Volkswagen Routan - Click above for high-res gallery
That the Volkswagen Routan has been a dismal failure is probably one of the worst kept secrets in the industry, but until now, few have taken stock of just how poorly the badge-engineered minivan was selling.
The idea was fairly straightforward, if a tad ill-conceived: take a Dodge Caravan, slap on a fresh face and a VW badge and give it an unpronounceable name. The minivan is built alongside its Chrysler and Dodge counterparts at Chrysler's Windsor, Ontario, plant... or at least it was until Wolfsburg asked Auburn Hills to stop production. Apparently, not a single Routan has rolled off the assembly line since last December, and there are no immediate plans to resume production.
Nor should they, necessarily: Of the 22,037 Routans produced between its introduction in September and the cessation of production just a few months later, only 5,582 (less than a quarter of those made) have actually been sold. With that much back-stock, Volkswagen Group of America has been offering some attractive incentives, and dealers are likely super-motivated to sell, but the Routan's retail price is still a couple grand higher than a Dodge Caravan's, part of which goes towards recouping Brooke Shields' paycheck for that ridiculous advertising campaign. And with no sign of the remaining Routans' value going anywhere but down, there's little motivation for VW (to ask Chrysler) to resume production, much less green-light its replacement.
If there's a bright spot here, it's that the Routan actually isn't a bad minivan, particularly now that good deals are available. It's been said that it is the best-driving Chrysler minivan (with the best interior of the bunch), and that's probably true – even if the name, marketing and idea that this is a proper VW has never managed to resonate with consumers.
Related GalleryFirst Drive: 2009 Volkswagen Routan
[Source: Automotive News – sub. req'd]