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VehicleVoice Panelists' Opinion of Manufacturers

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During the last week of March 2007, 1,254 VehicleVoice panelists responded to an Internet survey concerning their opinion of major automakers in the USA. VehicleVoice asked these questions because the opinion of buyers and their attitudes towards various aspects of a manufacturer’s image are critically important. Managing image and opinion plus understanding what is driving that opinion can influence whether a person will positively consider or reject a brand next time they are in the market.
The key question in the VehicleVoice survey was whether the respondent’s opinion of a manufacturer had changed since this time last year. If their opinion had changed, the panel member was given the chance to explain why their opinion had changed. We received over 5,000 comments concerning these manufacturers. Some were as short one word. Some were as long as a page of 10-point type. Folks really had a lot to say and their comments were fascinating.

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Discussion for each of the brands is below the fold.


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2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2 – New York Auto Show

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Volkwagen announced a freshened Touareg 2 at the New York Auto Show in early April, after introducing the new look to Europeans in Paris last September. The Touareg 2 has updated exterior styling, but frankly it is difficult/impossible to see the changes. It’s kind of like the freshening the Acura MDX got for 2005 – couldn’t tell.
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Typical “Front and Rear Six” Freshening
One of the quickest and least expensive ways to update a vehicle is with a “front and rear six” freshening. This is what Volkswagen did with the Touareg 2. They updated the grille and front fascia to be more in line with other Volkswagen models. We feel that this recognizable face helps define a brand and that VW is better off with at-a-glance identification. Tallamps have been modified and the center taillamp relocated into its “redesigned aerodynamic and sporty rear spoiler”.
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New Instrument Cluster May Alleviate Biggest Complaint with Touareg 1
One of my biggest complaints with the “Touareg 1” was the auxiliary gauges in the instrument cluster were totally illegible. They were so small that only a German with 20/15 vision could tell what the state of the fuel was. So Touareg 2 gets a new instrument cluster with “a larger display”. Right on!
Under the Skin Changes – Comprehensive Updates
There were more changes under the skin, and more features moved to the standard equipment list. This is appropriate with a vehicle that was Volkswagen’s first venture into the Crossover Sport Utility Vehicle market. Vehicle dynamics improved with rollover sensors and the ability for the electronic stability control system to adjust for understeer. But we’ll let you read their press release below the fold to get the grimble details of the functional upgrades.


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Playboy Awards 2007 Cars of the Year

You could tell from the smiles on the faces of the suits from Cadillac that they had just come from something special. The Cadillac Escalade had just won the Playboy 2007 Car of the Year Award. Jim Taylor, Cadillac General Manager was lugging around a golden trophy with a totally blinged-out Playboy bunny glued to it and a discreet plaque proclaiming Escalade’s win.

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Playboy Magazine has just named their 2007 Cars of the Year. Included in this year’s list were:
Playboy 2007 Car of the Year – BMW Z4 M
Best SUV – Cadillac Escalade
Best Sports Coupe – Porsche 911 Carrera
Best Bang for the Buck – Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500
The Al Gore Special – Lexus GS450h
Best Two-Way Player – Volkswagen Eos
Best Pickup – Toyota Tundra
Best Cross Dresser – Mazda CX-7
Best Roadster – Saturn Sky Red Line
Oh yeah, about the presentations. Apparently, a hostess Playmate gave the executives a tour around the Playboy Mansion. A former Playmate, the young lady was extremely well spoken, knew her stuff and presented Playboy in a very favorable light. What I’m saying is that she wasn’t the airhead blonde bimbette that may have been expected at Playboy.


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2007 Chicago Auto Show: 2008 Volkswagen R32

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Order Mine Now, Please
One of my favorite drives over the past few years was the first Volkswagen Golf R32, a 2004 limited-edition version of the last Golf. With a 250HP 3.2L V6, AWD, and a six-speed manual in a small, five-door hatchback, it was a blast to drive. VW imported only 5000 units.

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At the 2007 Chicago auto show, Volkswagen introduced a new R32, this time using the latest Rabbit. The engine is the same 250HP 3.2L VR6, but instead of the six-speed manual it takes the six-speed DSG system, which means faster shifts than I can accomplish manually. To set it apart from regular Rabbits, the R32 takes standard eighteen-inch wheels and tires, R32 badging, a rear roof spoiler and body-color bumpers, side bump strips, door handles and mirrors. Standard equipment includes ESP, ABS, brake assist, and electronic brake distribution. The standard convenience feature list is more extensive than on regular Rabbits, including automatic climate control, heated seats, heated windshield wiper nozzles, a ten-speaker CD stereo, rain-sensing wipers, and cruise control.
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On Line Order Placement
As before, VW will bring over 5000 R32s. Of those, 2000 will be brought over in 2007 and 3000 in 2008. The only sticking point is the price, which will be just over $32,000. For the performance and equipment level, it is a very reasonable price, but it still can seem like a big ticket for a Rabbit. If you want yours, you can go to an R32 microsite at www.vw.com and get in line to order one; the site will refer you to a dealer. The first 832 people to put money down on an order will get theirs in August 2007.
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VehicleVoice#58 – Volkswagen 2007 GTI and the Tiguan (Tiguan?)

