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Volkswagen Newsroom

Second Chances Garage donates Volkswagen Passat to a deserving driver

April 6, 2020
The 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon Charles Sanville, creator of ‘The Humble Mechanic,’ donated to Second Chances Garage in Frederick, Md.

For many Americans, having a job and helping their communities requires reliable transportation. That’s why Second Chances Garage in Frederick, Md., has been working for a decade to refurbish donated vehicles into wheels for those who need them most.

“If you have your own car, it can be easy to take it for granted. But, if you’ve ever had to coordinate share rides or bus schedules, you understand how tough it is,” says John Grupenhoff, sales and service manager at Second Chances Garage.

Since opening its doors in 2010, the nonprofit has provided more than 1,000 cars to those in need who might not otherwise be able to own their own vehicle. The cars are typically donated by community members and then repaired as necessary by the shop’s mechanics and Gov. Thomas Johnson High School apprentices. The refurbished cars are then donated or sold at extremely reduced prices to those who need them the most but cannot afford them.

To celebrate their 10th anniversary, the garage teamed up with auto repair specialist and influencer Charles Sanville to refurbish and donate Sanville’s 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon.

“The Passat had been a staple in our family for years,” Sanville said. “We drove up and down the East Coast in it [and] brought our daughter home from the hospital in it.”

Over time, the family acquired newer Volkswagen models and the Passat sat in the garage gathering dust. Sanville planned to fix it up, but after some time he decided the best course of action was to pay it forward and pass the vehicle on to a deserving driver.

L-R: Charles Sanville, creator of ‘The Humble Mechanic,’ and Shimaine Brandford

He knew he had made the right choice when he met Shimaine Brandford, a Frederick resident who had not been able to fully meet the demands of her job without a car. A caregiver for the elderly, Brandford told Second Chances the refurbished Passat would help her drive her senior clients to medical appointments, stores and social gatherings.

“What I loved about her story was that at no point in time did she mention herself. It was all about what this car would allow her to do for other people,” says Sanville.

In late-January, he trucked the 15-year-old Passat from his home in Raleigh, N.C., to Frederick, Md. He visited the shop for four days in February to help complete repairs and mentor the garage’s apprentices. The car was in good shape but needed some work before it went to a new home.

Repairs included replacing the timing belt, brakes and battery, suspension work, fixing oil leaks and changing engine mounts.

The garage, with the help of its supporters, completed the mechanical work and provided the new owner with an additional six months of auto labor, should she need it, and free oil changes on the vehicle for life.

L-R: John Grupenhoff (Second Chances Garage Sales and Service Manager), Brett McCelvey (Second Chances Garage apprentice), Steeveson Nelson (Second Chances Garage apprentice) and Sanville (Creator of ‘The Humble Mechanic’).

The community response was also inspiring. After the collaboration was made public, around 50 people drove in – some from as far as 6 to 8 hours away – to visit the shop and help with the repairs.

“It was a reminder that you can do something beyond writing a check,” Sanville said. “There are other ways to help individuals get the help they need to get their life back on track.”

Likewise, after Sanville posted a video on his YouTube channel, “The Humble Mechanic” – which has more than 375,000 subscribers – fans reached out to the garage to offer financial support and expressed interest in donating their own vehicles. Some viewers even asked for tips on how they could start their own low-cost garages in their communities.

As for Brandford, the Passat has already proven to be a lifeline. She recently told the shop she has been able to help her patients weather the COVID-19 crisis and is working six days a week to help her clients get the support they need.

“It’s community helping community,” Grupenhoff said.

Volkswagen drives bigger to fight the COVID-19 outbreak

April 3, 2020

Across America, Volkswagen has rolled out several new efforts to help customers and communities fight the coronavirus.

Today, Volkswagen of America and fabrics supplier Faurecia announced a joint effort to manufacture Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) items, with the first batch shipped to medical workers at New York City’s Javits Center and other area hospitals. Working with Volkswagen strategy and logistics, Faurecia was able to quickly convert one of its factories to begin producing tens of thousands of FDA-approved surgical masks and gowns.

Volkswagen of America and Volkswagen Credit also today detailed the Community-Driven Promise program, designed to help eligible customers in the United States affected by the crisis who need financial relief.

With both steps, Volkswagen aims to leverage its expertise in finance, engineering and logistics to make a meaningful contribution to those in need.

