VW's Drivers Wanted?Enlarge Photo
Dateline: Jan. 09, 2011
Location: Detroit's Fire Haus, 250 W. Larned St.
Before VW unveiled its New Midsize Sedan--the new Passat--it held an invitation only clambake (yes, shellfish and other hors d'oeuvres). There, guests mingled with VW's designers, engineers and its Wolfsburg (VWAG) and Herndon (VWoA) leaders.
VW's New Mid-Size Sedan IllustrationEnlarge Photo
Like a Hollywood premiere, VW's Preview Night dazzled. Luminaries including Tennessee politicians rolled in. Queues of VW Touaregs delivered dignitaries. One journalist quipped, "This looks like Wolfsburg."
The Germans are Coming...
While we waited under torch-style heaters, the Germans arrived from an earlier roundtable meeting. Above us: a crescent moon and a teaser banner. The latter announced VW's official introduction (Jan. 10, 2011) of its still under-the-cover, all-new 2012 made-in-America sedan. Also obscured: the car's name. Nonetheless, with only the bottom last letter exposed, the shivering throng that gathered whispered, "Passat?"
VW's US operations learned a thing or two after its New York 2011 Jetta premiere. There, the Jetta's hood ornament was a wet-suit-clad Katy Perry. She kissed a grille and liked it! In Detroit, VW generated excitement. It held rank-and-file journalists at bay while it set the stage for a big announcement: its built-in-the-USA mid-size sedan's nameplate-Passat (a trade-in wind?)
The British are Coming
VWoA's CEO Sees More American VWsEnlarge Photo
VWAG's Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg Dubs it a PassatEnlarge Photo
Actually, a British correspondent confirmed the car's name via text message a few minutes before its Anglo-American CEO Jonathan Browning announced it. Regardless, news that VW chose a German moniker for its Tennessee-built car hit pay dirt. Or as Browning says, VW's big effort to increase its relevance in America struck an "accord." The result: applause!
German name for American-built sedan gets applauseEnlarge Photo
Effervescent: the mood inside Detroit's FireHouse. VWAG's Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg crowed, a video presentation sucked eyeballs through a high-speed field trip of VW's new green-theme Chattanooga plant, introduced us to its enthusiastic American employees and then let us see VW's American Passat in motion. Coda: shots of the car at its new Tennessee home. That state's delegation posed for TV news cameras. Senator Bob Corker: iridescent.
Arsonist Passat at Detroit FirehouseEnlarge Photo
Train demonstrates VW sound systemEnlarge Photo
Throughout this name-game party, people wondered whether the people-car company would roll the 2012 Passat through a VW lollipop logo festooned overhead door and onto the stage. VW's brass promised a surprise. They delivered. Instead of a car, out came Train. Pat Monahan and company played four tunes. I heard "Hey, Soul Sister." My press pool colleague, Lynn Anderson, ditched me. She nabbed a front-row seat, called her daughter, and then feed our live private-party concert via cell phone to very appreciative ears.
Train's front man Pat MonahanEnlarge Photo
Why Train? They "demonstrated" VW's Fender-brand automotive sound system with musicians who've mastered Bassmans, Stratocasters and Jazzmasters.
Volks WomanEnlarge Photo