VW stands for Very Wrong

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Carsguide -

IT IS rare for a car com­pany ex­ec­u­tive to ad­mit to hav­ing made a big mis­take. Yet Detlef Wit­tig, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of Volk­swa­gen, is clearly re­lieved this week as he talks about the car that will pass into his­tory as the Golf 5.

‘‘It was too com­pli­cated,’’ Wit­tig says at the Aus­tralian press preview of Golf 6 in Reyk­javik, Ice­land. ‘‘The construction of the Golf 5 was rather com­pli­cated by de­vel­op­ment en­gi­neers who were not think­ing about the pro­duc­tion process.’’

He is in­cred­i­bly blunt about the think­ing be­hind its re­place­ment, the Golf 6, which can be crit­i­cised for con­ser­va­tive styling and a lot of carry-over me­chan­i­cal com­po­nents from the pre­vi­ous­gen­er­a­tion car.

‘‘We’re not go­ing for fash­ion,’’ he says. ‘‘The Volk­swa­gen brand is not re­ally a one-night stand.’’

Wit­tig is con­fi­dent the com­pany has taken a step back­wards to go fur­ther for­ward, giv­ing all sorts of in­sights into the mis­takes of Golf 5, which cost Volk­swa­gen money, pre­sented prob­lems to own­ers and led to a dis­as­trous slide down the J.D. Power rank­ings of ve­hi­cle qual­ity.

He says the car had great en­gi­neer­ing but was far too costly and com­pli­cated to build. Many of its prob­lems came from the many pro­cesses needed to trans­late en­gi­neer­ing dreams into pro­duc­tion re­al­ity.

He says the switch to the Golf 6 has cut the time needed to pro­duce a car from 35 hours to about 25, which means more profit, fewer com­pli­ca­tions and no loss of qual­ity.

‘‘We had two ob­jec­tives with it — to make more money and sat­isfy cus­tomers,’’ he says.

Wit­tig says the Golf 5 can be seen in much the same way as the two-gen­er­a­tions-old Mercedes S-Class, which was nick­named the ‘‘Swine-class’’ be­cause it did so badly with cus­tomers af­ter cost­ing the com­pany more than twice its orig­i­nal de­vel­op­ment bud­get.

Carry-over work on the Golf 6 prob­a­bly saved Volk­swa­gen more than $500 mil­lion, but Wit­tig is con­cen­trat­ing on the cus­tomer ben­e­fit, which he be­lieves will be re­flected in fu­ture J.D. Power qual­ity sur­veys.

‘‘We want to be up in the top lead­ing group. We have to re­turn there,’’ he says.

And what hap­pened to the en­gi­neers who led Volk­swa­gen down the Golf 5 drain?

‘‘They are more or less all gone,’’ Wit­tig says in an­other rare but frank ad­mis­sion.

Big mis­take: VW’s Detlef Wit­tig.

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