Volkswagen Newsroom

Keeping driving fun alive in the 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R

September 14, 2021

Over seven generations and almost 40 years, the Volkswagen Golf GTI has defined what a hot hatchback should be. The Volkswagen Golf R has become a performance standard of its own, offering all-wheel-drive grip and refined power. This year, the eighth generation of both legends arrive in the United States to keep the spirit of driving fun alive.

The all-new versions of both vehicles offer more standard power, more standard technology and sharper style than before, while preserving their affordability – and available manual transmissions.

“The previous Golf GTI and Golf R models were widely regarded as the two of the best hot hatches you could buy, but the Mark 8 versions up the ante,” said Hein Schafer, Senior Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, Volkswagen of America. “This duo has more performance, better handling, more standard equipment and improved tech features, yet minimal price increases.”

The heart of both models lies in the EA888 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injection TSI® engine, with both reaching new highs in power output. Either model is offered with a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic. The GTI produces 241 horsepower—up 13 from the Mk7—and 273 lb-ft of torque with regular octane fuel, while the Golf R now makes 315 horsepower—27 more than the previous generation—and 295 lb-ft of torque with the DSG transmission, or 280 lb-ft with the manual, using premium fuel.

Between the engine and the road lives a newly developed and sophisticated set of suspension controls that blend the electronic stability control (ESC) with the electronic differential lock (XDS®) and the optional DCC® adaptive damping system. In the GTI, the standard VAQ electronically controlled torque-sensing limited-slip differential gives the system an intelligent edge to cut understeer and provide the sharpest handling in fast corners.

For the Golf R, Volkswagen engineers designed a new 4Motion® all-wheel-drive system with rear-axle torque vectoring, which can distribute up to 100 percent of the rear torque to an individual rear wheel. In a typical corner, the system can sense which wheel needs more or less power, inside or outside the curve, and redirect the flow in a matter of milliseconds. The Golf R also includes new driving modes including a track-tuned “Special” setting and a “Drift” mode for track-only excitement.1

Here’s Volkswagen R brand ambassador Tanner Foust demonstrating the potential of both vehicles:

Both models benefit from the updates to the eighth-generation Golf family with all-new bodywork and design details inside and out. The new light signature of the GTI comes from distinctive X-shaped foglights and an available light bar that flanks the VW logo in the grille, and for the first time in North America, available 19-inch alloy wheels. Golf R models feature a blue grille line and brake calipers, a new wheel design, and several other distinct touches, from more aggressive front and rear bumpers and diffusers to a quad-tipped exhaust system and a larger rear spoiler.

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Inside, the 2022 Golf GTI and Golf R feature a standard 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit Pro, along with touch panels that control the lighting, defrost, HVAC and audio functions, as well as operation of the available sunroof. An available head-up display digitally projects key driving information onto the windshield, virtually floating in front of the driver. And of course, the GTI keeps the golf-ball style shifter on the manual transmission and a new “Scalepaper” tartan plaid pattern for the standard fabric seats. And both the Golf GTI and Golf R have the IQ.DRIVE suite of driver assistance technology standard, such as Front Assist (forward collision warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking with pedestrian and cyclist monitoring) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC).2

Keeping the Mk 8 Golf GTI within reach of enthusiasts was a key goal of the new generation, with the manual GTI starting at a MSRP of $29,545 before destination3. For 2022, the GTI comes in three trim levels – S, SE and Autobahn – with two optional packages at the SE level. The Autobahn package can be had with a limited-edition launch color of Pomelo Yellow Metallic, along with regular GTI colors Oryx White Pearl, Moonstone Gray, Kings Red Metallic, Atlantic Blue Metallic, Reflex Silver Metallic, and Deep Black Pearl.

The Golf R has one comprehensive trim, either as manual or automatic, with a starting MSRP $43,645 before destination4 for the manual and $44,445 for the DSG, in signature Lapiz Blue Metallic, as well as Pure White and Deep Black Pearl. With first deliveries arriving later this year, you can still be among the first to experience the future of hot-hatch performance.

How a Volkswagen Bus part inspired the KONG dog toy empire

September 9, 2021

If you are among the millions of American households who adopted a dog during the past 12 months, you’re likely familiar with the KONG toy, a hollow, rugged rubber cone that can be filled with treats. It seems like a perfect shape for chewing – but that wasn’t its first purpose.

