Fleet News

VW brews up a right old confusing cocktail

'ON my return from the launch of the new Volkswagen Touran my colleagues in the CAP office and around the industry were unanimous in their curiosity. Was it, they all wanted to know, as good as the Porsche Cayenne or the BMW X5?

'Hang on', I kept having to say, 'it's not the 4x4 Touareg, it's the new mini-MPV that aims to compete with the Citroen Xsara Picasso and Vauxhall Zafira.'

Discussing this with Fleet News deputy editor Steve Moody, who was also on the launch, I found he had encountered the same problem, so it's not just me. Clearly, there is major confusion in the industry over two cars that will be launched during this year. So, on behalf of Volkswagen, which seems to me to be making life more difficult for itself than is really necessary, I'd like to clarify the situation because sooner or later fleets will be ordering these new vehicles and then at some stage selling them as used cars.

The good people down at Volkswagen UK HQ in Milton Keynes don't seem to have a problem with the similar names but then they have probably been briefed for a long time and given pronunciation guidance, while the rest of us haven't had that benefit. Let's face it, we are still struggling with 'Sharan', so names are important.

Basically, the Touran is a very capable five or seven-seat people carrier. It is, as some have said, a bit dull to look at, but what a great drive. It does everything it is supposed to, with interior quality as good as you'd get on any vehicle in this class – but all this confusion really deflects attention from what the car is all about.

The Touran – pronounced 'Two-Ran' – will cost from about £12,500. The Touareg – pronounced 'Twar-regg' – and not 'Toe-Rag', as some have already christened it, will cost substantially more. The two cars could not be more different, but to give them such similar names is an invitation to confusion.

For example, when CAP is coding these vehicles one will start with 'VWTO', while the other will have to be either 'VWTU' or 'VWTR', making life difficult for the leasing industry and, eventually, entry control at auctions.

In truth the Volkswagen Group does not make a bad car and any fleet manager who has any of their cars on the fleet will be satisfied with them. But you have to wonder whether there is an office over in Wolfsburg that has on its door 'Silly Name Department'. How a manufacturer can make a solid well-built car and then confuse not only the trade but also the buying public is a bit of a mystery.

It is going to be difficult for the end-user to turn up in the office, or the pub, and say proudly that they are now the proud owner of a Touareg when people ask why they need so many seats.

The next launch to consider is the Phaeton – pronounced 'Fate-On' – but that is another story for later this year. Suffice to say that badging and naming is a subject close to my heart because I understand some of the background issues and this time I do feel Volkswagen have got it wrong.'

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