VW abandons ‘Farfegnugen’ for market share?

February 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Volkswagen Wolfsburg industrial plant (Wolfsbu...

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Farfegnugen’ or ‘the thrill of the drive’ may be dying at VW.  The stout and nimbleness of the German manufactured auto is what many have been drawn to and yet it’s also been the bane of VW’s existence in the US and Asia.  The cost to manufacture ‘performance’ comes with a price – perceived and real.  Their design and manufacturing process is steeped in performance and neglects the practical and economical factors that have made Toyota and Honda such successes.  German’s have historically been focused on creating the ‘ultimate driving machine’ (to borrow BMW’s tag) and this has come at a cost for VW.

Although, the performance strategy works in some regions but it falls short in their most lucrative.  Consider the practical and conservative nature of the US or the tech driven markets like Japan and Korea or the cost conscience countries like India.  VW is simply not on the radar in these markets simply because their product does not speak to the consumer’s needs.  Consider a VW or any German make for that matter; the auto’s are not built on a heavy tech platform or do not, on many occasions, share the same components due the nature of the design and its performance specs; unlike VW’s Asian counterparts.  German automotive engineering is not based on practicality.  Something as simple as a cup holder is elusive in the design process – if you’ve driven a VW you know what I mean.

For years, VW has tried to defend its position.  However, after years of lagging sales, VW had to take drastic measures to redefine themselves and it begins by understanding their markets first and then designing around those needs and not force-feed their product into markets where they’ve historically received a cool reception.  This approach, however, inherently is not in VW’s DNA, it was difficult to digest at first; but if they wanted to become a dominant force in the industry they needed to build based on their prospective customers needs and need to redefine the way think of automotive product development.

The new designs of the Jetta and Passat are clear indications that VW understands the US market.  According to Car & Driver, what the Jetta lost in performance it gained in practicality (I am paraphrasing a bit).  Car & Driver liked the car for all the practical reasons but as performance goes the car lacked excitement – it’s perfect for the US market.  As for the Passat, this will be the first vehicle in which VW has built on US soil, Chattanooga, TN (the original location was thought to be outside of Detroit) – it’s a message to the US consumer that VW is serious about the market.

The turmoil Toyota has encountered and the monotony of Asian design gives VW a chance at giving Asian manufacturers a run for their money at least in the US.  However, what VW will gain it will also most certainly lose and that just may be ‘Farfegnugen’.

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