In the biggest piece of non-news you’ll read all day, Volkswagen is discontinuing its slow-selling Routan minivan after the 2013 model year. The automaker made the announcement to Automotive News, VW CEO Jonathan Browning saying “The segment is contracting in favor of crossovers and SUVs.”
Most of the rest of Routan production is slated for internal fleets. You can imagine the very Type-A Volkswagen overlord Ferdinand Piech coming to the U.S. on a trip, saying “Vat ist diss Sche***e?” To be fair, when you’re the guy responsible for making the million-dollar Bugatti Veyron, there’s very little left that’ll impress you.
The Volkswagen Routan began as a collaboration between Chrysler and Volkswagen when both needed a helping hand. Chrysler was just emerging battered from its divorce from Daimler-Benz, and it had been ransacked by capital management company Cerberus. It needed to move product. Volkswagen, on the other hand, was selling plenty of expensive people-movers as the dollar continued to lose parity with the euro; why not sell a relatively affordable minivan in the U.S.? The bodies were sourced by Chrysler; VW sourced its own interior panels and tuned its suspension differently. Chrysler borrowed the Routan’s suspension tuning when it revised its minivans for the 2012 model year.
Alas, the two companies had a falling out when Fiat purchased Chrysler and VW’s management had a disagreement with Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. On top of that, the Volkswagen Routan has never been the sales success the company hoped it would be. Last year, Volkswagen sold a bit over 10,000 units; Chrysler sold more than 250,000 minivans; Honda sold around 125,000. And the perennially dowdy-but-trusty Kia Sedona minivan will be returning for the 2014 model year to serve value-minded shoppers before undergoing a full redesign.
From anonymous sources, we’ve heard that Volkswagen has been planning to discontinue the Routan after 2013 for a while now. At the Detroit Auto Show, Volkwagen previewed its upcoming three-row crossover in the form of the CrossBlue concept. We’ve also heard that the retro-themed Bulli mini-”Bus” from several years back is still very much on the table.
Will anyone really miss the Volkswagen Routan minivan? No. At the same auto show where Honda shows off the 2014 Odyssey, reinvigorated with new features including a built-in vacuum cleaner, Volkswagen retracts its offering. But the beat will go on.
Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)