“We have a commitment to help our customers, our dealers, our employees and our communities in a time of crisis,” said Scott Keogh, president and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America. “Volkswagen is proud to have partners like Faurecia willing to step outside their usual scope and drive something bigger.”

The work began with an internal Volkswagen task force, created to identify ways of meaningfully impacting the fight against COVID-19. After checking with several suppliers, Faurecia shared its willingness and ability to modify the company’s production lines. Through quick work with Volkswagen experts, plus an initial order of 70,000 masks and 5,000 gowns, Faurecia was able to pivot its processes and begin production at one of its facilities in Mexico.

Faurecia has since been able to significantly ramp up production capacities and is now able to make an estimated 250,000 masks and 50,000 gowns per week.  Volkswagen donated the first run of Faurecia-produced surgical masks and gowns to New York State’s COVID-19 response efforts. The shipment of 75,000 units arrived today, to be distributed at area hospitals including the temporary hospital at New York City’s Javits Center.

On the U.S. customer side, Volkswagen and Volkswagen Credit (VCI) will now offer several ways for existing and new owners to get financial help. Existing Volkswagen Credit customers in good standing can seek:

  • Up to 90-day payment deferrals without fees (VCI will not charge any fees but finance charges will still accrue for non-lease accounts)
  • Lease extensions up to six months
  • Waiving past maturity fees in certain circumstances

Qualified new buyers who use Volkswagen Credit also have the option of delaying their first payment for up to 180 days, combined with zero-percent APR financing for up to 72 months for most new vehicles. The program is set to run through April 30.2

Volkswagen of America is also working with its more than 600 U.S. dealers affected by the outbreak, helping with several customer efforts that encourage continued social distancing and limited interaction. That includes support for a pick-up and delivery program that promotes social distancing, yet still allows for vehicles to be brought into a participating dealership for service or repairs. Volkswagen has also increased digital operations support to limit physical interaction at dealerships and has implemented digital signatures for transactions such as warranty claims.

Meanwhile, while the Volkswagen Chattanooga plant has been temporarily closed to help protect its workers, the education labs in the area are using their 3D printers to make face mask holders for medical workers in the region. That effort mirrors a similar program Volkswagen Group launched today in Europe with Airbus and a consortium of other firms to 3D print thousands of face masks for medical workers in Spain.

Beyond that, Volkswagen Group has made several key efforts across Europe, from exploring ventilator production with its Seat brand to converting part of the Lamborghini factory in Italy for medical mask production and giving key employees paid leave to work with health services.

Look for more steps from Volkswagen in the days and weeks ahead.

“We don’t plan on stopping our response to this crisis here,” said Keogh.


#TBT: The Petersen Museum on The Thing

April 2, 2020

Welcome to #ThrowbackThursday, a new weekly series exploring the far reaches of Volkswagen history. Please enjoy this story on the Type 181 (a.k.a. “The Thing”) courtesy of the Petersen Museum.

The first thing one might ask about this car is “what is it?” The simple answer is “it’s a Thing.” This was only true in the United States and Europe, however. In Mexico and South America, the simply shaped vehicle was known as the Safari, and in the United Kingdom it was sold as the Trekker. It was marketed in Italy as the Pescaccia (beastly fish).

Before it became a Thing, however, the vehicle was called the Type 181. The multi-purpose vehicle was developed for the West German military in the late 1960s based on the Type 182 Kübelwagen used during World War II. In fall 1969, Volkswagen began selling the Type 181 in Europe. Though the 181 was available as a consumer car, a large portion of the vehicles were purchased by NATO. Later, Volkswagen transferred production of the 181 from Germany to Mexico, giving it new territory in which to roam.

In 1973, Volkswagen unleashed the 181 as “The Thing” into the United States, the same year that the Arab Oil Embargo began. As the United States imported much of its oil from the Middle East, the Embargo greatly reduced the amount of oil available in the United States, which increased the price of gasoline and caused fuel shortages. The Embargo spurred the United States government to institute regulations designed to reduce the fuel consumption of commercial and consumer vehicles. In response, automobile companies like Ford began programs to design vehicles that were sleek, aerodynamic, and, therefore, fuel-efficient. The Thing was none of these things.

The Volkswagen had a simple, utilitarian profile. Its sloping hood was not shaped by the desire to funnel air with as little disruption as possible over the top of the car, but by the need to see over hilltops when climbing steep terrain. Its corrugated sides helped give the bodywork strength. The Thing’s doors were removable, as was the top. The windshield folded down. Yet, it was only advisable to utilize this feature if one wanted to make goggles mandatory driving attire, as John Lamm discovered during his road test of the car in the November 1973 issue of Motor Trend Magazine.

