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New VW Passat: rebadged A4?

Hi fellow Audians,

In the current issue of the German magazine 'AutoBild' is an interview with
Hartmut Warkuss, designer of the Audi A4 and the new VW Passat (yet to be
introduced). Warkuss worked at Mercedes-Benz and Ford before going to Audi
in 1968. Since '76 he's been working on most of Audi's designs. His main
claim to fame was the Aero Audi 100, introduced in 1982.  Since 1993 he's
been Chief Designer for VAG.

The Passat is based on the platform and mechanicals of the A4 and bears a
strong resemblance to its donor on the outside and inside. Warkuss: 'I just
like this kind of shape, muscly, homogenous'. Still, if you see them
side-by-side, you can't help but note that the rounded roofline of the
Passat is very similar to that of the A4. The Passat even gets the
3rd-window-treatment (this will be introduced on all new VW sedan models).
The Passat has the same bulging wheelarches as the A4, and very similar
bumper treatment. Inside the theme continues: The Passat has a rounded,
hooded dash, with a horizontal line to separate the upper (black) part from
the lower (grey) part. The steering wheel has a large, rectangular centre
with four short spokes. Sounds familiar to A4 owners?

Where do the cars differ then? Well, the Passat gets the grille treatment
familiar to Polo owners, the rear of the car (where the A4 has the
characteristic vestigal spoiler) is quite different, looking like the sedan
version of the Polo. The inside door handles may look like Audi items but
the outside ones are proper VW. Still, the whole car has a distinct Audi
feel to it. Are Audis devalued by this move or do VW buyers benefit from
the lesson VAG have learned when it comes to build quality? Warkuss thinks
it's the last. Still, why buy the A4 when you get everything in the cheaper

Warkuss goes on likening the designs of the Audis to Bang & Olufsen Hifi:
extravagant and 'upper class', VW's to Braun design in the 'sixties: solid,
dependable, 'Made in Germany'. The new Skodas are like Zippo lighters:
sturdy, functional, unadorned, while the Seat is like a Philippe Starck
design: colourful and fun.


PS Also in AutoBild: next generation Golfs (type 4) will get side airbags
as standard.

   Tom W. Nas, graphic design                        tnas@dtpdirect.nl
   DTP Direct bv                              Voice +31 (55) 5 790 799
   Apeldoorn, the Netherlands                   Fax +31 (55) 5 790 125

Non-Reciprocal Laws of Expectations: Negative expectations yield negative
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