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Auto blogThu, 18 Oct 2012 15:45:00 EST
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.
This was bound to happen. Volkswagen's relentless drive for big volume has the brand mining seemingly every niche it can find for additional sales worldwide. And with its CLS Shooting Brake, fellow countryman Mercedes-Benz has already shown that a wagon based off of a "four-door coupe" can look dead sexy and command extra dollars. So it follows that the Volkswagen CC (whose existence is all but directly attributable to the success of the original CLS sedan) will also get a load-lugging variant. That's according to the UK's Autocar, which notes that the five-door will come in the CC's next generation.
According to the report, the next CC will be available in front and all-wheel drive variants with the usual assortment of gas and diesel four-cylinders found in the Wolfsburg empire, with the possibility of a gas plug-in hybrid model, too. The rakish estate will ride atop VW's MQB architecture, a shorter variant of which is also found underneath the new Golf. The scalable chassis is set to spread like kudzu throughout the company's lineup, but the CC probably won't happen until after the launch of the next European-market Passat in 2015.
Will we get it in North America? Hard to say. Volkswagen sells the standard CC saloon here, but not in particularly large numbers, and when the company moved to a North American-specific Passat, it dumped the wagon variant. The traditional VW estate apparently continues to pick up sales momentum abroad, however, making the CC Shooting Brake a seemingly natural fit for buyers who still want the utility of a two-box form but can afford to sacrifice a bit of cargo room in the name of style.
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.