Wednesday, January 14, 2004

VW Bug-gy -- When we first saw it, Downshift and some colleagues could only laugh at the audacity of the VW Concept T. Bold, muscular, modern. More pics here with superbly overheated PR prose to boot.

But, the glow hasn't even lasted a week.

After a few looks, it's not much of a stretch from its inspiration, the Bug-powered Meyer Manx. Sure, the new VW family face (from the Toureag) is neatly integrated with the nifty cut-away headlights. But, there's not much more there.

We're all for practically useless concept cars -- the Tokyo show always has a few good weirdos -- but VW needs to demonstrate a little more product focus. Especially in the US. Let's see VW's wildest ideas in categories they might actually build in. The Concept R was a good start. (Where's the new Thing?)

VW is not in a great position for growth. Universally considered a bargain brand, its cars -- though roundly lauded for build, driving character, and interior fitments -- sell at a premium in every class. It's got to be tough to sell into that disconnect.

Their answer is to go the time-honored Acura/Infiniti/Lexus route and create a line of premium cars. But, uh, they've already got a premium brand. It's called Audi. So, they're selling $96,400 Phaetons with the same hood ornament that graced millions of Bugs, Westmoreland-made Rabbits, etc.

There are no marketing whiz-kids at Downshift Central, but this brand-confusion has disaster written all over it.