The average Thing was available in three colors, Pumpkin Orange, Sunshine Yellow, or Blizzard White. Just in case you couldn’t figure out what type of vehicle this was, an optional “The Thing” decal was also available. The Basic Thing came equipped with many things including rugged commercial style suspension, a “12-volt electrical tap,” and a front that looked disconcertingly like a back.

This might have been because, the Thing, like the Volkswagen Beetle, had a rear mounted engine. Without an engine, the car’s front could be used to store essential items like a spare tire, the gas tank, and the Thing’s removable side curtains.

On the dashboard there was little located beside the 12-volt electric plug. Like many other cars, the Thing had a steering wheel, a shifter, and a glovebox. The Thing’s glovebox, however, did not have a door. Only a radio was mounted to the right of the steering wheel. As Lamm observed, “the seats go along with the theme, stark, but practical.”

The heart of the beast was a 96.7 cubic-inch four-cylinder 46-horsepower engine from a Volkswagen Beetle. The Thing’s transmission was also from a Beetle, as was the chassis. In fact, the Thing and the Beetle had such similar layouts that Steve Smith wrote in the March 1973 issue of Motor Trend if “you just unfasten the 18 bolts per side you can physically swap bodies.”

In an era of plush pickups, metalflaked customs, and psychedelic shag carpeted vans, the Thing offered intrepid owners a special kind of Spartan style. As suggested by its multiple monikers, the Thing was a hard vehicle to define. “It can’t be just a station wagon, a four-wheel drive pickup, or a dune buggy,” as Lamm noted, “so it walks a fine line in between.” This ambiguity nonetheless meant that with some alterations the Thing could become many other things.

With the addition of a hardtop, glass windows, upgraded floor mats, cabin insulation, a “good (read it loud) stereo,” and a powerful Porsche engine, the Thing could become “an all-purpose city-country car,” according to Lamm.

With more luxurious upgrades the Thing, Lamm mused, could be transformed into “a modern 1930s phaeton.”


Motor Trend procured a Thing and transformed it into “an off-road and hunting vehicle,” outfitting it with upgraded suspension, horns, extra lights, brush guards, and new wheels and tires. The camo print camper also included extra accessories like “a winch, Citizen’s Band radio, a roll-cage, and extra gas tanks.”

Like the Jeep or Land Rover, the Thing could be driven on the street and through the brush. Like a corrugated metal dune buggy, the Thing could slide through the sand. It could be a roadster or converted to a hard top SUV. The multi-purpose vehicle could be a Wild Thing or a Mild Thing. Importantly, the Thing offered this range of functionality for $2750, a price almost $1000 lower than that of a Land Rover or Jeep at the time. Unlike dune buggies that were sold as conversion kits, the Thing was ready to hit the sand right from the dealer. So, when someone asks you what this car is, you really can say that it was “just the Thing.”

By Kristin Feay // Photography by John Lamm, Pat Ganahl, and Mike Parris

All content and photos © The Petersen Museum, used with permission

Volkswagen Atlas looks for adventure with new Basecamp accessory line

April 1, 2020

For the past few years, more Americans have been choosing road trips as their getaways of choice. Surveys show that saving money versus flying isn’t the main reason behind the trend; rather, people prefer the freedom to travel on their own schedules, with as much cargo room as they need, to reach the places planes and trains just don’t go.

To foster that sense of adventure, Volkswagen has revealed a new Basecamp accessory line, a range of customizable function and style features available for the 2021 Atlas, based on the rugged Basecamp concept revealed in 2019. The enhancements — slated for Spring of 2020 — provide an extra level of excitement for the updated seven-passenger SUV.

“Our goal is to provide customers with an extensive catalog of accessory options that cater to their desires for distinctive styling and functionality,” said Hein Schafer, Senior Vice President of Product Marketing and Strategy at Volkswagen of America. “The public interest and customer enthusiasm sparked by the Atlas Basecamp concept created a strong business case to further explore off-road-themed components for production.”

Accessories in the line, produced by Air Design, are available individually or as a set in the Basecamp styling package – so Atlas owners can decide just how rugged they want their trips to be. The package includes custom body cladding elements that offer a rugged overland look, including a two-tone satin silver and metallic front bumper guard, textured anthracite fender flares with integrated splash guards, satin silver side door rocker panels, and a satin silver rear valance with trailer hitch access for models equipped with this feature.

