers about 442,265 vehicles, including 400,602 examples of its 2011-2013 Jetta and 41,663 units of the 2012-2013 Beetle and Beetle Convertible. According to Reuters, the recall affects a further 126,000 vehicles in Canada and about 581,090 in China, including related market-specific models like the Sagitar.
The problem can occur if the affected models have a collision to the rear or the side-rear of the vehicle. It's then possible for the trailing arms on the torsion-beam rear suspension to be damaged. If the harm isn't noticed, then the part could fracture while driving. Obviously, a broken rear suspension is going to have an adverse effect on handling.
To fix things, VW dealers will inspect the trailing arms on the models, and they will all receive a sheetmetal part that will make a distinctive sound if broken in the future. If already damaged, the entire torsion beam will be replaced. Obviously, this work will be done at no charge to owners.

VW reveals Outback-rivaling Golf Alltrack ahead of Paris

Wed, 24 Sep 2014 11:31:00 EST

The Volkswagen Passat Alltrack is getting a baby brother at this year's 2014 Paris Motor Show in the form of a new Golf Alltrack. Like its larger sibling, the little wagon is supposed to offer light-duty off-road driving ability combined with a more rugged look to show it off.
To give the Golf Alltrack that soft-road ability, VW is outfitting the wagon with its latest 4Motion all-wheel drive system from Haldex. The setup can decouple power from the rear-axle when not needed to save fuel. To further improve traction, the Alltrack gets VW's electronic differential lock, and the car can individually brake its inside wheel during hard cornering for better handling.
Volkswagen also wants the Alltrack to be able to visually show that it can handle getting away from the pavement, even though it starts life as a standard Golf wagon. That means jacking up the suspension an extra 0.75 inches and adding black moldings all the way around the car. There are also redesigned bumpers for the front and rear and silver underbody protection, plus new accents like anodized roof rails and silver mirror caps. The interior is essentially unchanged from the wagon, except for altered trim and Alltrack badges.

Volkswagen offers Beetle Classic, priced from $20,195*

Tue, 23 Sep 2014 14:31:00 EST

The current Volkswagen Beetle already tries to be a fairly retro-looking ride by cribbing styling elements from the iconic original. However, for the new, limited-edition Classic model, VW is hopping into the time machine to grab even more vintage cues. The company is even cutting the price, perhaps in hopes of turning around flagging sales this year. You don't need to wait long for any of these upgrades either because the automaker says that the Classic goes on sale this week for $20,195, *excluding the $820 destination charge. That's $100 less than a bone-stock Beetle.
Starting as a standard Beetle with VW's 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, the Classic edition comes with a six-speed automatic and then adds some retro flair. It includes new vintage-look 17-inch wheels with simulated dog dish polished hubcaps over black spokes. It also comes with a rear spoiler, and the automaker is offering the model in Pure White, Black Uni, and Reflex Silver.
The interior mixes in a few more classic touches but includes modern amenities like a standard navigation system, satellite radio and multifunction steering wheel. However, the seats are finished in a two-tone design combining light brown leatherette on the sides and checked cloth centers, plus lumbar support for the driver's side. The shift knob and handbrake also get wrapped in leather.

Tanner Foust checks out his new VW Beetle GRC rally car

Thu, 11 Sep 2014 16:29:00 EST

Racing driver and Top Gear USA host Tanner Foust is a very busy guy. After all, he's competing in rounds of both Global Rallycross series and FIA World Rallycross Championship, not to mention his TV duties. However, we probably shouldn't feel too sorry for him, because his job puts him behind the wheel of some truly crazy machinery.
Case in point is his latest ride in Global Rallycross - the Volkswagen Beetle GRC. The German company claims that this all-wheel drive Bug makes around 540 horsepower from its 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and can shoot to 60 in under 2 seconds. Plus, if this video is any indication, this Volkswagen sounds like a machine gun when throwing revs at idle, and it can do some wonderfully easy four-wheel drifts.
Previously, Foust was driving a VW Polo for Andretti Autosport in GRC, but the team unveiled the look of the Beetle GRC at the Chicago Auto Show. Now, Foust is finally getting to show off his new office to the public, and like VW's tagline for the new car claims, it's way hotter than Herbie.

Volkswagen and Funny or Die take humorous spin in 2015 Golf

Wed, 10 Sep 2014 15:00:00 EST

Volkswagen is partnering with Target and Funny or Die in a bizarre ad for the latest Golf starring comedian Rob Huebel, probably best known for his work on Childrens Hospital on Adult Swim.
The commercial is titled The Way Too Helpful Neighbor and stars Huebel as the eponymous neighbor. The challenge is for Huebel to help improve his buddy's apartment before the guy meets his girlfriend's parents for the first time. The obvious way to do that is to slide a new Golf through an actual Target in Texas, while simultaneously showcasing the store's goods and the car's features.
The commercial is airing online now and on TBS during breaks in Conan O'Brien's show, with sneak peaks during other programs on the network. Auto advertising is becoming pretty normal for Funny or Die at this point, though, with the site previously partnering with Fiat for several videos. Check out the ad above and see if you think it works. Scroll down for VW's announcement.

Lamando is Chinese for VW Jetta CC [w/video]

Sun, 31 Aug 2014 16:58:00 EST

Volkswagen is not messing around when it characterizes its new MQB architecture as modular. It's already underpinning the VW Golf, Audi A3, Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia, and will soon form the basis for many more. And here is the latest.
Unveiled at the Chengdu Motor Show in China this weekend is the new Volkswagen Lamando, a four-door coupe similar in size to a Jetta but with the svelter roofline of the larger Passat-based CC to go after the Mercedes-Benz CLA. It's essentially the production version of the New Midsize Coupe concept that previewed its arrival at the Beijing Motor Show this past April, and will be built locally for local consumption by VW's joint venture with SAIC.
Power comes from either a 1.4- or 2.0-liter turbo four mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, with an equivalent price tag below $30,000. Whether this or any similar vehicle ever arrives in North American showrooms remains to be seen, but we'll be watching to find out. In the meantime you can scope it out in the trippy video below and the photos in the gallery above.

Anti-UAW VW workers move to form own union

Sat, 30 Aug 2014 15:01:00 EST

The struggle over unionization at the Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, TN, continues to get more complicated. There's now a second union fighting to organize at the plant; although this one is staunchly against the actions of the United Auto Workers. At the same time, the UAW is still signing up voluntary members to its recently created Local 42 at the facility and is reportedly near having a majority of the hourly employees on its side.
The new, anti-UAW union campaign is being spearheaded by employee Mike Burton, according to Reuters, and he calls his group the American Council of Employees. He claims to already have 108 signatures in support of his organization. Burton believes that the UAW is harmful to businesses, and his goal is to force another vote to determine a preferred union among workers.
The UAW was initially defeated (712 to 626) when it attempted a union vote at the Tennessee plant in February. However, UAW secretary-treasurer Gary Casteel told Reuters that Local 42 has already signed up over 700 members. If it can reach a majority of the roughly 1,500 employees, the group hopes VW might consider recognizing it as the factory's union.