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Auto blogWed, 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.
Less than two months ago, the Volkswagen Group opened a new facility in Oxnard, California (about an hour's drive west of Los Angeles). The $27 million investment, touted as Test Center California (TCC), serves as a research and development lab testing emissions for all brands under Volkswagen's umbrella, including its newest member, Porsche. While still not fully operational, we toured the new 64,000-square-foot building last week and had a first-hand opportunity to see just how much work is involved testing engines and meeting increasingly stringent government emissions standards.
Replacing a similar facility established in 1990 in Westlake Village (about 20-minutes east of the new location), our guide explained how Oxnard was chosen for its temperate climate, varied regional terrain for test drives and low altitude. (The area is only a few feet above sea level - a critical parameter when instrument testing emissions.) The new facility is capable of analyzing hundreds of vehicles, prototypes and customer-owned vehicles, annually.
Most interesting to us was the huge stainless steel climate chamber, with a massive four-wheel dynamometer that allows VW to test running vehicles in both scorching desert and freezing climates without ever leaving the building (an Audi Q7 was running in place during our visit). We were also mesmerized by the countless storage tanks and intricate plumbing of chemicals, stored in both liquid and gas states, needed to perform the variety of tests. Lastly, we took a look at Bugatti's service center on the west coast, located completely within the new center. While there were no supercars on site, the facility is equipped with plenty of spare forged wheels (mounted with expensive Michelin PAX tires) and a Veyron-specific repair jig that allows the vehicle to be completely disassembled, if needed. It is a shame that the facility, which set off all of our automotive geek alerts, is closed to the public.
Bloomberg Markets is reporting that BMW, Volkswagen and Ferrari have been using tungsten ore sourced from Columbia's FARC rebel terrorists. The extensive story focuses on Columbia's illegal mining trade and calls into question the provenance of the rare ore that is used not only in crankshaft parts production, but is also found in the world's computing and telecommunications industry for use in screens.
The ore is mined by the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People's Army), and exported to Pennsylvania, where it is refined. The refined ore is then sent over to Austria, where a company called Plansee turns it into a finished product. Now, it's important to note that we aren't talking about the world's supply of tungsten here. In 2012, Plansee's American refinery purchased 93.2 metric tons of tungsten, valued at $1.8 million. That's peanuts, with the entire Colombian tungsten mining industry producing just one percent of the world's supplies.
That doesn't make indirectly supporting FARC any more acceptable, though. BMW, VW and Ferrari are all committed to not accepting mineral supplies from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is also in the grips of a guerrilla insurrection funded, in part, by illegal mining. The same commitment would figure to extend to Colombian mining, but as BMW points out, it's difficult for a multi-national manufacturer to know where every item in its supply chain comes from. A company spokesperson says as much, telling Bloomberg, "These few grams out of the billions of tons of raw materials passing through the BMW supply chain are of no practical relevance."