The look is completed with unique 17-inch Traverse MX wheels that were produced specifically for Volkswagen by wheel builder fifteen52 for the Basecamp concept. The wheels come in either frosted graphite or radiant silver and are designed for use with 245/70R17 all-terrain tires.

To round it out, the styling package comes with a pair of unique and exclusive Basecamp badges that are not sold separately. Like those souvenirs from a great road trip, you can only get them if you make the journey.12


Inside the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, by the numbers

March 30, 2020

Americans’ love of the SUV form has grown quickly over the past several years, and in 2019 more than 2.8 million midsize SUVs went home to new buyers. But with dozens of models to choose from, and many ways to measure the important features and dimensions, getting a sense of the right SUV can be challenging.

To help guide your decision, we’ve created this look at the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport by the measures that matter most when you live with a vehicle every day.1

2nd Row Legroom

The Atlas Cross Sport offers a generous amount of second-row legroom in the midsize SUV class – and puts flying coach to shame.

Typical Airline Legroom: 31-33 inches 2

2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee 38.6 inches

2020 Honda Passport 39.6 inches

2019 Chevy Equinox: 39.9 inches

2020 Atlas Cross Sport: 40.4 inches

Cargo capacity

The Atlas Cross Sport offers one of the larger cargo areas in the midsize crossover segment, with 40.3 cubic feet of space with the second row up, and 77.8 cu. ft. when folded down.

That sounds like a lot, but “cubic feet” can be a hard measure to visualize. For comparison’s sake, the 40.3 cu. ft. of the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport equals:

  • The volume of 1,929 medium cups of coffee3
  • About 8.5 times more cargo space than the original Volkswagen Beetle had behind its second row
  • Just under double the trunk cargo space of a traditional taxi cab4
  • 9.8 cu. ft. more than the 2019 Chevy Blazer
  • 8.2 cu. ft. more than the 2020 Nissan Murano (without moonroof)
  • 4.0 cu. ft. more than the 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • 1.1 cu. ft. more than the 2020 Ford Edge

Towing capacity

With 5,000 lbs. of towing capacity when equipped with a factory-installed tow hitch and 7-pin connector5, the 3.6-liter V6, Atlas Cross Sport can tow or haul what your family needs to enjoy a road vacation, such as:

  • Larger bicycle carriers that hold up to four bikes
  • Many camping travel trailers up to 19 feet
  • Utility trailers for boats, kayaks/canoes and small vehicles

Cupholding like a champ

The Atlas Cross Sport features 11 cupholders so that no passenger ever needs to go without a refreshment. Here’s the math:

  • 2 in the center console
  • 2 bottle holders in each front door
  • 2 in the middle rear armrest
  • 1 additional can/juicebox holder in the armrest
  • 2 cup holders for the rear door panels
  • 2 bottle holders for the rear doors

= 11

Roof Rails

When you add the available Volkswagen Base Rails6 to the existing roof rails of the Atlas Cross Sport, you get several new options for carrying a variety of your recreational needs or extra stuff. Volkswagen Accessories gear includes:

  • Three types of roof boxes for road tripping with cargo
  • A basket for camping/outdoor materials
  • Bike attachments
  • Winter sports carriers for skis and snowboards
  • Boat hauling racks for kayaks, canoes, surfboards and stand-up paddleboards


How the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport delivers concert-quality sound

March 27, 2020

You may be among the millions of vehicle owners who have never taken note of how many speakers your car has. But for many, car audio systems matter greatly – after all, if you’re going to commute in your vehicle several hours a day, you should enjoy the environment it creates.

In the digital era, car audio has become less about total volume of sound and more about tuning the sound for the environment. And since 2011, Volkswagen has teamed with Fender and Panasonic to bring a new quality to the sound inside your car.

The first Fender Premium Audio System debuted in the 2011 Beetle, Passat and Jetta GLI, offering 400 watts, nine speakers and the in-person type of sound that has made Fender such a legendary name in music. Volkswagen has continued to partner with Panasonic and Fender to implement systems in other models, including the 2015 Golf, and select Golf, Passat, Tiguan and Atlas models.

With that system, “we’re able to put concert-quality sound inside a vehicle,” said Tom Dunn, Director of Global Audio Solutions at Panasonic. “The emotion of a live performance is something we were all familiar with, but it was not something anyone expected to feel while driving their car.”

