Automotive PR 101: How to Screw Up a Great Opportunity

Mac Demere on

David Roth couldn’t be in Omaha in 2010 when his son Michael helped the University of South Carolina win the NCAA College World Series. When the Gamecocks made the big show for the second year in a row, Roth asked for additional time off from his employer, Steve White VW/Audi of Greenville, South Carolina. “Nope,” said Steve White VW/Audi. “You’ve already taken off too much time.”

“Well, then I quit,” said David Roth. And he headed to Omaha to see his son play.

It became a national story. On the day the story broke, Google News said there were more than 1,000 articles on it. Fortunately for Steve White VW/Audi of Greenville, the dealer’s name isn't mentioned in most of them. 

As a father who used to skip out early (and replace it by working nights and weekends) to see (and coach) his son and daughter play youth baseball and soccer, I applaud David Roth. (And I apologize to my son for not attending more tennis matches. I twice missed seeing him finish runner-up in the state singles championships.) more

Top Gas Mileage Models: 10+ Cars and SUVs for High Fuel Economy

James M. Flammang on

In order to compare fairly, we’ve separated current-model hybrid cars from those with ordinary gasoline engines, providing the top five in each category (plus a few runners-up and a quick look at diesels). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides separate estimates for city and highway driving, plus a third figure for combined driving.

Among the hybrid-powertrain cars, Toyota’s Prius tops the frugality list by far, with an estimate of 51 mpg in city driving and 48 mpg on the highway, for a combined figure of 50 mpg. Runner-up is the new-for-2011 Lexus CT 200h, estimated at 43-mpg city/40-mpg highway for a total of 42 mpg.

Just behind, tied for third place, are Honda’s two hybrids: the Civic Hybrid sedan and the new CR-Z two-seat coupe. Both earn estimates of 40-mpg city/43-mpg highway for a combined figure of 41 mpg. However, with manual shift the CR-Z drops to 31/37 mpg (34 mpg combined).

Ford’s hybrid sedan duo ranks in fourth place. The Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ Hybrids are estimated at 41-mpg city/36-mpg highway, for a 39-mpg combined figure.

Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid sedan scores the fifth spot for fuel economy, at 35-mpg city and 40-mpg highway, for a combined estimate of 37 mpg. more

New York Auto Show: 2011 Volkswagen Touareg, Including First-Ever Hybrid

James M. Flammang on

Volkswagen put together an irresistible pair of attractions for the 2011 New York Auto Show: a reworked Beetle, plus the second-generation Touareg sport-utility vehicle–including the company’s very first hybrid powertrain.

In the new hybrid, a supercharged 3.0-liter gasoline engine with direct injection mates with a special electric motor, reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by about 40 percent, according to Volkswagen. An eight-speed automatic transmission (first of its kind in an SUV) helps the Touareg Hybrid achieve approximately 25 mpg in highway driving and 21 mpg on the highway.

A special clutch can disengage the transmission from the engine when the engine is not needed, allowing the vehicle to coast forward, emission-free. The electric motor can recover kinetic energy during braking to help recharge the nickel metal-hydride battery pack. Combined output with the gas engine and electric motor totals 375 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque. That’s sufficient to give the Touareg a towing capacity of up to 7,700 pounds. more

NY Auto Show Preview: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle

Jerry Smith on

Apparently Volkswagen has had it with people calling the Beetle “cute,” because for 2012 the iconic model is getting a sportier personality and a more dynamic look. Characterized by what VW calls “a clean, self-confident and dominant sportiness,” the 2012 Beetle has a lower profile, a wider stance, a longer hood, and a more inclined windshield.

Three engines are on the options list for 2012: a 2.5-liter five-cylinder gasoline engine; a 2.0-liter TDI Clean Diesel; and a 2.0L TSI turbocharged gasoline engine that cranks out 200 hp and 207 lb.-ft of torque while delivering an estimated 30 mpg on the highway.

Inside the 2012 VW Beetle is an interior with a painted or carbon-look dashboard that evokes the original Beetle. Three round instruments are arrayed in front of the driver, with a multifunction display in the middle. The optional panoramic tilt/slide glass sunroof blocks 99 percent of UV radiation and 92 percent of heat energy. 

