• Mar 23rd 2010 at 1:01PM
  • 26
2010 Volkswagen Golf – Click above for high-res image gallery

Producers of upscale small cars such as the Volkswagen Golf, Mazda3 and Volvo C30 face stiff competition from hybrid vehicles for reasons unrelated to fuel mileage. Upscale cars are priced at the top end of their individual segment and are purchased by those interested in more than just a point A to point B car. These vehicles cater to those attempting to stand out or those interested in something different.

These little runabouts are now faced with overcoming more than just traditional competitors. They are also fighting for sales with an unexpected entrant, the hybrid. In this example, the hybrid is not purchased for fuel efficiency alone, but as a symbolic message of the purchaser's greenness, or an object with bragging rights or for its exclusivity. The buyer expects others to notice that their vehicle is more than just basic transportation.

In the price range of a typically equipped Golf, you will find the Prius, a strong competitor. VW acknowledges the competition with Toyota and suggests that its vehicles offer a more emotionally involved experience and carry a stylish appeal absent with many of Toyota's products. Just in case you don't agree, VW offers the TDI engine option that returns hybrid-like gas mileage complete with green appeal and comparative rarity.

Differentiating yourself from the crowded market of upscale small cars is difficult but necessary for strong sales. As more compact hybrids enter the market, competition will become stiffer and segment leaders will face a new battle for the top spot.


[Source: Ward's Auto - sub. req.]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 26 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'll take a TDI witha DCT tranny over the Prius any day of the week, as I enjoy driving but would love to do so in a way thats better for the enviroment and my pocket book!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Prius' are good cars, they are just not drivers cars. If you view cars as appliances to move you from point A to point B, the Prius is hard to beat. If you actually like cars, and like to drive, a hybrid will be way down on your list. I am in the latter group.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I recently saw a house with two cars in the driveway; a Prius and a Lotus something-or-other. I had to approve.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Prius is fun to drive unknown to non-hybrid drivers. If you are apply the definition of "fun" from a traditional handling perspective, you may be right.

        However, hybrid opens a new world of fun by pretty much controlling two powertrains. You can shift power sources (instead gears) with your right foot. The feedback and hybrid system operation is shown on the LCD screen. It is a new paradigm of fun!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't understand this article that compares apples and oranges. If VW has a competitor to the Prius it is the Jetta TDI not the Golf. Decently equipped the TDI is cheaper than the typical Prius and VW is not having any problem selling them. You sort of have to brain test some of these assertions. Do you really think someone looking for an agile, upscale small car is going to be pulled away by a Prius which by comparison is large and clumsy and slow? Do you really think the upscale part is to impress friends and neighbors when someone does not want to wear a hair shirt just because they want an agile car? A typically equipped Golf is in reality thousands of dollars less than a typically equipped Prius. Is there anything right here?
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree. I'm not following the logic here. I don't know anyone who would cross shop a hot hatch with a Prius.

        I also have trouble with the idea that people buy fun subcompacts because of their exclusivity. 99% of the public has no clue what the difference is between a Mazda 3 and Mazdaspeed 3. BMW just released a report saying that 80% of the people who purchased 1-series BMWs think that it's a front wheel drive car! And these are the owners. Do you think that the average person on the street knows anything about cars?

      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm not really sure what to say here... I've been looking at purchasing a new car lately, and it seems like the Golf is having no trouble selling at all. Actually, to the contrary, it seems the TDI is fetching a premium over MSRP because they're not importing enough of them. I happened to go to my dealer (the largest in AL) the day they peeled the shipping plastic off of two Golf TDI's, I test drove one and it was gone the next day. That was last Friday. They have one left that I predict won't stay the whole week, and apparently they will not get another one for about a month. I can order one custom or they can search for one in another city, but I can assure everyone that these things are a HOT item right now.

      By contrast, my Toyota dealer has 29 NEW (2010) Prius models on the lot. Please confirm by checking for your self.

      http://www.gotoroyalvw.com/VehicleDetails/634877873
      http://hoovertoyota.com/New-Inventory.aspx
        • 5 Years Ago
        Sounds like a good time to put in a lowball offer and get a deal on a new prius.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Will be throwing the lowball myself next week. End of month and end of quarter. We'll see how bad they want to move them.

        I'll let you know how it goes.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "as a symbolic message of the purchaser's greenness, or an object with bragging rights or for its exclusivity"
      Please stop with the tired generalizations from 2007. Any "bragging rights" and "exclusivity" died after the first 100,000 hybrids were sold, years ago.