Applying that same formula to the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport posed some unique challenges.

“The Atlas has three rows and seven seats, which gives the vehicle a large cabin space,” said David Ernst, Panasonic’s Senior Acoustics Engineer. “The Atlas Cross Sport has two rows and five seats, so we had to rethink the design of the Fender Premium Audio System for the smaller model without taking away any of the quality.”

To adapt the original Atlas audio system for the size of the Atlas Cross Sport, Ernst and his team tested the system with focus groups and people at events and concerts. The team even had musical artists sit in the Atlas Cross Sport and listen to their own music on the system to see how well it matched in quality and expectation.

“We did a lot of fine-tuning to make sure the product would be perfect for passengers, wherever they sat inside the vehicle,” Ernst said.

This latest Fender Premium Audio System includes 12 separate Fender speakers around the Atlas Cross Sport cabin. The 80-mm front-center channel speaker brings vocals to life, as if from a concert stage. In the front doors, two 200-mm dual voice coil woofers deliver lower tones with minimal distortion, even when played at high volumes. Four 60-mm soft dome tweeters, located in the first and second rows, convey the richness and clarity of each instrument.

Two 168-mm speakers in the rear doors deliver a smooth low-frequency and midrange response, and two 80-mm wide frequency speakers in the D-pillar mimic the depth and spaciousness of a concert venue. In the back, a 168-mm subwoofer sits in a 12-liter enclosure, completing the audio spectrum with cabin-filling bass that passengers can feel in their chests. All told, the system can pump out 480 watts of power – enough to help recreate that front-row-concert sound.

After spending months optimizing the Atlas Cross Sport, Ernst says he’s proud of the “concert feeling” passengers have when listening to the final product.

“This partnership is not just about the hardware of the audio system,” said Dunn. “It’s an opportunity to connect with customers on an emotional level. And Volkswagen has always recognized the importance of this connection.”

Women leaders at Volkswagen talk about the road ahead

March 25, 2020

March is Women’s History Month and offers an opportunity to look at the progress women have made in the automotive industry and the challenges that remain. We asked four leading women from Volkswagen of America to share their insights about breaking into a male-dominated industry, their role models, and where they want to take their careers in the future.

Shani Jayant, Principal UX designer, Innovation and Engineering Center California

How would you describe your role and responsibilities at Volkswagen?

Shani Jayant, Principal UX designer, Innovation and Engineering Center California: I lead the Inclusive Mobility initiative from the Silicon Valley IECC campus. Our mission is to help design vehicles and services that can improve transportation and the quality of life for everyone, especially people with disabilities. We do this by working closely with disability communities from the start, so we can inform the future design of accessible self-driving electric vehicles that will come out years down the road.

Ellen Collins, Laboratory Evaluation Specialist, Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant: I primarily test, evaluate and release components according to material specs for vehicle parts for production, and field and factory issues. This year will mark my 10th year at Volkswagen.

Megan Closset, Product Manager, Volkswagen HQ: I am the product planner for what is arguably our most impassioned group of vehicles – the Golf family. I have the opportunity to connect with our most enthusiastic customers on a personal level. As a lifelong Volkswagen fan, and employee since 2005, I’ve always gone to enthusiast events as a customer first, employee second. I consider everyone who has a Volkswagen an extended family member or friend, especially on the enthusiast side.

Dawn Dameron, Senior Manager of Customer Care, Auburn Hills Corporate Office: My role is to inspire my team to deliver experiences that leave our customers, dealers and prospective customers feeling great about the brand and our products. I would argue I have the coolest job in the company. I have an immediate opportunity to really impact the way a customer or shopper views the brand. I absolutely love what I do and feel fortunate to work with such a dedicated group of people.

Megan Closset, Product Manager, Volkswagen HQ

What do you enjoy most about what you do at Volkswagen?

Closset: I love the teamwork and camaraderie at Volkswagen. My workgroup has become my friend group. I love the people I work and interact with, and it’s not just the people on my team—it’s everyone. My favorite car aspect of the job is … the cars! I love the cars! Whether it’s driving, sharing them with customers and advocates, or welcoming someone new into the Volkswagen family, it’s really cool and rewarding.

Collins: I enjoy working with individuals who are from diverse backgrounds. It has been motivating, as well as interesting, working with such awesome associates.

