Volkswagen Unveils All-New Passat Sedan to Headline Detroit Auto ShowBy Bill Visnic January 10, 2011
At the Detroit auto show, opening to the media today, Volkswagen of America Inc. launches the first crucial new model to underpin an ambitious plan to triple U.S. sales and lead all automakers in global sales by 2018, the 2012 Passat midsize sedan.
Built at the company's new $1-billion assembly plant in Chattanooga, TN, the Passat's chief calling card is "accessible German engineering for the midsize segment," that will start at a price "around $20,000" when the car goes on sale later this year.
Volkswagen has identified its generally higher price points as a primary impediment to competitiveness in the U.S. market, but initial reaction to the new Passat's styling may mean another problem at hand. After VW released images last night prior to the car's official unveiling at the Detroit show today, the new Passat's styling was largely criticized at enthusiast websites such as Edmunds.com's Inside Line as conservative and bland.
Three Engines, More Size, More Value
Although some family-sedan competitors such as the Hyundai Sonata whittled down the engine lineup to debut with a single choice - the Sonata since has added a turbocharged 4-cylnder and a hybrid - the 2012 Passat will offer three available drivetrain arrangements: a base 2.5-liter inline 5-cylinder making 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque connected to either a 5-speed manual or 6-speeed automatic transmission; VW's narrow-angle 3.6-liter V6 at 280 horsepower and 258 pound-feet and paired only with the company's now-renowned 6-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) dual-clutch automated manual or the 140-horsepower 2-liter 4-cylinder turbodiesel backed be either a 6-speed manual or the DSG automatic.
With a wheelbase of 110.4 inches and 191.7 inches of total length, the new Passat has almost a 4-inch longer wheelbase and is more than 3 inches longer overall than current-generation Passat, now mimicing the sized-up proportions of the current Toyota Camry (wheelbase: 109.3, length 189.2 inches) and Honda Accord (wheelbase: 110.2 inches, overall length: 194.1 inches).
Its new U.S. assembly plant, where starting wages are about $14.50 per hour and efficiency is expected to be the best of any global VW assembly site, along with local parts and components accounting for about 85 percent of total content, means the 2012 Passat can start at around $20,000, the company said, substantially lower than the $27,195 starting price of the 2010 Passat, although today's model has a more power and more expensive 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder as standard, among other equipment differences.
Photos by Volkswagen of America Inc.