In 1970, KONG inventor Joe Markham owned an auto repair shop in downtown Denver that was prone to burglary. “It wasn’t a great area at the time,” says company president K.D. Decker.

Frustrated, the 25-year-old auto mechanic turned to the police, requesting more patrols in the area, but his request was denied due to budget cuts. The officers at his local precinct recommended an alternative: Get a guard dog.

Coincidentally, Markham knew of a pup that needed a home and could be had for free. Fritz, a lovable German Shepard, had just flunked out of the police academy’s canine division for “excessive chewing.”

A dog lover, Markham jumped at the chance to rescue a fine animal that would also deliver a security system to his shop.

Markham never regretted his decision to adopt Fritz, but soon after adopting him discovered the scope of the dog’s chewing addiction. “Fritz would chew on anything he found, but he especially liked rocks,” says Decker. As a result, he was grinding away his teeth. Markham tried everything from animal bones to radiator hoses attempting to curb the dog’s behavior.

KONG founder Joe Markham’s auto shop.

Nothing worked; Fritz tore everything up and went back to rocks.

“Joe turned to veterinarians and other dog behavior experts to try to take care of the problem,” says Decker. “He hit dead ends at every turn.”

Then one day, while working on a customer’s late 1960s Volkswagen Type 2 Bus, Markham heard Fritz going crazy. With the vehicle’s suspension in a state of disassembly, the chew-crazy canine had gotten hold of a bulbous rubber axle stop that had rolled away from the parts pile 1. And he wasn’t tearing it up.

The pliable yet tough nature of the rubber and its shape made the stop ideal for a dog like Fritz – strong enough to survive under his powerful bite, yet soft enough not to damage his teeth. It made Markham think: “This would be a good dog toy.”

The Volkswagen rubber axle stop that inspired the KONG toy’s shape.

Markham spent the next six years experimenting with the rubber composition, size, and shape of the toy. He even contacted Volkswagen to buy the parts in bulk but couldn’t reach the right person. So, he turned to rubber experts in Germany to finalize the right chemistry and composition. “He wanted to be associated with German build quality and engineering,” says Decker.

Markham settled on a design very similar to the axle stop. It had a rounder, closed top that made it bounce more like an animal trying to escape a predator. “Dogs love that,” says Decker.

Markham started selling the snowman-shaped KONG in 1976. It was an instant hit, and today millions of KONG toys have found homes with dogs around the world – thanks to one dog who just wouldn’t stop chewing on part of a Volkswagen.

Updating the 2022 Jetta and Jetta GLI

September 3, 2021
The 2022 Jetta and Jetta GLI

Hein Schafer, senior vice president of product marketing and strategy with Volkswagen Group of America, introduces the 2022 Jetta and Jetta GLI

Although U.S. buyers are moving more toward SUVs, the sedan segment still represents a significant portion of the market — and the Jetta has been and continues to be a key pillar in the Volkswagen lineup. Since it launched here in 1984, Jetta has grown to become Volkswagen’s most recognizable nameplate in the United States, selling more than 3.5 million units as of 2020.

The Volkswagen Jetta continues to provide a youthful and polished design in addition to reliability and value, while the Jetta GLI delivers an accessible German performance sedan. Here’s how we’re updating the 2022 models to carry these missions forward.

The enhancements for the main Jetta lineup focus on elements that strengthen the value that compact sedan shoppers seek. The 2022 Jetta adds sought after features and delivers an enhanced driving experience with the all-new 1.5-liter engine. It’s also complemented with attractive design enhancements to both the interior and exterior.

Starting with the exterior — you can see that the Jetta features a more open upper and lower grille, giving the car a solid, strong stance. In the rear, there’s a new diffuser featuring chrome accents on either side. New 16- and 17-inch alloy wheel designs range from sporty to sophisticated, and this update also includes a black wheel option available for the SE trim.

Inside, the Jetta’s interior features have been upgraded with subtle design enhancements that offer a more polished finish, adding new decor with modern designs like those in the SEL trim. We’ve also included a new steering wheel design and gear shifter which offers a more modern and sleek appearance. The 2022 Jetta features new textile upgrades, including ceramic contrast stitching found on the door trim panels, the armrest and seats.  Further, the 2022 Jetta now also offers new volcano brown leather seating surfaces and two-tone cloth fabrics including the introduction of a GLI-like cloth in the new sport trim.