      A hybrid doesn't pollute at a standstill and if it's engineered well gets significantly better MPG than a comparable model.

      If you give a damn about the environment you should feel kinda dumb buying a car smaller than a Prius that's less advanced and gets worse MPG (the Golf TDi did significantly worse in Road & Track's testing under all conditions). Better handling from VW and Mini, smaller size, nicer interior, and AWD from Audi and Subaru can all be good reasons, but going smaller should pay off with BETTER fuel economy!

      The answer is for manufacturers to steup up and sell better small cars, with at least stop-start capability, that get 40MPG+.
      • 5 Years Ago
      If anything VW and Prius are taking customers away from Volvo and Mazda.
      When every car on the road is pumping out 200 hp, and you can't use it, that's just not a reason to buy a "luxury" car.

      Maybe upscale buyers are preparing for China / US Gas Price War. Volvo and Mazda don't help. Although Volvo sells a diesel in the homeland.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Mazda is gearing up to sell the Sky-D diesel engine in N/A, I cant wait. The more clean diesels the better IMO.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Maybe "upscale buyer's" know what's about to happen:

      A Kingdom Running On Empty:
      http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/arabic/article.cfm?articleId=2424

      But why doesn't Mazda and Volvo's CEO?

      • 5 Years Ago
      *raises hand* I have a question.

      Why is it that environmentalists call gas powered cars "stinky" when you could probably shove the tailpipe of most new cars down your throat and still taste the flowers you parked over, yet most wholeheartedly support diesel cars?

      Just throwing it out there. I am very curious.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Don't know. I'm not familiar with the "stinky" term for gas cars, and I don't think that environmentalists wholeheartedly support diesel cars.

        In descending order, environmentalists would prefer:

        1) no cars at all. use public transport, ride a bike, walk, telecommute, etc.

        2) cars run on electricity that is generated locally by solar, wind, hydro, etc.

        If you continue that list you'll eventually arrive at diesel and gas powered cars, and maybe diesel is ahead of gas because of its greater energy density.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think your premise is incorrect.

        I believe most people who would identify themselves as "environmentalists" recognize the lower emissions of criteria pollutants of gas cars and prefer them. However, "environmentalists" do not vote as a block. I think many of the people who are big fans of diesel are so because diesels _can be_ less expensive to operate, particularly if you keep a vehicle until it is old enough to drink. Minimizing operation costs is not a motivation I particularly associate with environmentalism. Some, on the other hand, may be lured by the deceptive MPG ratings of small diesels in Europe (on the EU test cycle), and may weigh reductions in consumption more heavily than reductions in emissions, which is an internally consistent position, though also one that can be ascribed to concerns other than environmentalism, such as national balance of payments or national security.

        Does that more or less answer your question?
        • 5 Years Ago
        In North America with their large supplies of natural gas it is a shame that they do not do more with DME, which is a fuel easily derived from it.
        It burns very cleanly in diesel engines, just as methanol does in petrol engines.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The ”small” green diesels are very popular in Europe and the Golf Diesel BlueMotion did almost the MPG as the 2010 Prius. I tested these two cars together with an Electric version of the Citroen C1. I wrote this test:

      http://www.easyecar.com/hybrid-vehicle-test/3-technologies-in-3-weeks/
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think, like many other people here, that people who kinda dub themselves as environmentalist want to show it off. My ex-gf wanted to buy an x5 BMW and right before she was ready to buy it, she went ahead and watch "An inconvenient Truth" and she quickly became a Prius owner. For those with the mindset of wanting to give back to the enviornment, the look of the car wont phase them. The Prius is an ugly car, but they have a pop culture type of following.

      Malone

      Cash for Used Cars
      • 5 Years Ago
      The classifications sound a bit odd and American to me, likely because if parking is not difficult most of us tend to go for a bigger car if we want more luxury.
      If you still want to park it and live in the city in Europe, then the luxury category is not really something like the Golf, which is standard fare, but the likes of the Audi A3, some of the small Lexus models, Fiat Arbroath, top of the line Minis etc.
      Short wheel base mini SUV's like the Honda CRV also figure.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I called this a long time ago. It's why I bet the Volt will have no trouble selling out of it's initial run if it's anywhere near the projected $32.5 post-rebate pricing. There's a tremendously crowded market of relatively anonymous entry-lux cars at that price point, so between the green-cred and the incessant hype, I'd say the Volt's position is assured.
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