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Volkswagen considering a four-door, four-seat XL1

Fri, 22 Aug 2014 10:15:00 EST

According to a report in Autocar, Volkswagen might have more in mind for the XL1 than mining it for advances to grace the next-generation Golf. Aiming to fight the Honda FCEV due for public consumption next year, we're told VW executives have put a four-door, four-seater version of the XL1 - it could be called XL2 - on the drawing board. The impetus is said to come from the top, with VW Group chairman Ferdinand Piëch intent on staying in the deep end of "super-efficent vehicles."
Autocar suspects the necessary changes could raise the weight of the car from 1,749 pounds to 2,068 pounds, which would make it four pounds less than the 2,072-pound Up! we drove a few years ago. Crucially, however, the mag thinks the extra capacity wouldn't change the two-seater's 310-mile-per-gallon rating, with tech tweaks and the aerodynamic benefit of a longer car offsetting the weight. Speculation is that the back seats would be staggered like the fronts in order to maintain the XL1's overall profile.
We recently heard about another XL1 variant that's gone off the radar entirely, the Ducati-engined XLR that we thought we'd see at the Geneva Motor Show and that was said to be going into production, so this one could go the same way. The biggest hurdle to making such an idea a reality, though, could be the price: the current XL1 costs 110,000 euros ($146,116). If VW really is going to compete with the Honda FCEV and the Toyota FCV - $70,000 in Japan - that might be where it wants to start.

How VW's hyper-efficient XL1 will influence the next Golf

Mon, 18 Aug 2014 18:31:00 EST

In 2007, the European Union mandated fleet average CO2 emissions of 158.7 g/km. For 2015, that figure will drop to 130 g/km, and the target for 2020 is an ambitions 95 g/km. Thanks to some German politicking, that target will be phased in from 2020 to 2024, but it will still apply to 80 percent of passenger cars in that first year. In US miles per gallon, that's the equivalent of going from about 35 mpg to 42 mpg to 57 mpg. The current Volkswagen Golf is rated from 85 g/km of CO2 to 190 g/km depending on model - and zero for the e-Golf, so for the next-generation MkVIII hatch due in 2019, to meet the goal, Volkswagen engineers will need to introduce a bunch of new tricks. According to a report in Autocar, VW be mining its hyper-efficient XL1 for some of them.
Predictions for the next Golf include a variable-compression engine, an electric flywheel and an electric turbo, along with taking greater advantage of coasting. Volkswagen could be getting help from Audi with the electric turbo and variable-compression engine and electric turbo, with Audi already having shown off the former and brand technical boss Ulrich Hackenberg confirming the VW Group is working on the latter. It's possible the flywheel system could also have the mark of The Four Rings: Autocar mentions a British system that Volvo is testing, but the R18 e-tron Quattro racer has been using one for years.
The need for such features is because the company won't be able to net enough future gains from just aerodynamic improvements and advanced materials. As price will be a factor (the regulations are expected to "add hundreds of euros to the cost of building a car"), adding much more aluminum or carbon fiber is an unlikely option. We're told the next generation won't be longer or wider than the current car, and being Europe's most popular model, VW doesn't want to make a big bet on futuristic aero, but the report says the MkVIII will "likely" have "the most aerodynamic treatment yet seen on a production vehicle," the area where lessons learned from the XL1 will truly be seen.

