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The Ball. You Dropped It.

February 7, 2008

Volkswagen frustrates me.

Not because their products suck. Far from it.  The frustration is more similar to that which I feel toward the Star Wars prequels. Technical marvels, yes, but when you consider the potential for what could have been, versus the reality of what they actually were, you can’t help but feel let down.

Case in point – the new Volkswagen Routan.

A few years back, VW graced the world with a new Microbus concept, a revival along the lines of the New Beetle…

In my opinion, this one was a no brainer. It was the perfect vehicle to revive the ailing minivan category. But Volkswagen never built it. Instead they decided they would try to compete with their own luxury brand – Audi – and released the Phaeton and Touareg instead.

Fast forward to this year’s Chicago Auto Show, and Volkswagen has finally gotten around to releasing a minivan, the Routan.

The Routan is little more than a Chrysler Town & Country with some VW massaging here and there. It’s no Microbus, and it’s certainly not a vehicle that will breathe new life into a category that became frumpy and boring, oh, FOURTEEN YEARS AGO.

Too little, too late. Volkswagen could have had a phenomenon on its hands had it built the Microbus. But the Routan? Not a chance.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Kay permalink
    February 7, 2008 8:47 am

    I agree. I like the way they were headed with the concept microbus. It reminds be of the old VW bus from the 70s. Different from any of the minivans of today.

  2. February 7, 2008 11:59 am

    You hit it on the head. I sell VW in Houston and would rather have the microbus to sell rather than a reworked T&C

  3. Matt permalink
    February 11, 2008 2:04 pm

    What’s this? A vehicle post attracting comments? Perish the thought!

  4. vdublicious permalink
    March 13, 2008 8:06 pm

    the new buss’s are disgusting id rather drive a hybrid then that. volkswagen is way out of there element with this terribly ugly thing

  5. Mark permalink
    June 30, 2008 11:49 am

    This is 100% and absolutely right. I was waiting for that “Cucumber” to arrive, even got a little toy (model) version of it, so you can imagine my disappointment, when I found it wasn’t going to be made…

  6. Mark permalink
    July 10, 2008 8:44 pm

    … and one more thing: if this new Chrysler/VW (?!) doesn’t have (at least an option) of original VW engine, it is not going to be the VW!

  7. October 10, 2008 8:02 pm

    The irony here is that, back in the 70s, when we experienced our first energy crisis, during the OPEC oil embargo, there was suddenly a huge demand for small, fuel-efficient autos (sound familiar?) and Chrysler knew only how to build big gas-guzzlers like Newports and Cordobas. They (Chrysler) couldn’t adapt fast enough and went belly-up. The U.S. Government rushed in and bailed out the ailing automaker, installing Lee Iaccoca its new CEO. What was Lee’s secret weapon, used to transform and resurrect Chrysler into a competitive car company? Volkswagens. That’s right: Dodge “Omni” & Plymouth “Horizon” was modeled after the Golf/Rabbit. The “024” was a Scirocco. The “Rampage” was a Rabbit pickup. The 2.2L 4 cyl was Chrysler, but the 1.7 was actually a VW/Audi motor, manufactured by VW and used in the new Chryslers. Even some of the original Caravans, the so-called “first mini-van,” used VW motors. I’ll never forget when I showed my friend’s dad the VW motor under the hood of his Dodge K-car. He stared at the VW/Audi emblem on the cylinder head and said, “I’ll be Goddammed!” So now the shoe is on the other foot, Daimler-Chrysler is the worlds largest automaker, and is technically a GERMAN-owned company, and Volkswagen must stoop to selling re-badged Chryslers, made in America, that masquerade as minivans. Lame!

  8. October 11, 2008 9:29 am

    Ooops! I should have written “made in North America.” Routans are actually built at the Chrysler facility in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Long story short, in case you were unable to draw my conclusion for me is that, although Chrysler claims to have invented/originated the minivan concept (bullshit, if you ask me–it was VW in 1949!), there would have been no Chrysler minivan if Chrysler hadn’t turned to Volkswagen for its resurrection “back in the day.” I blame Volkswagen. They used to be innovative, cutting edge and not afraid to take bold risks. Now, I see them as suffering from an identity crisis: They would like to continue to be the efficient, utilitarian, “People’s Car” that is their namesake, a car that appeals to clever, conservative people, but also aspire to a portion of the sport/luxury market that is held by BMW and Mercedes. All this has done is create a snobby VW owner who is bitter that he couldn’t afford the Bimmer and has to settle for the VW. I think they should let Audi be their luxury division and get back to their original principles. If Volkswagen had let their boxer engine continue to evolve (like Subaru has!) and mated it with vehicles more like the Volkswagens of their heyday, they would be dominating the sport compact market, possibly diesel and hybrid as well. I wish I could buy a Volkswagen today that is as technologically advanced and utilitarian as the Squarebacks I used to drive or the Vanagon I now drive, but it doesn’t exist!


  1. Cars » The Ball. You Dropped It.
  2. The Routan Survives « Carpe Hot Dog

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