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Why would anyone buy a Volkswagen?

VW is not a sports car brand, with amazingly fast and powerful performance cars.
VW does not have high brand prestige …It is like Honda or Mazda.

So, VW gives you all the downside of Euro imports (poor reliability, expensive German parts & repairs) with none of the upside of luxury car makers (no brand status, no high performance) In particular, I always heard that VW’s have good drive-trains but are plagued by little gremlins (knobs stop working, rubber molding peels off, etc)

I can see Honda/Toyota for economy and reliability.
I can see Lexus, Acura for luxury and reliability.
I can see BMW and MB for status (and sport/luxury)

VW doesn’t seem to fit anywhere, and have a niche.
It just seems to only have negatives or neutrals.

So, why would anyone buy a Volkswagen?

To clarify, I never meant to say VW’s are bad cars. I wouldn’t know, as I’ve never owned one.

People put up with lower reliability of BMWs in exchange for higher performance and status (otherwise, there are plenty of cheaper and more reliable cars that handle/drive 90% as well).

Like I said in the OP, with VW you get the downside, and not the upside.

I think a huge part of the answer to my question is marketing.
They always have distinctive marketing.
They went nuts with their early 1990s “Farfegnugen” campaign.
The Beetle was a “counterculture” icon for decades (never mind that it was all Hitler’s idea)

In fact, I think VW is the Apple of cars.
They are marketing to the “quirky hipster iconoclast rugged individualist” personality…

And doing a damn good job of it…

It’s been a while, but I owned the original Rabbit. It was a lot of fun to drive. I don’t think that changed. If someone is looking for a fun, inexpensive car to drive, VW is at the top of the list. Unfortunately, they are near the bottom of the list for reliability in the markets they serve.

I said inexpensive, but they are expensive for the specific segment the cars are in. VWs handle well, are well appointed, and comfortable. But many competing cars are similar and get better gas mileage. It’s hard to find a car as “sporty” as a VW in their class. Recently, a visitor asked for a replacement for a GTI. If you want the best handling, most comfortable, and best trimmed car in the hatchback segment, the GTI is it, and many car testers say so. You pay a bit more for what VW sells, and many people seem willing to do it.

The last VW that impressed me was this

Although I discouraged the owner bringing his diesel Rabbit pickup to me he insisted and I kept it maintained and repaired for many years. It was actually quite reliable and required only some basic and expected repairs such as a starter, water pump, brakes, etc. The American public seems to value ostentation above practicality so such basic models fade quickly.

The Mazdaspeed 3 is often commpared to the GTI. The thing most people say about the GTI is that its interior is better than the speed’s, but that the speed is a little bit more bang for your buck. I guess the reviewers are from Scottland as the interior in the GTI is a plaid color

I see your point about VW being the Apple.of cars, but as a Mac user, I find that my iMac works with no hassle and I don’t need a degree in computer science to keep it happy. VW owners I’ve talked with have very expensive problems with their cars that I would NEVER put up with. Oddly, I am a 45 year old, somewhat conservative type guy, hardly the stereotypical Mac user.

Well, VW was the middle class car of the Germans, maybe it still is. I used to have a late 70’s Passat and it was fun to drive. I did not maintain it well and it gave some trouble, but I learned my lesson. Right now when I look for an economy car that is also sporty and fun to drive, I only see a few, esp in the used market-also I am looking for a stick. So might be willing to bite the bullet on repair costs and buy one.

Personally, I like VWs and I worked for a couple of VW dealers for some years. While working for those dealers I did not see their being prone to more problems than anything else. They just had a different set of problems as compared to Brand B or Brand C.
The multi-line dealers also included Honda, Nissan, and Subaru. Every one of those makes entered the shop with the same regularity as the VWs and if you follow any of my posts you may note that I refer to Subaru quite often. There’s a reason for that.

I’ve often wandered through internet auto complaints and it can be somewhat comical at times to read a complaint where the car owner swears it’s the car’s fault and even minor reading between the lines will plainly show that it’s the car owner’s negligence that caused the problem. Two examples:

  1. VW Jetta owner complains about premature timing belt failure and engine damage. Car had 105k miles on it and was 9 years old with never a belt service. Owner’s fault but try to convince them of that.
  2. VW Passat owner complains of catastrophic engine failure. Extended oil changes, running the engine out of oil, and having a red oil pressure light apparently meant nothing to this owner. Same thing; try to convince them they’re the root cause of the problem.

To be fair, people do this regardless of the make. There was a recent post about someone losing an Engine on a Ford Edge or something like that. The 99% likely cause was running it out of oil due to extended oil change intervals but the owner still thinks that he “must have got a bad one”.

I have an old VW diesel from the 1980s with over 200k miles. It is very reliable and it has seen many cars to the scrapyard and will likely see many more to that end as, for one thing, I do not run it in the winter salt. For another thing, it is not cursed with German electronics. A problem with old BMWs, Mercedes Benz, Audis and some others is that their German electronics begin at some time after the warranty expires, to often fail repeatedly in a variety of ways so their owners give up on them as the expense is not worth the financial effort to keep them going.

VW let their quality slip in recent years but they may be doing better recently to make a comeback in their effort to become the world’s largest auto producer. Conventional wisdom needs to catch up.

My memory is very fuzzy on this but I seem to remember reading a story about 2-3 years ago in which thousands of rental car agencies in the U.K. were surveyed about which cars had the fewest reported problems, either by the agency or the person renting the car.
I seem to remember that Toyota and BMW or VW was at the top of the chain with either BMW or VW running a close second. Which one it was just flat escapes me and Honda along with a few others was further down the list.