Get ready to Camino-ize your fourth-generation VW Jetta with this kit

Tue, 05 Aug 2014 16:20:00 EST

Inexpensive, small pickup trucks used to be everywhere in the US, whether they were from Japanese brands like Datsun or Toyota, the truly weird Subaru Brat or even from Europe with the Volkswagen Caddy based on the Golf. These days that market has completely disappeared, but if you're willing to pick up some tools to build your own, there's a company out there bringing the Caddy back as a kit for the Jetta.
Mark Smith knows a thing about building a vehicle at home. He has over two decades in the DIY-car business as a co-founder of Local Motors and the company that became Factory Five Racing. His latest venture is Smyth Performance and already offers a mid-engine, VW-based kit called the G3F. His new product, though, started as a fluke. "I just wanted a shop truck," said Smith to Autoblog. He already had a Ford F-450 but found that he was driving around with the bed empty most of the time. The result was a pickup truck based on the fourth-generation Jetta that he dubbed the Ute.
The kit retails for $3,500 and ships in three, big boxes, and it's designed to be built and painted in a weekend. Buyers get fiberglass exterior panels, a fiberglass rear window surround, sliding rear window, an aluminum reinforced bed with a tubular steel subframe, taillights, a fully functional steel tailgate, and other parts. In the end, you get a vehicle with a six-foot bed and a payload of around 700-750 pounds. The Ute maintains all of the factory suspension, fuel tank and emissions equipment and requires just a few cuts in the body to complete. "We did a modern Caddy," admits Smith.

VW's Winterkorn tells 20,000 staffers of big cost-cutting plans

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:42:00 EST

During a gathering of 20,000 Volkswagen Group employees at company headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany on Wednesday, CEO Martin Winterkorn dropped a bombshell. The boss stated that the automaker isn't operating efficiently enough and admitted the company needs to radically start cutting back to raise its profit margins. To right the ship, Winterkorn has proposed killing off less profitable models and spending less on research and development.
According to Reuters, Winterkorn wants to raise the VW brand's profit margin from about 2.9 percent in 2013 to a target of 6 percent. To make that possible, his plan amounts to increasing cost cutting until Volkswagen reaches about 5 billion euros ($6.7 billion) per year to get things back in order. "Over the short-term, we urgently need more efficiency and higher profit," the CEO said during his speech, according to Reuters.
However, Winterkorn can't make these decisions unilaterally. Volkswagen's works council also has a seat on the supervisory board to represent laborers, and it isn't likely to take the proposed cuts sitting down.

Volkswagen says goodbye to Eos, Routan in 2015 updates

Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:29:00 EST

Usually automakers announce changes to their lineup individually on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis, but sometimes it all comes at once - especially when the changes are ones we either expected or might not otherwise notice. That's the path Volkswagen has gone with changes to its US lineup for 2015.
The biggest change is what we already knew: that the new Golf arrives for the 2015 model year, bringing with it the new GTI, Golf R, e-Golf and Golf SportWagen (to replace the previous Jetta wagon). But there are some new details as well.
For starters, Volkswagen has finally confirmed that both the Eos and the Routan - both long rumored to be on their way out - will be exiting this year. The Eos hardtop convertible, pictured above, will linger for one last year, its Sport trim replaced by a new Final Edition with 18-inch wheels, two-tone leather interior and enhanced equipment.

VW to relax ambitious US sales targets?

Fri, 16 May 2014 09:29:00 EST

The Volkswagen brand sold 407,704 cars last year, a 6.95-percent decline compared to 2012, and it's down a further 8.36 percent through the end of April 2014 compared to this time last year. In order to to put the sales football between its Strategy 2018 goal posts, the brand would need to add 100,000 more sales every year to achieve the lofty 800,000-unit target. Coming to grips with how unreasonable that is, VW US CEO Michael Horn has said, "For now, we have to have realistic targets."
The reasons for the brand's slow-down are imprecise, but lots of folks are throwing lots of reasons around. Last November, VW Group Chairman Ferdinand Piech told Bloomberg, "We understand Europe, we understand China and we understand Brazil, [but] we only understand the US to a certain degree so far." Analysts say the brand hasn't had midsize and compact SUV offerings, especially an overdue retail version of the CrossBlue, and the ones it does have are priced too high for their segments. It "didn't introduce enough new engines, or alternative technologies or model variants" for the Passat and Jetta. It devoted so many resources to China that the US market suffered. It was being outspent two-to-one on advertising by competitors. Its J.D. Power dependability ratings aren't high enough to overcome its past. It "has never really taken the US customer seriously." And so on.
There's still no official admission of defeat concerning the target, but reading between the lines there are some VW execs that appear to accept it won't happen short of some deus ex machina. Still,

