The new version of the Volkswagen Passat blurs the lines between mass-produced midsized sedans and luxury vehicles. The car contains several cutting-edge safety features that even many luxury vehicles don't yet have.
At a price of $32,500, the new VW Passat is on par with lower-end luxury vehicles such as the Audi A4 in terms of cost. However, Volkswagen is hoping that a range of new features on the Passat will draw in consumers. Around 90 percent of Passats currently sold in Europe are company cars, and Volkswagen is looking to expand its sales in that area even further.
"For me this Passat is a premium class car without premium costs," says board chairman Martin Winterkorn in a statement. "This fits perfectly to Europe's most successful business car."
The Passat features a retractable head-up display above the steering wheel that can display important information such as speed and navigation instructions without blocking vision or diverting the driver's view away from the road. The technology is based on the displays pioneered for modern military aircraft, projecting information onto a transparent screen. Volkswagen has also reduced the weight of the vehicle by nearly 200 pounds, and has redesigned the exterior of the car with a sleek new look.
"The new model looks more racy and significantly more attractive, but it'll remain a salesperson's car primarily," says Frank Ostermann of auto dealer Rosier Group.
Volkswagen is including a number of automated driving assistance features in the new Passat. An automatic emergency braking system can bring the car to a stop to avoid a collision, and drivers can even enable a system that takes partial control of the car in traffic. Automated systems can also help maneuver the vehicle when a trailer is attached.
Although it won't be available in the U.S. for now, the redesigned Passat will launch in both Europe and China, where it is expected to sell very well. In Europe, midsized sedans have seen a drop in sales as wealthier customers turn to more spacious SUVs and those affected by the economic downturn purchase compact cars to save money. However, the midsized sedan is still the most common company car, and that's where Volkswagen will make most of its sales.
Midsized sedans are faring far better in China, where customers more highly value the storage space they provide. Volkswagen sold 230,000 Passats in China last year, nearly equaling the 244,000 sold in Europe. When the 190,000 rebranded Magotans are included, China leads sales by a wide margin. The new Passat will be made available in the fourth quarter of 2014.