VW Stumbles — Again

I have a friend who works here at CNBC who may be the biggest VW fan around. On a regular basis my friend Sandy tells me how great VW's are and how the brand never gets the respect it deserves in the US. Sandy's not alone. There's a small but vocal group of people who think auto reporters like me need to get a clue about Volkswagen and start to appreciate the German auto giant.

2011 Volkswagen Jetta
Source: Volkswagen of America
2011 Volkswagen Jetta

For these champions of farfegnugen the latest Consumer Reports review of the new Jetta must sting. CR was disappointed in the new Jetta, writing, "The redesigned Volkswagen Jetta is a shadow of the agile, well-finished car it once was."

David Champion, who runs the CR auto testing division described the Jetta problems saying, "In an effort to bring the car’s starting price down, VW cheapened the previous Jetta’s interior and suspension, making it less sophisticated and compromising handling.”

Not surprisingly, CR does not recommend the new Jetta sedan (the wagon model is still recommended) saying "Engineers found fault with its agility, cornering grip, coarse engine, braking, interior fit and finish, and so-so fuel economy." You can read the complete review at www.ConsumerReports.org.

So why does this matter? It matters because Volkswagen is determined to become a true player in the U.S. Sales this year are up 15%, lagging the overall industry growth of 20.2%. The auto maker has a new plant coming on line in Chattanooga, Tennessee and is determined to make sure it builds and sells models Americans want. It needs a hit. It's been years since VW had a break out, must have car.

But as my colleague Sandy shows, there's a loyal group of people who want to support VW. The question is if and when their support swells to other car buyers here in the states. If the CR review of the new Jetta is any indication, it may be a while.

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