Volkswagen has a habit of introducing game-changers, and for the most part it always works and has been a winning recipe for the automaker.
You only need to look at the Polo range to see evidence of that. The T-Cross SUV is yet another example, and the Golf. You see where this is going?
A few years ago, the German brand came to the decision to discontinue the local production of the Passat and Jetta sedans which would then be replaced by a single flagship offering.
The Arteon made its local debut in 2018 and was priced just under R600 000 for the entry-level 2.0-litre TDI 130kW Elegance DSG variant.
Both the Jetta and Passat have been around since the early '90s and it is for this reason that both of them should not have been given the boot in favour of a brand-new, more expensive model, at least in my opinion.
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Volkswagen Passat. Image: QuickPic
Bad judgement call
The Jetta was by far the more successful of the two, even though it wasn't on the same level of quality as the more luxurious Passat. Using Naamsa new car sales figures from September 2016 as a base, when both cars were last on sale in SA, 266 Jettas found new homes and 22 for the Passat.
More recently, the 'new kid on the block' Arteon only sold a meagre 2 units in February 2020 - the last received figures. It's highly unlikely that the Jetta or even the Passat, for that matter, would have dipped so severely.
To emphasise the Jetta's popularity, Volkswagen established JETTA as a stand-alone brand in China. Having owned a fifth-generation Jetta myself, it was a sedan for any occasion. It didn't look out of place anywhere, and was very well-priced among the Audi A4s and BMW 3 Series of this world.
Volkswagen Jetta. Image: QuickPic
Narrowing the focus
It's clear that VW's powers lie within the SUV and passenger car segment, which enables them to go toe-to-toe with Toyota every month. That saying 'if it's not broken, don't fix it' applies to the removal of their sedan stalwarts.
Whereas customers could choose between two sedan options, they are now forced to choose only one model in particular with the only difference being the trim level specification.
Volkswagen should have copied a page out of their own book with what they did with the Polo and Polo Vivo range. By removing two familiar models and replacing it with an entirely new one was a huge gamble that didn't pay off.
Mercedes-Benz tried it with the X-Class bakkie and that 'love story' didn't end well.
The failure of the Arteon is not going to cripple the German brand, but the message it brings across is that new isn't always better.
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