Sedans

The 2020 Volkswagen Passat isn't all-new -- and that's OK, VW says

VW Group of America CEO Scott Keogh explains why the Passat stays on its old platform.

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In the face of brand-new entries like the latest Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima, it at first seems a little odd that the 2020 Volkswagen Passat is not an all-new vehicle but rather a heavily updated version of the sedan first introduced eight years ago. But Volkswagen Group of America CEO Scott Keogh said at a media roundtable on Monday that the decision was appropriate for the company's midsize sedan.

"Do I think that the car's competitive? One hundred percent," Keogh said. "Do I think that customers will like it? One hundred percent."

The 2020 Passat rides on the same basic chassis as the 2012-2019 model -- and VW says customers won't care.

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The goal in developing the 2020 Passat was, primarily, to improve things that would actually appeal to potential buyers.

"We said, OK, let's keep the carryover platform," Keogh said, "and focus on the things the customer sees and interacts with. That is the design, the aesthetics, the look, the feel."

After all, car shoppers only care about what they can experience. Keogh noted that while we automotive writers may get all excited about whether a car rides on a new platform, most customers really don't know or care. They're probably unaware that the 2020 Passat is still on the "old" PQ35 platform rather than the new MQB one used by newer VW vehicles like the Jetta and Tiguan. So why expend engineering time and effort on adopting a new chassis if buyers won't appreciate it?

"Does the customer know MQB from MQB this from MQB that? No," he said. "The car's going to do what the customer wants and needs it to do."

Major changes to the new Passat include updated styling and more features.

Steven Pham/Roadshow

Moreover, Keogh said that Volkswagen wanted to focus on improving the things that customers wanted to see improved. Owners already praised the Passat's package and the driving experience, he said, so it didn't make much sense to spend money on changing those things instead of adding new styling and more tech features.

"Just to use a crude example, if you have $10, I didn't see any need to put $9 of it into a platform which was well-received and good, and then only a dollar into the stuff you see, as opposed to flipping that," Keogh said.

And it fits into a bigger-picture story: Fewer customers are buying midsize sedans in the US, and automakers only have so much money they can spend on new models. So spending a ton of money on all-new sedan in this business climate is tough to justify.

"Yes, let's be blunt, the segment is shrinking, the segment is more competitive," Keogh said. As a result, he said VW had to look at the new Passat with the mindset, "You have a certain amount of resources, what's the best way to maximize those resources?"

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