Volkswagen was originally founded in 1937 by the German Labor Front, a Nazi trade union. The venture included production of an inexpensive car for the common man along with state-sponsored financing (“five marks a week you must put aside, if in your own car you want to ride”). Previously, Germans could typically only afford a motorcycle, but with the advent of this new Wolfsburg factory, hundreds of thousands could afford this new “Beetle”, designed by Ferdinand Porsche. World War II cut off civilian automobile production, but not before Adolf Hitler received a Cabriolet model for his 49th birthday (1938).
Fast forward to 2011, and we find that Volkswagen (People’s Car) has enjoyed almost 60 years of success in the United States, with sales peaking in 1970 at over a half million cars (7% of the U. S. market). Current market share has been cut roughly to half of that, but the company has a long-range U. S. target of a million cars and trucks, counting Audis, by 2018. Audi is the premium automobile brand of Volkswagen AG.
The number one selling Volkswagen is the Jetta, produced since 1979. It is currently in it’s sixth generation form, this new model having been introduced in June of last year. A Candy White 2011 Jetta SEL2.5 four-door sedan was brought to my home on a recent Monday morning, and I immediately got inside to check out the amenities. Heated seats and mirrors, plus color-screen navigation and Sirius satellite radio: check. Power lumbar “V-tech” leatherette Titan black bolstered buckets and leather wheel: check. Metal pedal covers/ door sills and Bluetooth and IPod connection: check. Pushbutton start (on the console) and six-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission: check. Although most of the buzz this summer is about the new masculine (supposedly) Beetle introduction, this Jetta is almost the newest VW in the lineup and, as mentioned earlier, the most popular. It’s easy to see and feel why, because this is a real nice car.
I jumped in and took off for Ft. Collins for some lunch and a test drive. A real firm ride is in store for the operator; a feeling of quality (and quietness). The steering wheel is rather thick with lots of buttons, and the transmission is a treat. One complaint I had is that it travels up to top gear rather hurriedly, but two solutions exist for that problem – the sports mode and the Tiptronic (manual) selection. Operating this car manually is a snap; the best I have driven. Speaking of snap, the five cylinder, 2.5 liter, 170 hp engine provides plenty of that. More, in fact, than would seem available with that horsepower rating.
Guiding the little Jetta up the Interstate is pleasurable. Once again, the ride is a little firm with our beat up Interstate along the Front Range. I had plenty of punch for changing lanes and running by service trucks and seniors. At the Charco Broiler parking lot I stepped outside to view the styling of the VW. It’s good, if not spectacular, and looks particularly nice from the front. The mirrors have lighting stripes on them and up front are good-looking fog lights. The new Jetta, brought out last year, is longer than its predecessor, resulting in an enlarged back seating area. Indeed, there is legroom for a big human being. Plus the trunk is the biggest in its class, at 15.5 cubic feet. Also in the center of the back seat is a flop-down armrest/cupholder and this VW had a power moonroof.
After lunch, I drove to Centerra shopping area and took photos of the Jetta at Chapungu Sculpture Park. This is the best-looking Jetta to date, and has 17”, fifteen-spoke alloy wheels to dress it up. The back windows do not roll out of sight, as do those of many models that compete against it. But bottom line; I’d own a car like this, perhaps in a more exciting color.