Jayant: I enjoy the people! My teammates have been such great influences on me and my work ethic. Also, working with the disability community has taught me a lot about what it means to be an ally, and what it means to live out diversity and inclusion instead of just saying the words. I hope that diversity truly becomes a bigger part of Volkswagen, especially around hiring practices.

Dawn Dameron, Senior Manager of Customer Care, Auburn Hills Corporate Office

What advice would you give to other women trying to break into the automotive industry?

Dameron: Be genuine, sincere, and take stand for what you believe in – this will gain you the trust and respect needed to be successful.  The simple things can go a long way.

Collins: It’s your choices that show who you truly are, not your abilities. Be courageous and brave. Take bold steps, and never forget to enjoy the journey.

Jayant: While it’s great to be a car geek, you can also enter the automotive industry other ways! I knew nothing about cars but joined my group because of my past work with multimodal interactions and working with the disability community for many years.

Closset: If you are confident, study your craft and know you’re an equal, you will succeed. Also, having dealership experience, whether you’re male or female, is very valuable. My experience there gave me the motivation to be a sales trainer and later a product trainer. I would also recommend finding a mentor.

Ellen Collins, Laboratory Evaluation Specialist, Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant

What woman inspires you and why?

Collins: Emily Dickenson. She is one of my favorite poets. There is a verse from her poem, “We never know how high we are,” that has moved me to overcome the fear of failure.

Closset: My first boss, Laura McKelvey, remains one of the most powerful forces in my life – as a boss, as a mentor, as a business inspiration, and as a friend. She’s been with the company for 36 years and has helped me chart my course at Volkswagen. I would also say my mom. She worked full-time, but never missed an important milestone or opportunity to encourage me to do – and be – my best.

Jayant: I’m inspired by disability activist Alice Wong, who founded the Disability Visibility Project. She has done an amazing job helping to bring disability policy issues to the forefront in this year’s presidential primary elections.

Dameron: Human rights activist Malala Yousafzai. For those of you that are not familiar with her story, Yousafzai was shot by a Taliban gunman when she was 15 and went on to win the Noble Peace Prize. I am absolutely in awe of her courage and relentless drive to make the world a better place – even under terrifying circumstances. Her story was tragic, but she used it as an opportunity to make a difference and change the world around her.


Stars & cars: Your ideal Volkswagen match, according to the Zodiac

March 20, 2020

A car is not just a means of transportation – it also offers clues to your personality, lifestyle and character traits. And, with so many great vehicles to choose from, it can be hard to find the perfect match.

To explore these cosmic connections from a different angle, we’ve developed a guide that pairs the attributes associated with your zodiac sign to current and classic Volkswagen models.

Because sometimes the right connections come from the stars.

Aquarius: Lively, sociable and original, you prefer the unconventional to the traditional. The Beetle, the quintessential Age of Aquarius car, is fun, unique and one-of-a-kind – just like you.

Pisces: Intuitive, imaginative, creative and compassionate, you are escapist by nature. An iconic Microbus will give you the freedom to follow your whimsies and hit the road (and knowing your selfless ways, we’re sure you’ll have plenty of passengers). Known for your patience and empathy, you will feel good knowing that the microbus is anticipated to be reincarnated as an electric model – the ID. BUZZ – in 2022. Aries: Adventurous, energetic and a bit of a trendsetter, you were the first of your friends to embrace EVs. The all-electric e-Golf is agile, fun to drive and designed to keep up with your active and energetic personality. Your sympathetic and courageous side will also feel good knowing your car is helping lower greenhouse emissions.

Taurus: Reliable, practical and dependable, you want a car that’s just as solid and steady as you are, and the Tiguan checks all the boxes. The mid-size, sporty SUV offers spaciousness combined with Volkswagen’s hallmark driving dynamics and careful attention to detail (which, as a fellow meticulous planner, you can appreciate). Plus, its ergonomically-designed seats, heated side mirrors and available panoramic sunroof all appeal to your self-indulgent side.

Cancer: Family-oriented and a homebody by nature, you crave a steady and spacious shell to get you from point A to point B. The redesigned 2020 Passat fits the bill. Known for your unwavering attention to detail, you will appreciate the midsize sedan’s intricate balance of high quality, value and modern comforts.

Leo: Vivacious, theatrical and passionate, you are a charismatic, natural-born leader who loves basking in the limelight.  Behind the wheel of the sporty, statement-making Jetta GLI, you are bound to make a splash. You have a palpable, high-energy and an ambition that can’t be tamed and this bold, eye-catching sedan is the perfect ride to get you to new heights.

