According to Jon Linkov, Consumer Reports was provided with an early press fleet 2012 Volkswagen Passat shortly after the model's debut. The vehicle's trunk hinges were trimmed in nice plastic cladding to hide the bare metal, but when the organization went to purchase its own Passat models for review, the sedans wore only one cover on the driver's side to protect the trunk deck wiring loom.
Big deal? Probably not, but as Consumer Reports points out, the change raises all sorts of other questions. Is Volkswagen tweaking its press fleet engines? Adjusting its suspensions? Adding extra sound deadening. Consumer Reports is crying foul in a big way.
Yes, this sort of gaming happens throughout the review industry. Ferrari has been caught red handed cherry picking vehicles for calibrated analysis in the past, but is The People's Automaker really doing the same? We doubt it. As Consumer Reports says, their press fleet tester was an early model. Chances are the decision to nix the two plastic covers came down from on high after the review vehicle made the rounds. Check out the full CR report to decide for yourself.