Can’t help but be a teeny bit underwhelmed by Volkswagen’s US-market Passat, which has been revealed this morning here in Detroit (after last night’s no-show at the official VW party).
Sure, it looks like a grown-up version of the Jetta. Sure, it may well have a completely different set of body panels than the European version. Sure, its chassis underpinnings aren’t a million miles away from the car we get in dealerships over here. But it’s just a little, well, dull.
This sort of reaction is probably music to Volkswagen’s ears, though, because it desperately needs the Passat to be a serious, viable rival for Toyota’s locally built Camry. Colossal investment in the plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is just the start. Getting the price of base models down beneath $20,000 (less than £14k) comes next.
But where the Passat really has to succeed is by rivalling the Camry’s utter anonymity, its ability to slot into lives without creating even the merest ripple of excitement, either positive or negative.
Toyota’s genius with this car in the US is that it has created a dependable companion that has taken the risk out of car buying. The fact that a little of the soul has gone with it has been adjudged a price worth paying by hundreds of thousands of US buyers.
In that respect, then, VW’s latest offering probably bang on message. I just find it a little frustrating that the firm felt unable to use the opportunity granted by its ‘localisation’ programme to break even an inch of new ground. VW really is chasing numbers now - and in this case at least, that has forced it to play very safe indeed.