Virgo: Reliable, meticulous and modest, you desire a car that is practical, dependable and yet ever-so-slightly off the beaten track. Look no further than the Jetta. This sassy sedan offers all the features you require – easy handling, plenty of torque and a comprehensive suite of driver assistance technology – plus fun interior styling and a concert-quality stereo system.

Libra: Clever, passionate and talented, Libras are going places and plan to get there in style. The Arteon, outfitted with frameless side windows and a wraparound grille, is the perfect blend of form and function – and a natural fit for the sign that places value on balance, order and equality.

Scorpio: Determined, powerful, passionate and endlessly curious, you need a sleek and sporty SUV to keep up with your bold and ambitious plans. Just like Scorpio, the Atlas Cross Sport emulates confidence and encourages spontaneity with its versatile cargo space that allows for everyday (and not-so-everyday) activities.

Sagittarius: Free-spirited, fun and focused, you seek out adventure and love a good road trip with friends. Enter the Atlas. A perfect complement to your work hard, play hard mentality, the seven-seater offers ample seating for friends and family to join you on your adventures.

Capricorn: Practical, prudent and ambitious, you’re not going to blow your savings on some flashy status symbol. Your business-minded and want something that’s sturdy and reliable but has flair. The beloved Golf GTI is the perfect workhorse, offering great handling, performance and comfort all for a reasonable price.

Gemini: Adaptable, adventurous, and versatile, you are the quintessential, and much beloved, Golf R: quick, fun and never dull. The hot hatchback also shares Gemini’s dual personality – it’s a practical, everyday commuter with a sports-car soul.

A son’s 38-year quest to find and restore his father’s Type 3 fastback

March 17, 2020
Lynn Pfenning and his father, Marvin Pfenning, in front of the 1967 Type Fastback before the North Dakota State Fair in 2018. Photo courtesy of Lynn Pfenning.

Lynn Pfenning spent 38 years chasing down his father’s beloved 1967 Volkswagen Type 3 fastback and four years restoring it to its original glory.

The cousin of the Volkswagen Beetle was a major touchstone of Pfenning’s childhood. His father purchased the Brunswick Blue Type 3 fastback for $2,200 in 1967 after totaling his 1965 Volkswagen Beetle. The car was no match for a cow he hit while traveling home from their grandparents’ house in rural North Dakota.

“Growing up, my job every Saturday was to wash and detail the family car before church,” Pfenning said.

Eight years later, his dad sold it to a local farmer who then gifted the car to his son – a friend of Pfenning’s – to drive to and from school.

Once Pfenning’s friend graduated from high school, the Type 3 fastback was used as a utility vehicle for several years before being barn-bound for approximately two decades.

A lifelong gear head, Pfenning went on to trade school, trained as a construction electrician and went on to work at an automotive plant for 20 years. As the years passed, however, Pfenning grew more and more eager to add the special air-cooled to his collection; he currently has two other collector cars, including a 1963 Beetle.

“Over the years, we may have gone our separate ways, but I always kept track of that car,” said Pfenning. “I would check in every five or some years to see if he was willing to sell me it.” The owner wouldn’t budge.

Pfenning poses with the original 1967 Type 3 fastback (pre-restoration) and the car’s second owner Lyle Opland. Photo courtesy of Pfenning.

Thankfully, Pfenning’s luck changed in 2013. After spotting another Type 3 Fastback in St. Paul, Minn., he decided to ring his friend and ask again if the car was available for purchase. To his surprise, it was, and he was invited down to North Dakota to negotiate a price.

With some strategic haggling, his compelling backstory and a small nudge from the owner’s wife, he was able to buy the car at a fraction of the asking price.

“Before he had a chance to change his mind, I handed him the cash and away we went,” Pfenning said.

Contrary to photos, however, the car was in rough shape. The past owner had used the fastback as a farm vehicle to round up cattle, which in turn caused damage to both car doors and crushed the nose of the car. Instead of a proper fix, panels were filled with several inches of putty.

On top of that, the engine was severely damaged due to a hidden mouse nest, which caught fire and impaired the car’s cylinder heads. The windshield gaskets had failed years earlier, deteriorating the floor pan and transmission deck.

“It was like peeling back an onion – once I started pulling back the layers the car told a very different story,” Pfenning said.

