Folks Wagon August 2008
Theoretically, I should be a doctor by now. I haven’t attendended medical college for seven years, I didn’t even study medicine at university but, according to my mother, I should be a doctor by now simply because I was never particularly adept at foreign languages. When I was asked to map out the rest of my life by choosing particular subjects at school, my ineptitude at foreign languages led me to choosing Latin which you never have to speak because it is classed as a dead language. Not according to my mother though, by her logic taking Latin was an advantage as it still provided the cornerstone on which modern medicine is built, thus thrusting me in the direction of being a G.P. or a brain surgeon, my choice. Obviously my mother’s theory didn’t quite work out and I know about as much Latin as I do Martian.
I may have a limited understanding of foreign dialect but you don’t have to hail from the Black Forest to know that Volkswagen translates literally as Folks Wagon or in English Peoples Car. Nowadays most folk own at least one wagon but seventy years ago motoring was the reserve of the rich and/or tyrannical so shortly after invading Poland, a certain Fuhrer detailed Mr Porsche to design and build a car which ordinary everyday folk could afford so this name was highly appropriate. Volkswagen stayed true to their name for a very long time with the cutesy beetle design and other air-cooled vehicles which proved not only cheap to buy and run but also bulletproof. The arrival of the Golf in 1974 continued this tradition of affordable practicality but it also signalled a shift away from the brand’s original purpose. Every year since then, Volkswagens have grown larger and more exclusive but they always got away with it. During the eighties and nineties, not only did their reputation for excellent build quality continue but we forgave their premium prices because they designed and built cars which had a certain something which set them apart.
I openly admit that I am a big fan of most things VW but it pains me to say that for over a decade now they seem to have lost their way. Sure, people keep buying the products but I’m not entirely sure why. Take the Golf for example, for so long a class leader in every department but now living off a name due to cars such as the excellent Focus and even, it pains me to say, the Astra. Even the supposedly exciting GTi and R32 versions are trounced on performance by similarly priced Japanese opposition. The less said about the doomed to failure Phaeton, the better.
During the past twelve months though, I’m delighted to say that there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, VW seem to have found their way. The first concept shots of the Iroc were very encouraging and they’ve not altered it beyond recognition for the soon to be produced Scirroco. If this small coupe drives as well as it looks, for Golf money it may actually be a bargain! And then there’s the new Passat C+C. It may be difficult to get excited over an executive saloon but I have to admit that this one looks stunning and it’s half the price of the similar looking Mercedes – another bargain! If they fulfil their promise of ditching the hideous, poorly built Fox in favour of reinstating the excellent Lupo, Volkswagen’s transformation will be almost complete.