Why would anyone buy a Volkswagen? Because they’re solidly built, decently handling, peppy cars that look nice. I’ve never owned one, but I’ve driven a few. Yes they have quirks and problems like all makes and models do, maybe a few more than some.

Perhaps a better question is why would someone buy something like a Pontiac Sunfire or Kia Rio? Maybe they are as reliable or a little better than some VW models, but man, have you ever driven one of these?

I have had several VW’s and I am driving one today. My first was a 1960’s air cooled. My current car is a 2002 Vw diesel. NB. I have had a couple of Mazdas, a Sunbeam and I have liked them all.

I don’t worry about the name plate. I have had “good luck” with all my cars and I would suggest that is due to my driving and service of my cars, not so much as to a specific make or model.

You will see studies that show this or that car is good or bad, but I suggest more often than not the real difference is the driver and they way they drive, where they drive and the maintenance they provide.

Volvo,used VW diesels in thier cars in the past-the Volvo mechanics said they were pretty good if you didnt engage in stoplight to stoplight drag races,Kevin

AS mentioned, the image building stressing the harsh German autobahn driving environment and German “techincal superiority” has been succesful in North America where VWs commands a premium price over similar Japanese cars. Never mind that the car was built in Mexico by a very militant work force.

In Europe and Latin America VW is just another car.

Personally I would not own one but I have to admit that VWs have very good road manners, are fun to drive and have good seats. That’s about all.

The life cycle ownship costs and overall reliability is nothing to crow about. However, diehard VWs owners crow all the time; it’s more religion that cold fact. But cold facts seldom drive car owning decisions.

You don’t see a lot of VWs as company cars. In Europe the favorite company cars are usually mid size Fords.

Eh, my take on is that in the past 15 years or so VW has been the brand of choice for people who like to be able to say “I’ve got a German car” but don’t have the means to acquire a BMW or a Benz, in the same vein of poeple to who say “I’ve got a vette” but when you see the car, it’s a Chevette, not a Corvette.

Funnily enough, these days VW have set their sights lower. The current Jetta for example has been de-connected out the wazhoo for the North American market. On the base model, they brought back the slow 2.0L 8 valve SOHC gas engine, they put a beam axle for the rear suspension, the rear brakes are now drums, and the interior has been cheapened to the point that it would make a circa 1986 Hyundai blush.

In the “survey says” category, some years ago the German Auto Club, ADAC, and the German Consumer Associations got together to determine once and for all what were the most reliable cars on German roads. There is no equivalent ongoing reliability survey there, such as Consumer Reports.

Germans were very suspicious of Japanse cars, mostly for racial, cultural, technical, and other reasons. They might have tolerated Volvos being more reliable than German cars, but when the survey showed two lowly Japanese econoboxes, the Toyota Tercel and the Mazda 323 to be the top performers, there was a national “ANGST” (a psychologist can explain the exact meaning of that word), as German confidence about them selves and their products was shaken to the core!!!

Many simply did not believe the results. Smart, thinking Germans of course would realize that Japan had conquered the camera market before, a traditional German dominated field.

Every year I get the annual edition of German and Dutch auto reviews. No editions ever mention reliability as a reason for buyingor not buying a particular car. Except for Russian cars, which are automatically ridiculed. It simply does not seem to occur to Germans that a certain car may not be a good choice. They trade them after 4 years anyway, and many get shipped to Africa and other developing countries without a car industry.

“…The current Jetta for example has been de-connected out the wazhoo for the North American market. On the base model, they brought back the slow 2.0L 8 valve SOHC gas engine, they put a beam axle for the rear suspension, the rear brakes are now drums, and the interior has been cheapened to the point that it would make a circa 1986 Hyundai blush.”

Cheapened is the right word. VW wants to become the largest car manufacturer and one way they hope to get there is to reduce the purchase price of their cars. This is a time honored tradition practiced by just about all the mainstream manufacturers at one time or another. I had a Capri GT with cheap struts. It shuddered around 45 MPH. The cure was to replace the struts with decent ones. Mercury used the cheap struts to keep the street price low.

Some people won’t care and just want to have a Passat. And maybe those people don’t need disk brakes at 4 corners. I want them, but folks that drive very gently may not.

There is a great scene in Mac Hyman’s novel “No Time for Sergeants” where the farm boy from Georgia, Will Stockdale is drafted into the army and is being examined by a psychologist. The psychologist attemps to make Stockdale angry and says “Why would anyone want to live in Georgia? I would rather live in a pig stye in my home state than any place in Georgia” . Stockdale doesn’t react. The psychologist then says, “Didn’t what I just said about living in Georgia make you angry?” “No sir”, Stockdale replied. “Where you want to live is your own business”.
I’ve always figured that the make of car a person drives is his own business.

I’ve never formed an opinion based on a survey or periodical. Those rank up there with asking political survey questions on the sidewalk; much depends on where it’s asked, who is being asked, and how the question is phrased.

I do have a question for Docnick. You’ve stated repeatedly on this forum that VWs are prone to early timing belt breakage and also that VWs use an inferior grade of belt.
So my question is this. Where do you source your info from?

More important then any test or official opinion, is previous owner satisfaction. The VW diesels have done consistently well enough in that category to be a worth while consideration. There are lots of cars out there, especially the the SAABs which on the surface offer little advantage in ownership for the same reasons as a VW, but still, satisfy enough people for what ever reason.

Getting behind the wheel of a car with ergonomics that satisfy a particular individual cannot often be quantified. The goal of ALL car makers is to make a car that sells enough to be profitable. Reliability is attainable by any manufacturer but is just one consideration of many in making a car people want. Vettes aren’t particularly reliable or practical, but most of the public would love one in their driveway. There are enough VW owners that feel the same way. There are huge advantages to making cars that the buying public wants and still requires frequent service and repair.