Volkswagen NMC production guise caught in China

Tue, 29 Apr 2014 11:29:00 EST

Chinese car site Autohome has what are said to be the first pictures of the Volkswagen New Midsize Coupe concept in production form. VW's NMC was just introduced at the Beijing Motor Show, while background chatter indicated it would go on sale in China, Autohome says that production version will be built at the Shanghai-Volkswagen plant in Ningbo, and the retail guise could be introduced at the Guangzhou Motor Show in November and go on sale that same month.
Assuming this is the production car, its main lines have made the jump from the concept but with less fine detailing, a silver hue and with conventional VW wheels it's lost a little bit of oomph. Still, a few checkmarks on the option sheet can fix most of that, the shape remains handsome and the 2.0-liter turbo underhood keeps performance peppy and mileage frugal enough. You can head to Autohome for a couple more photos of a sedan we'd be happy to make room for over here.

Former Porsche boss Wiedeking won't face criminal charges over VW bid

Mon, 28 Apr 2014 11:01:00 EST

Hedge fund managers have been suing Porsche for years now, alleging that the car company lied about its intentions during its failed attempt to take over Volkswagen, a gambit that caused them billion in losses. Over the same period, authorities in Stuttgart built a criminal case against former CEO Wendelin Wiedeking (above, left) and Chief Financial Officer Holger Härter (right), filing charges in December 2012. When those fund plaintiffs lost their most recent court case, one of the dimming lights in the dark and receding tunnel was that the criminal investigation might unearth more evidence about Porsche's actions that could help the plaintiffs in pending litigation.
Bloomberg reports that another light has gone out, though, with a Stuttgart court dismissing the market manipulation case before going to trial because, as a court spokesperson said, "there wasn't enough evidence backing up the charges." When prosecutors get the files back from the court, they have a week to decide to refile, but unless they've been sandbagging evidence that could bolster the case, the only lights at the end of the tunnel will be those welcoming Wiedeking and Härter back to the world of legally unencumbered men.

VW using other manufacturing locations as leverage in battle with TN [w/video]

Sat, 26 Apr 2014 15:01:00 EST

We've reached a new step in the ongoing drama at Volkswagen's factory in Chattanooga, TN. The United Auto Workers recently dropped its opposition to the union vote and agreed that it wouldn't hold another ballot for at least a year. Now, the new question becomes where VW is going to build its forthcoming midsize SUV.
Earlier, it had been considered all but certain that the SUV, likely a production version of the CrossBlue concept (pictured above), would be built in Tennessee. However, it seems the Chattanooga factory might have competition to produce it. In emails obtained by The Detroit News, VW's lawyer wrote to the Tennessee economic development department in January saying, "While we understand there are some 'non-deal' issues that are causing a delay in the TN solution, VW has been successful in reaching agreement on terms at the alternative locations."
As previously reported, the state of Tennessee allegedly offered VW about $300 million in incentives to build the vehicle there and create an estimated 1,350 jobs, but it later rescinded the deal. Newly leaked documents from NewsChannel 5 (WTVF-TV) in Nashville allegedly show just how close that offer was to being completed. It appears that VW actually sent the government the first draft of a memorandum of understanding agreeing to the incentives, but the state removed the offer in late January.

VW announces recall of 26,000 2014 models with 1.8T engines

Tue, 22 Apr 2014 09:15:00 EST

Volkswagen has followed up on a stop-sale order from earlier this month, announcing a voluntarily recall of 26,400 vehicles that are powered by the brand's 1.8-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The new mill replaced the despised 2.5-liter five-cylinder in the Jetta, Passat, Beetle and Beetle Convertible last year. Weirdly, though, of the 26,452 units covered in the recall, only 1,655 are customer vehicles.
According to VW, the affected models were built between February 1 and April 6 of this year, and feature bad O-ring seals in the transmission oil cooler. Apparently, the faulty O-rings could cause a fluid leak, as they won't seal between the oil cooler and transmission. VW is blaming a material change from a supplier for the problem.
There have been no fires, injuries, accidents or fatalities relating to this issue, which VW will be fixing free of charge. Customers will need to report to dealers to have the O-rings replaced.