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Volkswagen believes that great things can come in small packages. Their 2006 GTI won Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award, after all. The 2007 edition does add a five-door version to the lineup for folks who want a bit more function, but do not want much more size. Sticking with the theme, VW’s new SUV Concept, the Tiguan, is another small package with big features.
No, we don’t know what a Tiguan is. Neither does Dictionary.com. But that’s not important right now. What is, is the fact that the L.A. Auto Show and the North American International Auto Show offered a peek at the new compact SUV sporting a 50-state-compliant 2.0-liter diesel. What does that mean? VW is promising several alternative drivetrains when the Tiguan actually hits production. Word on the show floor in Detroit was that the production model is going to be darned close to the concept.
David Barrett gives us a quick look at the Tiguan, replendent in orange, as well as the 2007 GTI, also resplendent in orange. In fact everything in the VW booth was resplendent in orange, including the light.

Show Runtime – 3:28


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My Favorite Rides of the Year

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At this time of year, everyone wants you to know about the best cars, trucks and SUVS of the year. AutoPacific has already taken a big step in that direction, but with a twist: Partnering with Intellichoice, AutoPacific shared the best vehicles of the year, as picked by you – and that’s saying something! The Awards are called the Motorist’s Choice Awards and this year included the Lexus LS430, The Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 4×2, the Infiniti QX56 and the Audi A6 4.2 Quattro. Where else can you go to get the best possible input from your own peers about the latest vehicles in the marketplace? Since you’re here, we think you’ve come to the right place.
Watch the Podcast: AutoPacific & IntelliChoice Motorist’s Choice Awards

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My Personal Choices for Best Rides of the Year
It’s part of my job to drive a new vehicle nearly every week. In some cases, more than one vehicle at week gets the once-over, not only by me, but by a number of the analysts and experts at VehicleVoice and AutoPacific. As the resident speed-guy, I might have a slightly different take on things and while I do try to avoid going to court, I do need to put my foot down. And that’s part of what my list is about. The other things I’m taking into consideration are everyday drivability, cost, and return on investment. And as you know, everyone is concerned about fuel costs and gas mileage. Not me! Not yet… So, let’s get to it.


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Stuck to the Dealer's Floor – Inventory Numbers Tell the Story

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Which cars and trucks are planted to the dealer’s floor? In other words, which vehicles take the longest to sell? Who cars? Why does it matter, anyway?
Well, while it may not seem that important to you, it’s critically important to the industry s a whole… from the manufacturese, component suppliers, dealers and quite a few financial institutions. First, if you know the time it takes to sell a vehicle, you know how much it is dragging on the dealer’s floorplanning costs. Floorplanning is the term for the amount it costs the dealer to finance the a vehicle in inventory waiting to be sold. If a vehicle has been hanging around for weeks, he’ll be more likely to deal aggressively to get rid of it. Also, vehicles that have high days supply may be less popular. From that perspective, they may be the ones you want to stay away from.


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VW Axes Traditional Car Ads for New Media

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Volkswagen NA has turned another corner in its quest to turn traditional marketing programs upside down. Following up on its successful FAST campaign, VW has upped the ante with a new multimedia program called “VDUBSROCK.” While it’s too early to know if the program will be a success, there’s no doubt it is establishing the importance of community marketing and new media in the sales process.

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Buy a Guitar, Get a Car… Reminiscent of Buy a Bike, Get a Jetta – Jetta Trek
The VW program promotes an unusual opportunity. Purchase one of four VW models (GTI, New Beetle, Jetta, and Rabbit), and get a new guitar – and not just any guitar, either. The First Act Garage Master guitar includes a built-in pre-amp, so you can plug the axe into your new car and literally play along with music in the car.


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Volkswagen Lures Media to Playboy Mansion

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Ah, those wiley Volkswagen PR Folks
Lured to the Playboy Mansion in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles, automotive journalists arrived with visions of Playmates dancing in their heads. Disappointed! None to be seen. Would have cost VW $7,500 more to have Playmates strolling around during the event… heck, I would have paid it! Of course, VehicleVoice fell for it and treked up to Holmby Hills for the show.

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Anyway… there was a business purpose to the event. Volkswagen was introducing four special edition cars and announcing a special promotion for the 4th Quarter of 2006. The special editions included a high value Wolfsburg Edition Jetta, two Fahrenheit models – a GTi Fahrenheit and GLi Fahrenheit, and a triple white New Beetle.
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All of these special editions are low volume models intended to increase the visibility of the Jetta, GTi and New Beetle through the middle of 2007.


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2007 Volkswagen Eos Driving Impressions

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What a sweetheart!

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Finally an affordable sporty car with a retractable hardtop!
Volkswagen has just introduced its new Eos sporty car. They call it a CSC or “Convertible Sunroof Coupe”. VehicleVoice got the first opportunity to drive the Jetta-based Eos at a Volkswagen-sponsored event in Portland, Oregon. This was a really risky proposition for the VW PR folks… having a convertible launch in one of the dampest areas of the country. But the weather cooperated and we missed the rain.
Eos – Affordable Aspiration
The Eos is a very pleasant small car. Volkswagen PR folks describe it as affordable aspiration and it fills the bill. Priced at $27,990 for the base car, it can be equipped to just shy of $40,000 when all the boxes are checked on a 3.2L V6 version.
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While Volkswagen contends the Eos is not a chick’s car, it certainly is. The old VW Cabriolet had about 80% female ownership. Southern California was crawling with young blonde girls driving Cabrios… see my car, see me. Remember the movie Clueless?… yep, VW Cabriolet. Now, VW says that there will be a 50/50 split between genders. We don’t see it. Chick car all the way.


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