VW cuts Golf technology levels

Savings in high-volume production series puts pressure on dealers

Wolfsburg, Germany. Volkswagen is reducing product expenses as part of its “ForMotion” cost-cutting program, but some customers and dealers are annoyed at lessened technology on key models.

That’s especially true for equipment-level cutbacks at the model-year changeover for the Golf V sedan and its high-roof variant, the Golf Plus.

As shown in documents obtained by Automobilwoche, both vehicles are no longer delivered with radio antennas integrated into rear windows. Instead, they have cheaper rod antennas.

“The long rod, more than 16 inches (40 centimeters) long, on the roof destroys the visual impression to the point that it is harmful,” said a large VW dealer in the Cologne area. “And the customers naturally take out their frustration on us.”

Salesman Hans-Juergen Voss at the Fritz Noack + Sohn dealerships in Hamburg notes the fine print on catalogs: “Subject to change.”

Dealers are increasingly worried that VW brand chief Wolfgang Bernhard will quickly bring more reductions in technological sophistication.

In his so-called cost conclaves, the industrial engineer has the participants look hard for potential savings.

A VW spokesman said the antenna decision had been planned for a year, long before Bernhard took over. But Bernhard has emphasized the urgency of coming down “from our high costs.”

As an example, Bernhard approved replacing the original 60-amp battery with a cheaper 44-amp battery in some versions of the Golf Plus.

In contrast to some customers and dealers, industry analysts greeted the savings efforts more favorably.

“Decontenting like this has been practiced successfully by a Japanese competitor, Toyota, for years,” said Ralf Kalmbach, auto specialist at the business consulting firm Roland Berger. “VW, BMW, and Mercedes and company would all do well to quickly close ranks with the competition.”

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