• New Volkswagen Tiguan to spawn seven-seater, coupe

    February 7, 2016

    Volkswagen has shed insight into what the future holds for the second-generation Tiguan (pictured) that was shown to the public at last year’s Frankfurt Auto Show.

    Dr. Jochen Böhle, the engineer responsible for Volkswagen’s compact cars, revealed that the Tiguan will be offered in at least three body styles in the next two or three years. The first one is the standard, five-seater model that was shown in Germany a few months ago. It’s scheduled to go on sale across Europe in April, but it won’t make the trip across the Atlantic Ocean.

    Instead, the Wolfsburg-based car maker is currently developing an extended version of its newest crossover tentatively called Tiguan XL that will stand out from the regular model thanks to a wheelbase that will be stretched by about four and a half inches and a much longer rear overhang. The extra sheet metal will allow Volkswagen of America to offer the crossover with seven seats, though the configuration will likely be available as an option. It’s safe to assume the XL will receive a few market-specific design tweaks, too.

    The Tiguan XL will be joined by a four-door coupe model with a sleek, fastback-like silhouette inspired by the BMW X4 and the upcoming Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe. It will share its wheelbase with the five-seater Tiguan, and it will boast a sportier design that will emphasize performance, not off-road prowess. Technical details remain unconfirmed.

    Built in Puebla, Mexico, the Volkswagen Tiguan XL won’t reach U.S. showrooms until the summer of 2017 at the earliest. However, British magazine Auto Express believes the first-ever Škoda crossover that will be previewed by a thinly-veiled concept at next month’s Geneva show will share most of its mechanical components — and its basic dimensions — with the XL. The coupe will be assembled either in Spain or in Germany, and it might not land on our shores until the end of 2017.

    Live photos by Ronan Glon.

  • Volkswagen planning Chevy Bolt-fighting EV?

    February 7, 2016

    Volkswagen is developing a standalone electric vehicle designed to take on the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, a new report finds.

    The yet-unnamed model will ride on the same modular MEB platform as the electric version of the upcoming eighth-generation Golf, and the two EVs will share many powertrain components. However, the EV will feature a completely different design, though it’s too early to tell whether it will be a sedan or a hatchback, and it will be more affordable than its Golf-badged sibling. Australian website Motoring has learned it will likely offer a more range, too.

    Dr. Herbert Diess, Volkswagen’s new CEO, wants to add more EVs to the Wolfsburg-based car maker’s lineup as soon as possible in a bid to restore its image in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal. Executives haven’t decided if the Bolt-fighting model will land before the next-generation Golf, which is expected to debut in 2018, or slightly after.

    The MEB platform is being developed to underpin many electric vehicles in the coming years. One of them is the production version of the retro-inspired Budd-e concept that was shown to the public last month at the CES show. It will offer a roughly 375-mile driving range when it goes on sale near the turn of the decade.

    Photo by Ronan Glon.

  • VW launches new ad campaign in hopes of restoring trust

    February 7, 2016

    Volkswagen has unveiled a new global ad campaign aimed at winning back the public’s trust in the wake of its diesel engine scandal in which the company willfully cheated emissions tests with 11 million cars.

    The new print and television commercials drop the long-used “Das Auto” slogan and seeks to tug at heartstrings rather than emphasizing technology. A new print ad, for example, shows a child hugging a parent while standing on a Jetta wagon. “It’s more than just a car. It’s keeping your promise,” says the copy.

    A television spot shows a child transitioning through various VW products throughout his life, from boyhood to fatherhood, starting with a original Beetle. The new tagline appears at the end: “Then. Now. Always.”

    “An amazing number of people all over the world associate our vehicles with memories, because a Volkswagen is a part of their lives, explained Volkswagen sales and marketing head Jurgenn Stackmann in an official statement, “In other words, Volkswagen was, and is, ‘the people’s car.’”

    Stackmann continued, “We have lost credibility and trust in recent months. We are now doing everything we can to win that back.” According to the company, these ads are ” just the first visible step.”

    The ads have been timed to roll out in the UK, Spain and Portugal in early February, the same time the recall of about 8.5 million European VWs begins. Then come Germany, Austria and Switzerland later this month. Other European markets and the rest of the world will receive this message in March.

    Audi, which is owned by VW and also has some cars recalled by the scandal, has conspicuously dropped its slogan, Truth in Engineering, from its recent Super Bowl commercial.

  • After 12 years, Clearview font to be phased out of US road signs

    February 7, 2016

    After over a decade of planning, the move to change the font used on road signs across the United States has been scrapped.

    The Clearview Hwy typeface was approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 2004 and expected to eventually replace the existing Highway Gothic typeface. Clearview was thought to improve legibility, especially at night, and reduce glare and improve legibility distance. Unfortunately, recent tests have shown the data to be flawed.

    Clearview was developed with research conducted at the Texas Transportation Institute and the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute, where according to Popular Mechanics, the font was readable from 80 feet further away than Highway Gothic. This was largely due to the fact that it was designed with more negative space in letters such as lowercase a, e, and s.

    However, after further research, it was revealed after subsequent studies that Clearview was in fact less legible than Highway Gothic when used in dark letters on white or yellow backgrounds, such as speed limit signs. It was also found to be less legible on street name signs.

    At least 30 states or some cities within them have begun using Clearview, leading to a mix of both fonts used across the US and often inside the same state. The FHWA has rescinded the Clearview approval, meaning that signs using Clearview will have to change them back when they are replaced, eventually restoring Highway Gothic as the sole typeface on American road signs.