The longer roof section allows more room in the rear seating area, and the trunk holds 10.9 cubic feet of cargo. A split-folding rear seat makes loading and unloading easier.

The 2012 Volkswagen Beetle will be available in two trim lines, Design and Sport, with plenty of options available for both, such as premium sound systems, keyless entry and starting, Bi-Xenon headlights, and LED running lights. All Beetles will be covered by VW’s Carefree Maintenance Program, which covers all scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Want more show coverage? Read our 2011 New York Auto Show Highlights. more

Volkswagen Vies for the Number One Spot in 2018
Jerry Smith on

There was a time when Volkswagens were so numerous, it was like an infestation of...well, beetles, popping up everywhere you looked. From a total of two cars––not two models, or two brands, but two individual cars––sold in the U.S. in 1949, VW increased its sales to more than half a million units––Beetles, squarebacks, fastbacks, and Kharmann-Ghias––in 1970.

That year, as it turned out, was VW’s best ever. Now the company has decided it wants to recapture that feeling by tripling its sales in the U.S. in the next seven years, and grabbing the title of the world’s number one automaker in the process.

To do this VW says it will have to sell 800,000 cars in the U.S. by 2018, and to that end it’s opening a new factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The plant’s first product will be the 2012 Passat, VW’s equivalent of the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. The Passat will be available with a 3.6-liter VR6 or a 2-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine, with either a six-speed sequential or six-speed automatic transmission.

The other player in VW’s bid for top-dog status is the Jetta, which is built in Mexico and has been a consistent seller for VW in the U.S. A hybrid version is said to be no more than a year away. VW also plans to debut a second-generation New Beetle soon and offer it for sale sometime in the fall.

Automotive insiders see a tough road ahead for VW if it’s going to achieve its stated goal. Passat and Jetta sales will have to top 300,000 units each just to beat the other contenders in their segments. It will likely come down to pricing––it usually does––and VW’s success in touting German engineering over that of Japan and America.

Visit autoMedia’s Volkswagen Research Center for more information on all VW’s latest models.  more

2011 Geneva Motor Show: VW Bulli – A Real Microbus
Jeff Prescott on

Never had a minivan so excited the automotive world than when Volkswagen introduced its Microbus concept on the 2001 show circuit. It seemed like a slammed dunk, but the challenges in bringing the flat-nosed design to production and meeting increasingly stringent crash-test standard derailed that model. Our consolation prize? A Chrysler-redux called the Routan. But, to quote a great Star Wars line, there is another.

Volkswagen unveiled its Bulli concept at the Geneva Motor Show this week, revealing a pint-sized interpretation of the 2001 stylings and a healthy dose of the flower-child-era original. This wee machine is sized more like a Scion xB than a true minivan, making it very well placed for a global market, especially amid a tough economy.

Slightly longer than a Golf, the Bulli is powered by a an 85-kW electric motor, supplied by a 40 kWh lithium-ion battery concealed in the sandwiched floor behind the sills. VW claims 0-62 mph in 11.5 seconds, 87 mph top speed, and a theoretical driving range of 186 miles. more

2011 Chicago Auto Show Highlights, Photo Gallery and Videos
James M. Flammang on

CHICAGO—Ever since 1901, Chicago has had an official auto show each winter. Through the 1950s, ‘60s and into the ‘80s, Chicago’s event was the highlight of the automotive season, showcasing the most notable new models.

Starting in 1989, Detroit turned its auto show into an international event, and began to take away some of Chicago’s prominence. So did the New York Auto Show, whose history rivals that of the Chicago extravaganza. As the Los Angeles Auto Show grew in stature over the past few years, it became a matter of opinion as to which events were the most important to the industry, to the media, and to the public.

Chicago has consistently led in public attendance, and in overall space, courtesy of the vast McCormick Place, steps away from the city’s lakefront. This year, despite renewal in the industry, every major auto show has shrunk in scope, but none more so than Chicago. Only eight major automakers signed on to host news conferences during the press period that takes place before the show opens to the public. Los Angeles had more than 20; Detroit hosted 19.

