It is an appropriate time, I suppose, to be writing about Volkswagen as just last week the Germany Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) approved the technical solutions for over 800,000 vehicles affected by what Volkswagen describes whimsically as the “diesel issues,” writes Declan Colley
The company announced that Passat, Passat CC, and Eos models with the two-litre TDI EA 189 engines, which were at the centre of a scandal that engulfed the company in an unprecedented and hugely damaging furore, will be the first ones to have their “issues” addressed.
Indeed, while the international reputational carnage caused to the firm may take years to fully appreciate, at least VW has finally got the ball rolling to try and restore customer’s faith.
And, although VW’s Irish arm has not yet revealed its intentions with regard to the recall of thousands of their vehicles in order to rectify the emission-cheating technology it adopted to hide the fact the EA 189 engine was not as efficient or clean as they made it out to be, German owners will be the first to get their vehicles sorted.
Announcing the continuation of the retrofit campaign for affected vehicles, Jürgen Stackmann, a member of the board of management of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand responsible for sales, marketing, and after-sales, said he was pleased the campaign could now begin.
VW promises that following the retrofit, “the cars will meet all legal requirements” and says it “is working at full speed to implement the technical solutions and will rectify all vehicles affected by the NOx issue”.
The bad news, however, is that the launch of the recall campaign for cars with 1.2l TDI EA189 engines, initially planned for the second quarter of 2016, will be delayed. VW is still awaiting approval for the technical solutions for other high-volume models with the affected 2.0l TDI engines. A long way to go then.
This news, combined with the revelation VW Group’s pre-tax profits were down 20% — at €3.2bn — in the first quarter of this year as sales revenue dipped as a result of the ‘dieselgate’ crisis.
However, the company was able to post a slight operating profit rise. Chief executive Matthias Müller said the company is “satisfied” with the start made to a “challenging year”.
“In the first quarter, we once again managed to limit the economic effects of the diesel issue and achieve respectable results under difficult conditions,” he said.
VW stuck to its forecast for 2016 as a whole and expects sales revenue for the group to be down by up to 5% on the prior-year figure.
Given the dire nature of the predictions about the future of the company at the outset of the ‘dieselgate’ scandal, it would appear VW in not now in as bad a place as many predicted and its recent return to the top of the Irish sales charts is indicative of how customers here feel about the whole matter.
And there’s good reason for the company to feel reasonably bullish about its current situation, particularly as it has a really good range of cars to sell right now, no matter what barbs are thrown at it.
Passat and Golf models are bang in contention in their respective segments across Europe. Stuff like Polo and Up! are there or thereabouts. This week’s tester — the seven-seat family wagon Touran — is, as far as I can see, right up with the best in class too.
It has been with us for a while, but last year’s complete overhaul of the model means that what’s on offer now is a completely new machine from the ground up.
OK so the look of the car is now little different to what came before, but it has been built on a completely new platform, uses the latest powertrains, has brand new and very impressive architecture, and a whole suite of safety and infotainment technologies.
As a practical family car offering, the Touran is right up to date on all fronts. It is also longer and wider than before, addressing the ever-thorny issue about seven-seaters, that the majority aren’t seven seaters at all.
The Touran is not bad in this regard and certainly youngsters up to about 15 will find decent comfort in the rearmost seats. Access to those seats isn’t bad either, especially given the Touran is a traditional five-door vehicle without the sliding doors others have adopted.
The middle row tilts and slides to allow access to the back seats and the ‘slide’ function also allows middle row legroom to be adjusted. It is worth noting that both the second and third rows of seats can also be folded flat to proved a massive amount of storage space — the sort of space families need every now and then.
Throw in an incredible number of oddment storage spaces, as well as the sort of quality build and finish one expects from the Germans and you have something which is not only pleasant to sit in and be driven, but which will also withstand the demanding rigours of day-to-day family mauling.
The 150 bhp two-litre engine is probably not the one which will sell most here in Ireland — that will almost certainly be the 1.6-litre 110 bhp version — but it is a very nice car to drive. It has a beefy pep to its step and should return 45mpg+ while emitting just 117 g/km (if you’re inclined to believe the official figure).
Handing is very positive for such a relatively big car and the ride is comfortable, whichever row of seats you’re in. In the Highline trim we tested, the car comes with a raft of standard kit, including the impressive Discover Pro media system which can potentially tell you where to get the cheap-est petrol locally.
A really nice car which fits into the ethos of the VW family with striking ease — or at least the ethos we previously believed the company to have.
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