Volkswagen Aims Bigger, Lighter Golf At US Market

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Volkswagen Golf was in some pretty intriguing company at the New York International Auto Show with fellow winners of the World Car of the Year Awards: Porsche Boxster as Performance Car of the Year, Jaguar F-Type as Car Design of the Year and Tesla S as Green Car of the Year.

But Volkswagen executives were more excited about the prospects of the seventh-generation Golf in the US market than about the North American debut of Golf 7 winning the World Car of the Year designation. The New York Auto Show award recognized the Golf, VW’s best-selling car worldwide, as the “car for everyman.”

Yet in America, Golf—while it’s been a workhorse for the Volkswagen brand for decades—isn’t accorded nearly the respect that it is globally. Volkswagen has begun a major push toward higher sales volumes in the US, but it has achieved significant gains already with new versions of its three other primary cars: Passat, Jetta and the Beetle.[more]

Now it’s Golf’s turn, and VW executives believe they have equipped the 2015 Golf, which goes on sale in mid-2014, with just the brand positioning and vehicle structure that will be required for Americans to give the subcompact hatchback a new look. Its German acronym is “MQB” (which stands for “moduler transverse matrix” in English), and it explains why the new Golf—which already is on sale in some other markets—is bigger and more spacious than the version it replaces.

The new Golf body shell—revealed in a light show at the New York Auto Show, above—is 51 pounds lighter, and safer, thanks to extensive use of high- and ultra-strength steels and the weight optimization of components ranging from the seats to the air-conditioning unit. MQB architecture also has enabled Volkswagen designers to lend the car a “cab-backward” impression, meaning that it is proportioned like more expensive vehicles in which the hood is long and the passenger compartment is further back in the vehicle footprint.

“Golf will be the first car in the US market” with such an architecture, Rainer Michel, vice president of product marketing and strategy for Volkswagen AG, told brandchannel.

Like most other VWs in America, the new Golf also will be offered in a clean-diesel version that will continue to advance the gospel of diesel power in America that is being promulgated most heavily by Volkswagen and sibling brand Audi. About one-fifth of VWs sold in the U.S. in any given month already are powered by diesel.

“Our first goal is to introduce all our cars with diesel,” Michel told Forbes.com. Then, he said, VW has to help convince the millions of Americans who remain skeptical of diesel fuel because they have long memories of balky and dirty diesel-powered cars of a generation ago, because they don’t understand the fuel-economy and torque benefits of diesel power, or because they’re afraid diesel isn’t widely enough available at filling stations—though the fuel is available at roughly half of U.S. gasoline stations.

“There are people who would want it, but they’re not interested because they think, ‘You can’t get diesel fuel everywhere,'” Michel told Forbes.com. “We need to communicate to these people that the infrastructure is there.”

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