Do you remember the… Volkswagen Routan?
In its 2009 sales brochure, Volkswagen explained that the Routan was the only German-engineered minivan on the market. Isn’t it American engineered and Canadian made?
In the mid-2000s, Volkswagen’s position in the North American market was embarrassing for the conglomerate’s management. The group achieves less than 2% market share in the United States and 4.5% in Canada (mainly thanks to Quebec). We must seek growth at all costs.
This is why the leaders of Volkswagen will announce an ambitious plan at the Detroit Motor Show in January 2008: to increase the sales of Volkswagen to 800,000 copies and those of Audi to 200,000 copies for 2018, that is, say more or less to triple them in 10 years . This will lead to all kinds of strategies: the launch of purely North American products (Passat, Atlas for example), the construction of the Chattanooga plant in Tennessee, and… the pollution scandal with emissions from diesel engines. But we haven’t…
The common point
Also in the mid-2000s, the minivan market started to decline a bit but was still very strong and profitable. For Volkswagen, which does not have a model in this segment in North America (in Europe, the brand offers the Sharan developed in collaboration with Ford and the Touran, a compact minivan based on the Golf), this is an opportunity for growth.
But building a new car costs a fortune and VW chose another solution: cloning. On January 9, 2006, during the Detroit Motor Show, Volkswagen and Chrysler signed a cooperation agreement for the production of a Volkswagen minivan based on the RT platform of the future Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country. , which would be shown the following year on the same show.
The craftsman of this agreement is Wolfgang Bernhard. The latter was director of operations for Chrysler (then the American branch of DaimlerChrysler) from 2000 to 2004 before becoming president of the Volkswagen brand in 2005 and being fired by Ferdinand Piëch in January 2007. That means he knows both houses well! He said, “It’s not just going to be a Chrysler minivan with a Volkswagen badge on it. It will be completely different. The touch, feel and interior functionality will be Volkswagen.” Hmm… That remains to be seen…
More… but mostly, less
The Routan was officially presented at the Chicago Auto Show in February 2008. It will go on sale for the 2009 vintage and Volkswagen hopes to sell 45,000 a year in the United States. All Routans are made at the Windsor, Ontario plant, along with the Grand Caravan and Town & Country. The front and back are very different (only the roof and the doors come from the Grand Caravan) but we still have a feeling of deja vu. Same inside where the plastics are usually more flattering.
The American range consists of three levels: S, SE, SEL. The first two benefit from a 3.8-liter V6 that generates 197 horsepower, while the third receives a 4.0-liter V6 that generates 251 horsepower. Both units are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. All mechanics are original Chrysler and only the suspensions have been modified. They are reinforced, just to offer “European” handling. In Canada, the range is different. There are 4 trim levels: Trendline, Comfortline, Highline and Execline. All are entitled to the same engine: the 4.0-liter V6.
But there are one or two buts… Chrysler keeps the most interesting features exclusive: the seats that fold into the floor, the famous “Stow’n go”, or the swivel seats in the second row, the ” Swivel ‘ n you go”. And prices are higher for the German cars: from $27,975 to $49,975 CDN compared to $26,595 to $42,995 CDN combining the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country (assuming the base Grand Caravan has offering an antediluvian 3.3-liter V6 mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission).
The $30,000 Question
In its 2010 edition, the Car guide, speaking of the Routan wonders “For whom and why? and added: “Why would the buyer go to Volkswagen when Chrysler has specialized in distributing this product since its inception?” To ask a question, is to answer it”. And that sums up the attitude of consumers since the launch. For the calendar year 2008, Volkswagen sold 355 units in Canada and 3,387 in the United States.
For its first full year on the market, 2009, the Routan sold 1,489 units in Canada and 14,681 in Uncle Sam. We are very far from the first goals. From there, sales will only decrease. And neither the modest cosmetic changes of 2011 nor the installation of the new 3.6-liter V6 Pentastar (283 horsepower) will change much. In Canada, the Execline version was discontinued in 2012. The Windsor plant stopped making Routans in July 2012, and the 2013 and 2014 vintages (in the US for the latter) were used to sell stocks while the Routan is destined for fleet sales from 2013 to our neighbors to the south.
Sales in Canada (calendar) were established as follows: 1,010 copies in 2010, 842 in 2011, 617 in 2012 and 100 in 2013. In the United States, sales were: 15,961 copies in 2010, 12,743 in 2013 and 1,103 in 2014. A total of 4,413 Tourans were sold in Canada and 60,468 in the United States. During the same period, Dodge sold 286,675 Dodge Grand Caravans in Canada and 828,239 in the United States, while Chrysler sold 29,157 Town & Country in Canada and 781,788 in the United States. tan!
It will be necessary to wait until 2018 and the Atlas, a purely domestic product at this time and produced at the Chattanooga plant, for Volkswagen to succeed again with a vehicle capable of transporting 7 people. But hey, it’s not too hard to do better…