Volkswagen’s recent introduction of the nifty Eos convertible, the high-performance GTI and the re-emergence of the cost-conscious Rabbit represent a new era for the venerable German company. Or perhaps the more correct expression of this thought would be to say that Volkswagen has returned to its roots , automobiles delivering innovation and good performance at a rock bottom price.
And a return to its past also draws the curtain on Volkswagen’s ill-fated attempt to move into the luxury market as a competitor to Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
Students of marketing as well as anyone fascinated with the auto industry should closely study Volkswagen’s attempted renovation.
The eternal question is whether a company can change its basic market position and jump from the low-price segment up to the luxury market. Conventional wisdom says this is a very difficult task , that once you’ve defined your product and its value, it is tough to make a radical move in another direction.
The Volkswagen example seems to prove conventional thinking.
Volkswagen carved out a hugely successful market with its inexpensive, economical compact cars.
Who among us hasn’t been the proud driver of a Beetle, Micro Bus, Rabbit, Golf or Jetta as a college student or for use as a first car with the advent of a full-time professional position? My wife still gets misty when she talks about the purchase of a sexy new VW Karmann Ghia coupe when she finished nursing school and left New Jersey to work at a Boston hospital.
The vision of transforming Volkswagen was that of former Chairman Ferdinand Piech.
The upscale move saw the advent of the V-8 Touareg sport utility vehicle, the eight-cylinder Passat and the Phaeton luxury sedan as a competitor to the Mercedes S-Class. Yes, it was a long, long way from the humble Beetle and the public wasn’t buying. All that remains of the luxury strategy is the Touareg; Volkswagen is back to basics.
The Eos convertible is cute, snappy and has been getting more attention in the parking lot than any car I’ve driven in recent memory.
No wonder, it looks perky, but without any degree of ostentation. This is one convertible that looks good either way , top up or down. And more than anything else, convertibles are about looking good. Since the first Beetle ragtop, the Volkswagen convertible always has gathered a strong following among very classy women with lots of taste, but no trust fund.
There is one downside to the Eos convertible top, however. When you put the top down, there is very little room in the trunk. One woman we met was very disappointed when informed that she couldn’t put several golf bags in the trunk with the top folded down.
The Eos’ interior is very well executed. The controls are well arranged and easy to use. I also like the optional navigation system. Although not quite in the same league as the nav system in current Toyota and Honda products, it is mounted high on the dashboard and is relatively easy to read at a glance.
But what’s really special about the new Eos is the operation of its metal convertible top. To see it in operation is akin to watching a moon shot in lift off; there must be hundreds of moving parts in operation.
The metal convertible stows completely in the trunk, giving it a smooth, clean line, front to rear. And to my utter surprise, the Eos is the first convertible with a glass sunroof, which is nice when driving in inclement weather or when there is too much external traffic noise to be comfortable with the top down.
While there is an Eos with an optional V-6 engine, the turbo-enriched, four-cylinder version does quite well. It is capable of going from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds and will do 130 mph at the top end. And it is hard to criticize its gas mileage.
Cordell Koland is an automotive journalist based in California’s central coast. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Volkswagen Eos 2.0T
Price as tested: $36,985.
Type: 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline 4.
Horsepower: 200 @ 5,100 rpm.
Torque: 207 foot-pounds @ 1,800 rpm.
Fuel economy, automatic transmission:
City: 23 mpg.
Highway: 31 mpg.
Curb weight: 3,505 pounds.