In terms of technology and driver assistance features, the 2022 Jetta has been standardized with Autonomous Emergency Braking and Active Blind Spot Monitor. 1 The IQ.DRIVE® driver assistance technology is now available on all trims and includes Travel Assist and Emergency Assist — two features that are new to the Jetta line. For standard equipment, the Jetta comes with the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, App-Connect for compatible devices, and  Car-Net® with available WiFi. 2 3 Available features include a BeatsAudio® premium sound system, ambient lighting, wireless App-Connect including wireless charging for compatible phones, and ventilated front seats.

The 2022 Jetta and Jetta GLI

The big news under the hood comes from a new engine for the main Jetta line — the latest generation turbo 1.5-liter four-cylinder, fitted with new technology and slightly larger displacements to both improve performance and drivability. It delivers 158 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque and will continue to be offered with a manual transmission, remaining true to its roots as a driver’s vehicle.

The GLI exterior upgrades include a new honeycomb grille and a bumper which encompass the signature GLI red accent lines on either side. The design is rounded out with beautiful new 18-inch alloy wheels. A new honeycomb diffuser in the rear sports chrome dual exhaust pipes, with a more amplified sound thanks to better acoustics from enhanced mechanical parts — no fake noises from sound actuators here.

The GLI interior upgrades refine the sporty appearance of this much-loved model. Enhancements include the new red-tinted seat design – the seat perforation is lined with red accents that add a unique depth and sporty appearance, along with new gear shifter and the steering wheel which features that much loved GLI badge.

The 2022 GLI comes in one trim level — Autobahn — that includes a wealth of standard equipment, from haptic-touch steering wheel and IQ.DRIVE driver assistance features to wireless App-Connect and wireless charging for compatible devices. The BeatsAudio system also comes standard, and for the first time a standard DCC adaptive dampening system.

In the spirit of not fixing what wasn’t broken, we’ve kept the GLI 2.0-liter turbo TSI engine, delivering 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, mated to either the seven-speed DSG automatic or a six-speed manual — the essence of affordable performance and driving enjoyment.

In a sea of SUVs, we still believe in the Jetta. It already excelled in terms of space, value and drivability, and we have pushed those elements even further with the 2022 model year. With its punchy new powertrain, additional features and beautiful design enhancements, we can’t wait for customers to experience it for themselves.

Keeping the Westfalia outdoor tradition alive with the Minnesota Westies

September 2, 2021
Setting up camp, complete with awning room, at Carly Lake State Park in Minnesota.

In Volkswagen and #vanlife circles, the “Westy” nickname has a special meaning.

What started as a one-off German conversion in 1951 of a Volkswagen Bus to a mobile living room became a worldwide success under the Westfalia name. The first Westies arrived in America in 1956, and the pop-up roof tents added in later years soon came to symbolize an embrace of the great outdoors all the way through the end of U.S. sales in 2003.

Westfalia campers were surprisingly spacious inside with loads of storage, often equipped with a two-burner stove, sink, a fridge, a couch that converts into a bed, and a second bed in the pop-top. Over the years, owners could add side and rear tents, air conditioning or other creature comforts. In some models, there’s even a special storage bin for a child’s cot. No space is wasted.

Aaron Davidson had long thought about buying a Westy for his camping adventures. After much searching, he found a 1971 Type 2 Bus. Since 2016, he has taken it on adventurous trips all over the U.S. and found a new pack of friends to camp within the Minnesota Westies, an enthusiastic band of owners around the Twin Cities.

Davidson was a member of the Chippewa Valley Volkswagen Club, based in Eau Claire, before he met John Lynden, the founder of the Minnesota Westies, through Instagram.

Davidson came across a post in which Lynden had put a card on the windshield of someone else’s Westy that read: Come camping on Father’s Day weekend? Sign up for the car show and the camping is free!

“I inquired about the meet-up he had planned,” says Davidson. The rest is history.

A Westies meet-up.

Another avid VW enthusiast, Lynden became addicted to the Westy life by taking a camping trip with his kids in 2014.