The total job, along with custom additions, would eventually run him nearly $40,000. To help pay for the project, he worked late shifts, overtime, during shutdowns and covered coworker’s vacations. He also devoted 10 and 12-hour days on weekends to repairs and bodywork.

“I cut out all the rust and replaced it with new metal. All the nuts and bolts were replaced or refurbished,” said Pfenning.

Pfenning’s restored 1967 Type 3 fastback. Photo courtesy of Pfenning.

A car collector at heart, he told the mechanic that he worked with during the restoration process he didn’t want to just write the check, he wanted to do the dirty work and learn about everything being done.

“He was more than happy to let me tear out all the rat-infested parts, grind paint, rip out of all the moldy, stinky interiors and rust,” Pfenning said.

Pfenning rebuilt the engine to 1776 cc from the stock 1600 cc and installed a custom tweed interior. All the brightwork was new or reconditioned. The final step was replacing the car’s original Brunswick Blue paint with a head-turning Candy Brandywine – a popular color found on 1930’s era hot rods.

“I was so far into the project there was no use in cutting corners,” said Pfenning.

Pfenning completed the project in July 2018 and decided to enter it in the North Dakota State Fair, where it received first place for best antique car. To celebrate, he invited his then-83-year-old dad to participate in the parade with him.

“He couldn’t believe it was the same car,” Pfenning said. “He smiled the entire parade – which lasted nearly two hours – yelling, in his distinct German dialect, ‘It’s a Volkswagen, and I bought it brand new!’ He was so excited.”

Since then, he’s entered the car in several competitions and received more awards. “I won first place for Vintage European car in Minneapolis’ Light the Night event: second place went to a fancy Porsche and third went to a BMW,” Pfenning said. “It was pretty fun to see my little Volkswagen beat out over them.”

That said, nothing will compare to his father’s priceless reaction from riding in his original Volkswagen. “Sharing this experience with him … has made every penny worth it,” Pfenning added.

Pfenning displays his best in show award in front of his winning 1967 Type Fastback at a car show in Minneapolis. His red 1963 Beetle is behind him. Photo courtesy of Pfenning.

Volkswagen brings augmented reality to life along the factory line

March 10, 2020

In just the past few years, augmented reality has gone from a science-fiction idea to apps that lets you see how clothes fit, where to put your new home appliance or even to test how well you could have piloted the Apollo lunar lander. Now Volkswagen has put augmented reality to work in its U.S. factory.

As the Chattanooga factory ramps up production of the new Atlas Cross Sport, and lays groundwork for assembling the next generation of Volkswagen electric vehicles planned to begin in 2022, engineers have a new tool using augmented reality goggles to design production lines and help spot potential issues.

The software tool was developed over just six weeks by the Volkswagen Virtual Engineering Lab California, based on requests and feedback from technicians in Tennessee. The system helps designers see not just individual parts, but how existing and future equipment could interact in a real environment.

While virtual planning and software design for vehicles and factory machinery has been a standard for years, the AR factory goggles gives engineers the ability to see how the pieces will fit together in the real world.

Different colors indicate the virtual position of new machinery along the Chattanooga production line

“This helps us to make decisions quicker, and spot potential issues sooner,” said Steffan Nunn, digital factory specialist at Volkswagen Chattanooga. “As we integrate new models into the existing factory, we need to make sure our virtual design data matches the reality in the plant.”

The original concept for the system was sketched out in two weeks by Volkswagen’s Advanced Technologies group. By building the system in-house, Volkswagen had more room to maneuver and improve quickly while working with sensitive data, says Frantisek Zapletal, who leads the Virtual Engineering Lab for Volkswagen Group of America.

“If we had done this with external partners, it wouldn’t have been as flexible or as fast,” Zapletal said. “It’s really a communications platform, and people can use it to share ideas quickly. Once you see an idea in AR, you really believe it.”

Some early examples have shown that the system was able to identify pinch points between machinery and parts that weren’t previously visible. Zapletal says the tool could have uses from office layouts to vehicle accessories design, across Volkswagen’s North American Region or beyond.

Nunn says the next step in Chattanooga will be using the augmented reality tools to help improve ergonomics and maintenance.

“With so many people generating input into these processes, communication is really important,” he says. “Anything we can do to help speed up decision making means we can get more efficient and focus on assembling high-quality vehicles for our customers.”

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Fort Lauderdale, FL, 33317 US
Gunther Volkswagen 26.0992665, -80.2007134.