At the early-morning breakfast hosted by the Chicago Auto Show and the Midwest Automotive Media Association, Jim Farley, Ford’s vice-president of global marketing, sales, and service gave the keynote address. Starting out as essentially a promotion for the 2011 Ford Explorer, his talk eased into exaltation of the “social media” phenomenon, which Ford embraces heartily. Introduced with the help of Facebook last summer, the Explorer signals the revival of the “road trip,” Farley said.

In the new Go.Do.Adventures program, participants will tell where they’d like to go in an Explorer. Winners get to do exactly what they described, with expenses paid, and their experiences will wind up in short films and a TV special. In addition, 50 consumers will get an expenses-paid test drive of the 2012 Focus in Europe. Focus Rally America, a five-week interactive road rally with six teams, will be presented by hulu. “We allow customers to influence every part of our company,” Farley said, citing an Edelman survey in which 46 percent of respondents said they did not trust big companies to “do the right thing.” more

Video: 2011 Super Bowl XLV Ad – Volkswagen Uses The Force On New Passat
Jeff Prescott on

Volkswagen will debut two commercials during the 2011 Super Bowl game, promoting its upcoming, next-generation 21st Century Beetle and Passat. Both have a sense of humor, befitting the automaker and Super Bowl notoriety.

The Passat commercial features a Star Wars theme, with a youth dressed as Darth Vader. The wee Sith Lord pretends to use the Force on a variety of objects, and in the end, it is Dad who wields the power. A fun ad, it features the classic John Williams’ iconic “The Imperial March” as its soundtrack. more

Video: 2011 Super Bowl XLV Ad – Volkswagen Teases Next-Generation Beetle
Jeff Prescott on

Volkswagen will debut two commercials during Super Bowl XLV showcasing the next-generation Beetle and Passat, along with the German automaker’s sense of humor.

To prepare consumers for the upcoming New Beetle redesign, Volkswagen will tease the car with “Black Beetle” – a bug-filled spot showing a literal Beetle racing through the wilderness. The insect action is an homage to classic car scenes, and just fun in its own right.

The television ad ends by showing the silhouette of the 21st Century Beetle, as it is known. The car will be less circular in shape, and it looks a bit more masculine.

Check out the video below and take a look for yourself. more

260-MPG Volkswagen Formula XL1 Points To Production Super-Green Machine
Jeff Prescott on

Volkswagen unveiled the Formula XL1 at the Qatar Motor Show, revealing a prototype plug-in hybrid that promises 260 mpg. It is the latest evolution of the corporate goal to offer an ultra-efficient 1-liter car.

Seven inches shorter than a Honda CR-Z, the streamlined Formula XL1 combines a light-weight, carbon-fiber structure, with an arrow-like 0.186 coefficient of drag, and plug-in hybrid powertrain centered around a miserly two-cylinder turbodiesel engine. The engine produces 47 horsepower, with the electric motor adding 26 horses. Power is routed through a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission.

The curb weight is a mere 1,753 pounds. While the car does depend on a lithium-ion battery pack to provide the 22-mile electric-only range, weight is saved by having a motorcycle-scale 2.6-gallon fuel tank. more

2011 Detroit Auto Show: 2012 Volkswagen Passat
Jeff Prescott on

Volkswagen is laser-focused in becoming a top-selling brand in North America, and the all-new Passat introduced at the Detroit auto show will play a key role in accomplishing that goal. This Passat is German-engineered, yet American made, with production in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is the largest Passat to date, being designed specifically for American tastes. Volkswagen says pricing will begin near $20,000, making it thousands less than the outgoing model and better positioned to compete against the midsized segment leaders, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

As with the current Passat, the new model will hang its hat on its powertrains. The base 2.5-liter five-cylinder will be paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The premium choice is the 3.6-liter, 280-horsepower V-6, promising 28 mpg on the highway. However, the figures you will likely see advertised will come from the 2.0-liter turbodiesel, which VW claims will deliver 43 mpg on the highway and provide an 800-mile range per tank.

Measuring 191.7 inches, with a 110.4-inch wheelbase, the new Passat provides more rear passenger room, boasting best-in-class rear legroom. Beyond abundant space, standard features count power windows/doors, automatic climate control, temperature gauge, and AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with Bluetooth connectivity. more

Winter Driving Woes
James M. Flammang on

We knew the Interstate was slippery. Perhaps dangerous. A few days earlier, our drive from Chicago to Detroit took twice as long as usual, passing jackknifed semis and countless cars that had slid off the road.