“My buddy lent us his refurbished 2002 GoWesty Eurovan Westfalia Weekender,” says Lynden. “We went to an area up north where there was no phone reception and no internet. It was incredible.”

On the way home, Lynden decided to buy one. It took a year, but he found a 1989 Vanagon that struck his fancy. “I flew to Colorado and drove the van back to Minnesota before the title was transferred,” Lynden says.

Then, he hit the road, driving it from Tennessee to Florida to Texas to Colorado and beyond. In the spring of 2016, Lynden decided to launch a group of like-minded owners that liked to hit the road and camp out under the stars, passing out cards at the Twin Cities Bug-In that happens every year on the first Sunday in June.

“They had Westy stamped on the front with my number and on the back asked if the recipient wanted to get together and camp out,” says Lynden. “We had five buses that first campout and 12 at the last.”

Though small, the Minnesota Westies are well connected in enthusiast circles around the globe. “I’ve found that this community is willing to drop what they are doing to help a fellow Westfalia owner, whether that be a tow, tools or parts,” says Lynden.

“My engine blew, and I reached out to the club,” Davidson adds. “Almost immediately, someone said they had an engine. Another offered up his shop so that I had a place to install it. Where else does that happen?”

A Westies meet-up.

How a telepresence robot made a young soccer enthusiast’s dreams come true

August 24, 2021
Volkswagen teams up with OhmniLabs on custom telepresence robot, CHAMP, to provide matchday access for young soccer fans.

Like a lot of 10-year-old soccer fans, Luna Perrone of Palm Beach, Florida, has a few favorite stars – like Alex Morgan, the U.S. Women’s National Team forward and Volkswagen Ambassador. Unlike most other young supporters, however, Perrone has some high hurdles to clear in order to see Alex in person at a match, let alone have the opportunity to meet her. The biggest hurdle – Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that requires intense treatments close to her home.

Or that was the case until CHAMP, a telepresence robot developed by Volkswagen in collaboration with OhmniLabs, a Silicon Valley-based robotics company, came onto the field. CHAMP allows young soccer fans who are unable to attend matches in person the ability to interact with players, participate in activities on the field and enjoy the gameday experience.

Luna Perrone in the stadium tunnel before the match.

During a soccer game, Perrone suffered a tough tackle which left her with hip pain. Originally diagnosed as a fracture, the pain continued to get worse, and she was eventually diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, on her 10th birthday. Scans revealed that an inoperable tumor was wrapped around her hip. Since her diagnosis, Perrone has focused on keeping a positive attitude and continuing her love for the sport of soccer. Despite her cancer, she practices juggling the soccer ball to keep up her physical fitness, so when she is healthy, she’ll be at her best on the field.

While at the hospital receiving treatments this past April, Perrone received a personal invitation from Alex Morgan through CHAMP to become the first virtual player honoree. As a massive Women’s National Team fan, the news was a dream come true. On July 1st, Perrone was virtually transported into the center of matchday action.

CHAMP was positioned pitch-side beside the team benches, allowing Perrone to watch the U.S. and Mexico warm up for the match. Through CHAMP, Perrone was able to meet and connect with players on the U.S. Women’s Team, speak directly with several players, including Morgan, participate in various activities like watching warm-ups from the 50-yard line, meeting USNWT General Manager, Kate Markgraf, and being the last person in the tunnel with the team to cheer them on as they took the field.

“I had so much fun seeing all of the Women’s National Team players, especially before they went overseas,” said Perrone. “It was fun being in the tunnel and cheering them on right before they took the field.”

CHAMP is engineered to mimic the appearance of a physical player honoree, using a “head” screen that projects the user’s face and a 3D-printed body on wheels that takes design cues from the Volkswagen ID.4 electric SUV, so users can take the life-like robot on a variety of surfaces—from the concrete of the stadium locker room to the turf on the field. The video feed is then transmitted back to the user’s device so they can see and hear everything that is happening at the stadium.

“What an incredible day for Luna,” said Luna’s mother, Hailey Perrone. “She said to me after the experience, ‘Mom, my face hurts so much from smiling!’ Luna has been through so much since her diagnosis and being part of this program has been a bright spot for the entire family.”

