• Jan 18, 2009

Click above to view high-resolution images from our first drive of the Volkswagen Routan

With Chrysler's fortunes swirling around the drain, it's widely expected that the only way it will survive is as individual parts swallowed by other automakers. But while the costly Viper operation may find a new home, the most likely buyer for its minivan operation, the product that put the company back on the map over two decades ago, isn't interested.

Chrysler has been rebadging its Town & Country minivans as Routans for Volkswagen in a deal struck by Wolfgang Bernhard, a former top exec at both automakers. But while Chrysler sold 232,000 of its Town & Country and Dodge Caravan minivans last year, Volkswagen sold a paltry 3387 Routans, which may go a long way towards explaining why Stefan Jacoby, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, says they're not interested. The weak sales come despite a costly ad campaign featuring Brooke Shields: If they spent $1 million on the commercials – including Brooke's big fat paycheck (the only time "fat" and "Brooke Shields" ever belong in the same sentence) – that means the advertising cost $294 per Routan sold. Which is more than what we'd pay for a badge-engineered minivan being passed off as German engineering.

Still, for your viewing enjoyment, we've included a video of Brooke's Routan mocumentary/commercial after the jump, because we'll take any excuse to watch Brooke Shields talk about making babies. Just be prepared to yell "but it's not German engineering!" at your computer screen repeatedly.


[Source: Business Week]


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  • 29 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      Ha ha ha ha ha, that's pretty....rediculous!
      • 6 Years Ago
      The Chrysler vans would be a good replacement for the Nissan Quest. Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia all have decent vans and Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and Suzuki may not be big enough in the US to need the vans in thier lineups.

      Nissan may be Chryslers biggest buyer because of this and the Ram trucks. Nissan buys them at bargain basement price, skims off what they want, and sell the rest to the Chinese makers.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I sell these things unfortunately, well, let me qualify that. They have these in our showroom, and the dealership I work for has sold a grand total of 3, two of which were preordered before they arrived. Yes, that's right, since they arribed in the showroom, we have sold 1. In a dealership that usually puts 40 or so new cars a month on the road, that's kinda sad.

      I'd say the big reason for that is this. If Chrysler truly thinks that the fit, finish and materials are on par with virtually ANY of the competition, they're fooling themselves. Even VW realized that, when shortly after launch, a quiet memo was sent out mentioning that the 12 year/unlimited km rust warranty we have, does not apply to this vehicle, making it the only one in the showroom that it doesn't apply to.

      It's actually gotten to the point that the boss has us each driving this thing for a week each, so we can learn to "learn the advantages". Sorry boss, been in it for 3 days, and they aren't readily apparent.
        • 6 Years Ago
        You also realize that Routan went on sale later in the year and wasn't on sale all year. You won't sell any at your dealership if you don't try. You are paid to move vehicles wether you personally like them or not.

        Routan outsold many other VW models in December.
        More than theCC
        More than the Touareg
        More than Passat Wagon
        More than GTI
        More than Eos

        VW didn't have a single model that sold over 100k units in the USA last year... in fact the Jetta is the only model that sold over 36k units

        • 6 Years Ago
        Possibly.... but I live in Canada. They are so far short of target on sales, that they'd asked for VW to hold them at "port" because we don't have any more room.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I would be concerned about VW support is there are mechanical problems. View my VW experience here: http://www.reesphotos.com/VW/
      • 6 Years Ago
      It's no suprise that VW isn't selling those Mini Vans, My questions why doesn't bring over the very nice Mini Vans they sell in Europe to America, like the Sharan that they been making for along time.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'm not sure about the minivan business deal, but if I hear that _____ say "German engineering" again, I well shoot the ____ out of her.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I hate these commercials. The scripting is retarded and passing a rebadge as "German Engineering" is just as bad.
      • 6 Years Ago
      OT:
      When do we see the first Autoblog news where the TAGS text is bigger than the news?
      I mean this one comes close.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The VW version has better attractive sheet metal
      • 6 Years Ago
      "German Engineering"?

      Yes. There IS German engineering...provided by Chrysler LLC's former owner, Daimler.
      • 6 Years Ago
      You guys are morons.

      Obviously they sold so few, the car went on sale in the FALL and production didn't ramp up until December.

      I doubt anybody is expecting this to be a huge hit, but at least put sales figures into CONTEXT. Or is that too complicated a concept?

      Here's a fact: In November 2008, the Routan was the second best-selling car in Volkswagen dealers, bested only by the Jetta.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Thank you for pointing that out, Mark.
        If you hadn't mentioned this fact, I would have.
        Those Routan sales are highly misleading, as the car didn't go on sale until late fall. I've seen a couple of them bumming around the suburbs while visiting my parents here in Houston. Still, I can't blame VW for not wanting more than the Routan's share of what is generally considered a dying segment in an aching economy.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Excellent point Gforce. This is a "push" story, not a real one.

        @summazooma remember that this v6 family will be replaced soon by the Phoenix engine family. I'm sure that VW knows this too.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Thank you, Mark. I don't know whether those number were suppose to be intentionally misleading or whether is was just really, really... really poor research. Either way, it's deplorable "journalism".

        In any case, why would Chrysler even be interested in selling off one of their most successful vehicle lines. The whole question smacks of someone fishing for a comment from VW, then taking it and misrepresenting it as yet another "no one wants a Chrysler" line.

        Bah.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yes, the Routan is a vehicle that, for those who don't know much beyond the unfortunately bad advertising (and, I'm actually a big Brooke fan, from the skimpy wardrobe days of Blue Lagoon), there is a shortage of respect for just how much this vehicle is improved over the Chrysler branded models.

        From the exterior, which looks more like the original than a facelifted version of something else, to the interior, where the forms in the I/P, the improved materials and the rejection of the typically-dingy "dirty gray" Chrysler interior color palette, this is easily the Chrysler minivan I'd choose.

        When I sat in one at NAIAS, after sitting in and critically assessing other vehicles, it occured to me that this interior might actually represent hope for Chrysler; If they can execute this, then perhaps GM's most recent interiors aren't really an aberration among poorly-executed domestic interiors, after all... and, perhaps, GM isn't the best domestic at executing an interior, either!

        Back to the exterior, one thing that I don't think alot of people realize but that really changes the look of the vehicle, even as subtle as it (by necessity) is, is the among of sheetmetal changes to the Routan from the base Chrysler products. I mean, this doesn't share the side stamping, which is a huge deal (by comparison, when GM replaced the Venture/Transport vans with the Uplander/Montana/Relay CSVs, they retained the same side stamping). In addition, the front end uses a significantly differentiated clip, even going to a clamshell hood.

        Between these changes and, at least with the top trim level, the best looking wheels of any Chrysler-produced minivan, these are actually pretty nice pieces.

        Now, the powertrains are another thing, though... I've drive the new 4.0L a couple of times and, though it's a pretty good update on an old-tech domestic V6, it's hardly in keeping with a "German technology" representative, much less a legitimate counter to the Toyota & Honda engines. In fact, I'd even go so far as to suggest that the Hyundai-Kia 3.8L might actually be the most refined engine in the segment (yes, even more than the Honda & Toyota 3.5L engines). It's big problem is body structure, road noise and, counterintuitively, excessive weight, but the engine is actually very silky... Not so, with the Chrysler 4.0L (although I sense that it received a lot of focus during development, but then again, only so much you can do with the original engine family).
      • 6 Years Ago
      How can they even compare sales figures for 2008??? The Routan wasn't even out the full year!
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