Now, on the return trip, we were halfway back when the fun began–starting with a glance in the rearview mirror. Instead of the usual scattering of normal cars, a brown Buick was hurling rapidly toward us–backwards. A quick tap on the gas pedal of our all-wheel-drive Volkswagen CC allowed us to evade contact with the Buick, which soon found itself off the Interstate's pavement.

Not 10 minutes later, that same mirror revealed a little red subcompact rocketing in our direction, spinning rapidly as it made its way toward us. This time, we quickly steered toward the shoulder to avoid collision with the little car, which, seconds later, was stuck in the snow-filled median.

Not only is a different driving style needed in wintry regions, but the rules and customs aren’t the same as in temperate climates. When winter rolls in, motorists in mild-climate areas don't have to think about snow and ice, slick roads, winding up in a ditch, or snow-day parking regulations.

Windshields and windows need to be scraped after a snowfall, or when hard-packed ice has formed–often, when there's been no precipitation at all. Lane markers become invisible during, and after, a snowstorm. more

10 Best Engines For 2011
Jeff Prescott on

 Efficiency was the theme with the 2011 Ward’s Auto “10 Best Engines” awards selected from 38 vehicles with new or significantly improved engines for the 2011 model year. Turbochargers were common on the list, as were double-overhead cam designs. Technically not powered by an engine, the Nissan Leaf made the cut, along with its green nemesis, the extended-range, multi-award-winning Chevrolet Volt.

Among the miserly powerplants are several choices that a clear nods to performance, such as the Audi S4, BMW 335i, Dodge Avenber, and Ford Mustang GT engines.

“The one thing they have in common is they all are stand-out performers in their own way and sell the value proposition of the vehicles they power,” said Drew Winter, editor-in-chief of Ward’s AutoWorld magazine.

The staff made the selections based on driving the contenders around metro Detroit this October and November, scoring them on their power, technology, observed fuel economy and noise, vibration harshness. No instrumented testing was conducted.

This year’s winners and the applications tested: more

Notes from L.A. Auto Show: Automakers Rethink and Re-Plan Their Futures
James M. Flammang on

While most automakers brought the customary array of new and redesigned models to the Los Angeles Auto Show, several companies—some of them recently ailing—used the November event to outline bold new moves for the months ahead.

Chrysler, which fell into the doldrums of bankruptcy and despair not long ago, scheduled three news conferences to claim—and demonstrate—that its entire line is undergoing a radical change. In addition to reworking its existing model lineup, Chrysler is preparing to unleash a U.S. version of the Fiat 500 minicar, a product of its corporate connection with the Italian automaker. Fiats have been out of the American import scene since the early 1980s.

Lotus, the legendary sports car maker, hauled five concept cars to the West Coast, to prove that the British firm is alive and well, and ready for a new chapter. Seeking to rekindle interest in its products, Audi is relying on such models as the new A7 Sportback—a body style reminiscent of BMW’s 5 Series GT hatchback.

Hyundai debuted the latest version of its compact Elantra, emphasizing price and improved residual value. What’s different for the South Korean automaker is American president/CEO John Krafcik’s hope to have four models in 2011 that achieve better than 40 miles per gallon. more

Consumers Invited to Vote on Favorite Vehicles
James M. Flammang on

People do seem to love contests. And winners. What movie fan can ignore the Academy Awards? Theatergoers turn to the Tony Awards. TV shows vie for Emmys, and musicians cultivate Grammys.

Automobiles are no exception when it comes to annual awards. Each January at Detroit's auto show, winners of the North American Car of the Year and Truck of the Year are announced–chosen by a panel of auto journalists. Various publications and organizations issue "car of the year" honors, generally selected by members of that particular group.

Voting is now underway for a contest that's a little different, in that consumers themselves make their voices heard. For the second season, vehicles are being considered for Internet Car of the Year and Internet Truck of the Year.

As founder Keith Griffin puts it, both "Internet Pros and the Average Joes" can pick car and truck of the year. Griffin says his is the only Internet site not dominated by automaker advertising, which lets consumers express their preferences. The site does not accept advertising from automakers with eligible vehicles. more