Megan Rapinoe, a Volkswagen Ambassador and member of the U.S. Women’s National Team, greeting Luna.

Following its on-field debut with Perrone, CHAMP helped another young soccer fan engage with the game.

Chisi Obasi, an 8-year-old from Gerdena, California was connected with the virtual honoree program through a non-profit organization that serves children impacted by chronic illnesses such as cancer, cerebral palsy, and other chronic illnesses.

Chisi Obasi, 8, a virtual player honoree who utilized CHAMP on July 5.

For as long as Obasi can remember, it’s been her dream to meet Megan Rapinoe. With CHAMP’s assistance, she and Rapinoe met for the first time on July 5th at the USWNT match vs Mexico in Hartford, CT. CHAMP then rolled out onto the field alongside the starting line-up for the playing of the National Anthem.

“It was so awesome seeing the whole team and some of my favorite players,” said Obasi. “I will never forget this day!”

CHAMP will attend future Women’s and Men’s National Team matches providing children the opportunity to be a virtual player honoree throughout 2021 and beyond. To learn more, visit ussoccer.com/vwchamp.

 

 

Eight of the coolest Volkswagen concept cars

August 19, 2021

Over the years, Volkswagen has debuted a wide range of concept cars that have opened windows into the future of car design, technology and performance. These dream machines are often built to test an idea, a vision and/or showcase features that may one day end up on the road. 

Some of these groundbreaking vehicles – like the all-new VW ID.4 EV, born from the ID. CROZZ – have made their way to the company’s line-up, though many others were seen once on an auto show floor and then never again.  

Why do such outlandish ideas exist at all? Each represented a unique vision of the future, and some of those visions later became real products. Through concept vehicles, Volkswagen pushes the boundaries of what’s possible, and gets its customers and stakeholders thinking about what could come next. 

Here’s a look at eight of those interesting and influential models.  

An image of the Italdesign Machimoto from the Italdesign Archives. Disclaimer: Concept vehicle shown. Not available for sale.

Italdesign Machimoto 

Resembling more of an amusement test car than a road vehicle, the 1986 Italdesign Machimoto was a mélange between a motorcycle, convertible and family car. Based on the Golf GTi 16V platform, the open-top roadster had a flexible seating system for six or nine passengers, using tandem motorcycle-style saddle seats. The car’s steering was controlled by a special wheel that could transform from a handlebar style into a traditional steering wheel. Passengers were advised to wear a helmet while cruising in the prototype, which was powered by a Golf GTI 4-cylinder engine with roughly 139 hp. Though never put into production, the Machimoto concept was featured in several Italian movies.  

The 1986 VW Scooter. Disclaimer: Concept vehicle shown. Not available for sale.

Scooter 

Designed for city driving, the 1986 VW Scooter concept was a nimble, three-wheel, front-wheel drive car with an engine located in the front and a two-door coupé body. The prototype was influenced by the bold styling of the 80’s and featured gull-wing doors. A featherweight at just 635kg, power was delivered to its wheels via a four-speed manual box that reached 40 hp. After Scooter, Volkswagen was not done with “scooter” concepts and unveiled a pair of two-wheel scooters at the 2019 Geneva auto show exploring the concept of zero-emissions and city “micromobility.”  

The 1989 Volkswagen Futura Concept.. Disclaimer: Concept vehicle shown. Not available for sale.

Futura  

A futuristic mini-van with gullwing doors, the Volkswagen Futura was unveiled in 1989 as an IRVW (Integrated Research Volkswagen) and featured innovative technology far ahead of its time. Equipped with groundbreaking features and functions – including distance sensors, parking and braking assistance functions, a navigation system, an on-board computer, and an electric parking brake – the car received instant acclaim. The Futura featured futuristic doors that opened up, not out, and offered easy access to both the front and rear rows of seats. It had 82 hp engine, an evaporation cooling system and mechanical supercharger. While it never made it to market, elements of its original design could be seen in the production ID.3 at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show.  

The W12 Nardo exuded speed before hitting the Nardo test track. Disclaimer: Concept vehicle shown. Not available for sale.

