Volkswagens' plans to deliver a sub-Golf sized car to the U.S. market has stalled as the German automaker considers allowing rival DaimlerChrysler [DCX] to import the car instead and sell it under the Dodge label. VW dealers are naturally unhappy about the move, but much more is at stake than what is evident. Will the Polo still show up? If not, why not?
The world of automobile marketing has changed drastically in the last generation. Gone are brands that are purely set behind national borders and localized brands. Instead, vehicles are being sold that wear one label but are actually built by another manufacturer. Globalism is here and automakers have openly embraced these changes.
Volkswagen's Polo is a likely entry into the U.S. market as a model that would fit nicely below VW's Golf in its American line up. Many manufacturers are changing their car lines to allow for smaller cars to become the new entry level vehicles in their fleets. Here are some examples of cars that recently were introduced or soon will find their way into car lines:
Chevrolet: Korean automaker Daewoo, a GM subsidiary, supplies the Aveo for Chevrolet. This bottom rung car is positioned directly below the Cobalt.
Honda: After 35 years, the Civic will no longer be the entry level model for Honda. An even smaller car, the Jazz, will be imported in about one year's time.
Mercedes: Yes, even a luxury automaker such as Mercedes is contemplating bringing in one or two lines of cars smaller than its current “baby” Mercedes line, the C Class cars.
BMW: Ditto for the another German luxury make.
Dodge: With the Neon replacement Caliber soon to appear, Dodge is still looking at offering a car smaller than the Caliber for their fleet. With DCX's Mitsubishi relationship scuttled, the Japanese automaker can no longer be relied upon to supply a steady stream of entry level cars for The Chrysler Group.
Yes, an unlikely supplier for DCX is Volkswagen, a strong competitor for DCX's Mercedes division in Europe. However, VW has its own needs – a minivan – and The Chrysler Group will allow VW to market a rebadged version of its minivan in the US. In exchange for the minivan, Dodge gets to market the Polo a tiny 1.2L powered four passenger car that should see city gas mileage of around 35 mpg and highway mileage of just over 50 mpg.
The current Polo is marketed in Europe as three or five door hatchbacks which is not a popular body style in the U.S. VW may ship a specially reconfigured four door sedan instead to ensure interest in the this model within the U.S. market.
Although VW appears committed to this special arrangement with DCX, the Polo could still be sold here as a Volkswagen too. By keeping the hatchback style for VW branded cars only, the Polo might still be available through VW dealers. Include the optional 1.9L turbo diesel and fuel mileage will soar well past sixty miles per gallon. No wonder VW dealers are aching to see the car imported!
Matt Keegan is a contributing writing for PitStop Auto Parts covering
Lebra Car Bra; and
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