VW stands for Very Wrong
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.