W12 Nardo  

The W12 Nardo is a supercar unique to Volkswagen, designed to test a new type of engine, the W-configuration, that ended up breaking records. First introduced as the W12 in 1997, the Nardo was re-introduced in 2001 and named after the famous Nardo test track in Italy. An Italian design team was entrusted to design a vehicle to accommodate VW’s Syncro 4WD system and integrate a 12-cylinder engine in a W-configuration, which had never been done before. Weighing in at 2,646 lbs., the 600 hp W12 could go from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds. In February 2002, the W12 Nardo concept set out to break records and drove for 24 hours straight covering 4,909.8 miles—further than any other car had managed to travel in the same amount of time. The W12 Nardo never hit the production line, but it helped Volkswagen establish a new type of engine that would be used in the Passat, multiple European Volkswagen models and most notably, the Bugatti Veyron. 

The 2002 Magellan was designed for outdoor enthusiasts. Disclaimer: Concept vehicle shown. Not available for sale.

Magellan  

Designed for the outdoor enthusiast, the Magellan was part car, part SUV and part truck. Created by Volkswagen’s Design Center in Spain in 2002, the Magellan concept was revealed around the same time the first Touareg hit market. The all-wheel drive concept had 19-inch wheels and an air suspension. Its spacious interior could comfortably hold six passengers with three rows of two seats in a 2+2+2 layout built on monorail frames. Named in the spirit of the great explorers before it, the rugged, one-off, oddball car’s notable features included a removable navigation system, dubbed “G.P.S. to Go,” that could be used outside the vehicle for biking and hiking. 

The 2005 Ecoracer in transition from coupe to convertible. Disclaimer: Concept vehicle shown. Not available for sale.

EcoRacer  

Built in 2005, the featherlight EcoRacer diesel sports car concept checked multiple boxes – coupe, convertible and speedster— in a quest to be the most economical sports car of all time. Debuting at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show, EcoRacer was a unique looking vehicle with a carbon fiber body and a powerful diesel engine mounted in the middle of the frame that could reach 136 hp and 62 mph in 6.3 seconds, with a top speed of 142 mph. The roof of the EcoRacer was its most unique feature—the driver could transform the EcoRacer from a coupe into a convertible by removing the hard top and then convert it to a speedster by removing the windscreen and frame. With the EcoRacer, the intention was rather to create a research vehicle that united the elements of economy and performance under a styled “roof.” 

The 2014 XL Sport was a VW speed enthusiast’s dream. Disclaimer: Concept vehicle shown. Not available for sale.

XL Sport 

A supercar built for enthusiasts of the eco-minded XL1, the 2014 XL Sport was a hyper-efficient sports car designed specifically for speed. Propelled by the world’s most powerful two-cylinder engine, the two-seat coupe could go from 0 to 62 mph in roughly 5.7 seconds. Its wing doors were reminiscent of those of a high-end sports car and hinged at two points, allowing for both an upward and forward swivel. The XL Sport boasts a characteristic dashboard specially designed for motorsports, with an individual lap time and oil pressure display.   

The Atlas Tanoak. Disclaimer: Concept vehicle shown. Not available for sale.

Atlas Tanoak  

Having hinted for years at bringing a pickup to the U.S. market, the rugged Atlas Tanoak finally debuted at the New York International Auto Show in March 2018. The midsize, dual-cab pickup truck was powered by an efficient V6 petrol engine and was the world’s first pickup to be based on the ubiquitous modular transverse toolkit (MQB).  Named after a species of evergreens native to the California coastline, the car boasted 276 hp, 266 lbs.-ft. of torque, eight-speed automatic and 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system. It was based on an extended-wheelbase Atlas SUV, only longer, and could seat up to five passengers

Photographer William Woodward on capturing America in a VW Vanagon Westfalia

August 16, 2021
Ruby the Vanagon, shot by Willie Woodward. Disclaimer: Only drive where it is permitted and always stay on provided roads and paths. See owner’s manual.

For the past six years, William “Willie” Woodward has been living and traveling across the United States in his 1990 Vanagon GL. A travel, adventure and commercial photographer, Willie has taken his two-wheel drive, maroon companion, dubbed “Ruby,” on a series of wild adventures – from the backwoods of Montana to the rocky hills of California and slick-rock canyons of Utah.

His social media account and blog, both entitled Where to Willie, serve as a photo journal of the pair’s escapades. Willie says that embracing van life in Ruby has allowed him to recognize and capture moments in their purest form and allowed him the freedom and flexibility to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time photographer.

