Sunday, August 23, 2009

Volkswagen death spiral, again

After twenty years of sales decline, primarily caused by the appalling quality of their cars and dealers, Volkswagen has determined that it will cement its doom by making its products "more American."
The Jetta platform will provide the basis for VW’s new workhorse for the American market, and the company is “pretty much convinced” that Jetta will be the name as well, Mr. Jacoby said. But he promised a retooling that would try to blend European design and allure with Americans’ practical needs.

For instance, there will be more and different types of cup holders — a must-have for American consumers.

A different suspension will yield a smoother ride. Folding mirrors, a necessity in tight European streets, will not be standard. The acceleration and braking pedals will be farther apart in response to American complaints that it is easy to accidentally press both simultaneously.

And some other device will replace the balky dials used to recline seats in European cars. Market research in the United States found that “women break their fingernails or scratch their hands,” Mr. Jacoby said.

Of course we've been here before, when VW turned its excellent Mk I Golf into the americanized Rabbit, complete with vinyl woodgrain accents on the dashboard and Buick-esque hub caps:

VW seems unable to remember why it was successful in the US in the first place: Inexpensive, carefully engineered cars that were reliable, cheap to operate, and easy to maintain and repair. Now VWs are expensive, unreliable, and ferociously expensive to maintain (try changing a burnt out headlight without a dealer visit). Naturally making them bigger, heavier, and softening up the suspension will do the trick.