Volkswagen sells a wide range of upscale passenger cars and utility vehicles, and is the most affordable German brand available in North America. Volkswagen is recognized for the high level of driving pleasure in their vehicles as well as the largest diesel powertrain offering in North America.
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Founded before WWII in 1937, its name translates from German to English as “people's car” and its first automobile was just that – a car for the people.
The distinctive, round-shaped car had an air-cooled four-cylinder boxer engine that delivered 25 hp to the rear wheels, and enough space for four passengers and their luggage. Volkswagen's Type 1 would become known more affectionately as the VW Beetle. The basic design remained relatively unchanged for over five decades with only minor changes and mechanical updates, until production finally ended in July 2003. Over 21 million original Beetles were produced.
VW expanded little during the '50s and '60s with the exception of the Type 2 panel van, produced in many variations including microbus, flatbed pickup and camper van, as well as the Type 3 sports coupe and convertible. VW vehicles starting to arrive in the U.S. in 1949, and in Canada in 1952.
The 1970s saw the introduction of the Passat (Dasher in North America), the Scirocco coupe, the subcompact Golf hatchback (Rabbit in North America) and Jetta sedan. The Golf GTI was crated in 1976 and offered in 1983 in the U.S. and Canada as the Rabbit GTI. The Vanagon replaced the Type 2 in 1979. Diesel powertrains were starting to appear in VW models at the end of the ‘70s.
A Cabriolet version of the Golf/Rabbit was also available from 1980, while in 1981, the Quantum mid-size sedan and wagon arrived in North America, offering a four-wheel drive powertrain from 1984. The 2- and 4-door Jetta reached the U.S. and Canada in 1982. In 1985, the Rabbit name was dropped, and both the Golf and Jetta were redesigned. GTI and GLI versions are offered.
In 1990, the third-generation Passat was introduced in replacement of the Quantum, and the EuroVan replaced the Vanagon. The Corrado and its supercharged engine arrived in the U.S. and Canada in 1990, replacing the Scirocco, and a new platform led to the fully modern New Beetle being launched in 1998.
A Cabriolet version of the New Beetle was launched in 2003, replacing the droptop Golf, while the mid-size 2004 Touareg was Volkswagen's first SUV. In 2007 appeared the Eos and its power-folding hardtop convertible. The full-size Phaeton sedan was launched in Europe in 2002, but offered in North America from 2004 to 2006.
In Canada, two affordable models were offered: the City Golf from 2007 to 2010 and the City Jetta from 2007 to 2009. Meanwhile, the Rabbit name returned to the U.S. and Canada for a few years, but VW ultimately restored the Golf from 2010 on.
Today, Volkswagen’s North American line-up consists of the compact Golf in 3-door, 5-door and wagon body styles, the Jetta sedan, the performance-oriented GTI and GLI models, the mid-size Passat, the CC four-door coupe, the Eos coupe/convertible, the Beetle, the compact Tiguan crossover, the Touareg SUV and Touareg Hybrid as well as the Routan minivan.
There are convertible people. And then there are convertible people! The access to open-air driving is as important as the air they breathe. A coupe just won't suffice. It's too stifling.
Hybrids are synonymous with great fuel economy. It's a fact. But sometimes they lack style -- a lot.
Bread-and-butter cars -- or gateway cars -- are the
first steps into a brand. They are typically the
bestselling nameplates for a given manufacturer, and
thus serve a number of purposes.
My first car -- the one that took me to high school --
was a 1985 Mazda 626 LX coupe. I bought it in 1993
for a mere $500. I subsequently dropped well over
three times that much on an audio system for the
thing, but that's not the point.