Volkswagen Fine-Tunes Vehicles for U.S. Tastes, Including 2015 Golf | Edmunds

Volkswagen Fine-Tunes Vehicles for U.S. Tastes, Including 2015 Golf


Just the Facts:
  • A special team at Volkswagen Group of America studies U.S. surveys for consumer complaints and recommends changes for models that are sold in the U.S., a trend that is reflected in the 2015 Volkswagen Golf.
  • Simply put, what is acceptable in Germany is not necessarily acceptable here.
  • Starting with the redesigned 2015 Golf, all Volkswagens sold worldwide eventually will have the cruise-control switches located on the steering wheel, similar to the location selected by other automakers.

SAN FRANCISCO A special team at Volkswagen Group of America studies U.S. surveys for consumer complaints and recommends changes for models that are sold in the U.S., a trend that is reflected in the 2015 Volkswagen Golf.

Simply put, what is acceptable in Germany is not necessarily acceptable here.

"Americans have different expectations," Marc Trahan, group vice president for quality and service at Volkswagen Group of America, told Edmunds during an interview.

A case in point: Starting with the redesigned 2015 Golf, all Volkswagens sold worldwide eventually will have the cruise-control switches located on the steering wheel, similar to the location selected by other automakers.

Buyers in Germany have been happy with the traditional location of the switches, which are found on a separate stalk behind the steering wheel. But Americans said, "no way" because they couldn't see the control, Trahan said.

The idea to please Volkswagen owners here originated at Volkswagen Group of America and eventually was adopted for all Volkswagen models sold globally.

The vehicle adjustments extend to several creature-comfort areas.

For example, when air is flowing from the air-conditioning system of a Volkswagen that is sold in the U.S., the temperature really could be as low as 67. It turns out that forceful and cold air-conditioning in a car is preferred in the U.S., but not in Germany.

For Volkswagens sold in Europe, "when you set the dial at an equivalent of 72 degrees, which would be 21 degrees Celsius, the actual air coming out of the vent, that is pretty much it," Trahan said. "The customer in Germany is happy with the air temperature.

"But in the U.S. if we do that, the customer will complain it is too warm. They want cooler air and they want more airflow. So in the U.S. the setting is 72 but the actual air temperature coming out is like 67, 68 degrees. That is purposely done because that is what the customer wants. We have the data that shows that."

As for faster airflow, instead of adding a higher-speed fan, a solution that would create more noise, Volkswagen modified the vent design of U.S. models to provide a greater force of air.

Of course, there are other differences between U.S. and German buyers.

U.S. buyers want powerful acceleration from a stop. Otherwise, they complain that the engine is underpowered. German buyers do not want quick acceleration from a standstill.

"Americans want a lot of engine power in the first 10-20 percent of throttle (accelerator pedal) movement," Trahan said. "Europeans want a linear throttle. Americans don't."

Volkswagen modifies the throttle mapping and shift points of the automatic transmission for the U.S. buyer to create faster acceleration from a stop.

Speaking of the changes that have been made specifically for the U.S. market, Trahan called that area "the new frontier of quality. The cars are getting so good from every manufacturer, those are going to be the differentiators now that are going to separate the weak from the strong."

Edmunds says: Fine-tuning Volkswagen models for the United States is a win-win for the customer and a potential sales boon for the German automaker.

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