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After a few days of driving, I decided to e-mail a few friends who were the perfect target market for this new Jetta. The two in question are hip, successful Chicagoans who each own a third generation Jetta. Susanne and Mahmood are two-thirds of Flower Booking, they manage tours of bands like Tortoise, Pelican and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. The two joined me for a daytime run to Staples. A new office supply store opening in town is a big deal to folks who run their own office. On first glance, both remarked at how much bigger the new Jetta seemed. Then they walked around to see the front.
You see, Susanne and Mahmood aren?t car enthusiasts like our regular readers. Susanne hadn?t even seen a picture of the new Jetta, nor had she read anything about it. That?s why her first comments were so remarkable. ?It looks just like a Corolla!? The sentiment is familiar here of course, but VW must cringe every time a potential car buyer draws that comparison for the first time. They both also gave a thumb down to the chrome grill. Mahmood said he?d pay extra to get rid of it.
After a quick walk around the car, we loaded in and headed to the store. Susanne hopped in the back and could only say she wasn?t as cramped as she?s used to in a back seat. Susanne is tall you see, easily six-feet. When we got to an empty spot in the store?s parking lot we all got to take a closer look at the Jetta.
I was surprised at how seriously the two inspected this new entry into pop-culture relevance. They actually pointed out the hard to see front turn signals. None of us could believe how weak they were. It must have been an omen, because later that day I was almost hit because someone couldn?t see my turn signal. This was the kind of thing that surprised me both in the seriousness of our impromptu focus group and the fact that Jetta has made a pretty significant safety feature so unsafe.
Susanne is actually in the market for a new car. The price of the Jetta turned her off and a Corolla a row or two away in the parking lot confirmed how similar the two exteriors were to the casual car person. Susanne definitely didn?t see a $5,000 advantage to the Jetta (base version). Mahmood liked the car?s ride and handling and the interior quality. He?d probably be an easier sale than Susanne. Unfortunately for VW, he?s not in the market for a new car.
After a quick run of supply shopping we explored the huge trunk and easy to flip down seats. The amenities impressed all three of us. But when I dropped the two off at their office I could tell Susanne was going Toyota shopping, and maybe Mahmood was impressed enough to go back to VW the next time he needed a car.