by Frank S. Washington —
HALF MOON BAY, Calif., Volkswagen of America brought us here for what they called a full line product review. Not that there’s anything unusual about that; automakers do it all the time. But usually it’s once a year, if that. Volkswagen just held one of these less than a year ago so it made me think ‘What’s up?’
I don’t know about anybody else but the message I got was the classic “we’ve completed our horizontal expansion now let’s go deep.” That means the automaker has broadened its product line almost exponentially from the days when it just sold the Beetle and the Rabbit.
I counted 11 different nameplates in the press materials: Beetle, Eos, and Golf, GTI, Jetta, Passat, Routan, Tiguan, CC and make that 12, if you count the Jetta sportswagon as being different from the Jetta sedan.
Now for the deep part. I really came here because I was interested in how VW had freshened its CC four-door coupe. I’d like to see some more marketing dollars put behind this car because I think its sales would increase dramatically, not that it does that badly now.
Anyway, VW gave the 2013 CC a new front end. In other words, it now wears the broad horizontal grille that is the new design face of Volkswagen. They made it a five-seat passenger car rather than a four-seater. It now has standard Bi-Xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights. And an R version (read performance) will join in the lineup in early 2013.
The interior materials have been enhanced. Our test car featured brushed aluminum, leather seats and two tones of color. Volkswagen said, “New standard interior features include front head restraints that adjust fore-and-aft as well as up-and-down. In this new design, the head restraint can be pulled forward and, because it lies closer to the head, further helps reduce the risk of whiplash in a crash.”
The car can be equipped with either of two engines: a 200 horsepower two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder or a 3.6 liter V6 that makes 280 horsepower power. Two gear boxes are available: a manual six-speed transmission or a six-speed dual clutch automatic.
The car has a bunch of equipment that is either optional or standard depending on the trim line. It includes voice controls, navigation system, satellite radio, all-wheel-drive, high definition radio, auxiliary and USB jacks, Bluetooth and media device interfaces.
We had the two liter, 200 horsepower turbo four-cylinder on a brief drive to Volkswagen’s research center in San Mateo. On the short drive, VW product manager John Ryan sat behind me in the second row. I was surprised that he didn’t ask me to let my seat up. That’s normally the case when people are riding in the second row of midsize cars.
Our CC was quiet; it handled the twisting two lane mountainous roads like Skyline, Marine Parkway and Island Parkway effortlessly. The engine was responsive and there was no heavy breathing to handle the elevations. There were three of us and we all rode comfortably. The improvements to the CC were subtle but worked well.
I think VW has taken a giant step in its corporate plan to become the No.1 automaker in the world. The CC now has five trim levels and each has its own wheel design. The CC’s price points range from $30,610 to $41,420 not including freight charges.
Now take that kind of expansion and apply it to 11 nameplates and what Volkswagen is really doing gets clearer. Sales were up 26 percent last year and this year the company from Wolfsburg, Germany, is ahead of that pace. In fact, a Volkswagen official said the company was profitable in the U.S. last year and that was the first time since 2003.
Now, if VW would just take a couple more bucks to do more advertising and marketing for the CC.