“Ruby is the vehicle that got me to where I am today – both figuratively and literally,” he says, laughing. “It’s become such a deep-seated part of who I am.”

The Illinois native and former mechanical engineer took a leap of faith when he moved to the West Coast and purchased Ruby in fall 2014.

“I was getting tattooed by a guy in Portland, and the artist shared with me that he owned a Vanagon, named Ruby, and he would use it to travel to the Oregon coast to surf with his son,” he says. “To me, it seemed like such a unique way to travel and reminded me a lot of my own upbringing.”

The nostalgia took hold, and Willie began actively looking for a boxy Vanagon of his own. Soon after his search began, the tattoo artist offered him the opportunity to purchase Ruby. He jumped at it and, in tribute, kept her name intact.

Ruby the Vanagon, shot by Willie Woodward. Diclaimer: Only drive where it is permitted and always stay on provided roads and paths. See owner’s manual.

It wasn’t long after purchasing Ruby that Willie made the decision to embrace van life full time, living on the road while zigzagging the country, capturing different people and places through his lens. He announced his lifestyle change on social media on April 1, 2015.

“Everybody thought it was an April Fool’s joke, but the joke was really on them,” Willie says. “Years later, we’re still going strong.”

Over time, Ruby has gone through three large makeovers to accommodate Willie’s van life needs, culminating in the recent overhaul: installing a high top, a full interior rebuild, LED headlights and floodlights, a 12-volt refrigerator, sink and stove, and additional interior seating for friends.

“Vanagons were built in a way that just makes them so much more capable than you’d ever expect,” Willie says. “I surprise people constantly with her ability to get into some of the more remote places I shoot and enjoy spending my time in.”

William “Willie” Woodward

He’s had the opportunity to work with his father, a high-school woodshop teacher, and mother, a gifted seamstress, on updates to the van.

“They’ve helped me make it feel like more of a home on wheels than a space,” Willie says. “She’s now officially part of our family forever.”

The access and affordability of the Vanagon has also provided Willie the opportunity to better know and capture the places and people he is photographing, which in turn, he says, has enriched his work.

“The van helps me feel less like a spectator and more like a neighbor in the community I’m spending time in and increased my ability to share people’s unique stories and walks of life through photographs,” says Willie. “My best work has come out of getting to know a place more deeply by being able to stay there for an extended period of time.”

The Volkswagen community has also been a key component to Willie’s success on the road. During the pandemic, he built a social bubble that consisted of eight other Vanagon owners for several months in southern Utah, right outside of Zion.

“When I bought Ruby, I didn’t really understand that I was joining a community. But I quickly realized that when you own a Vanagon, you instantly become part of a family,” Willie says. “Some of the best friends I have today are people I’ve met through the VW world, and I can’t imagine doing this adventure without them.”

Blending the past and present in the Volkswagen GTI BBS concept

August 13, 2021

The Volkswagen Golf GTI has defined the genre of  hot hatch for decades, and the new 2022 Golf GTI follows in tradition. But progress doesn’t have to mean losing sight of heritage– which is why Volkswagen and Philadelphia-based VW enthusiast Jamie Orr worked together on an enthusiast concept that injects a healthy dose of the past into the latest generation.

The inspiration for the concept was an enthusiast-built Mk2 version of the GTI, which supplanted the only U.S.-built generation of the GTI in 1984. The goal: To highlight what has made the GTI special through the years.

“I saw the Mk2, the concept was based on, at a show in 2019 and was drawn to the simplicity and strength of the build,” said Sean Maynard, Enthusiast and Motorsport Marketing Specialist for Volkswagen. “I had the chance to meet Brock Bickford, from Evansville, Indiana, and learned that this was a project that he has been building with his daughter since she was seven years old. It’s stories like this that give me a deeper appreciation for the VW enthusiast community.”

The Volkswagen GTI BBS concept. Disclaimer: Concept vehicle shown. Not available for sale.

At 241 hp, the latest GTI offers more power than any previous generation, , with new driving technology that optimizes an already potent chassis setup, rounded out by a thoroughly updated interior. Though heavy personalization and modification are embedded into most GTI builds, Orr was so impressed by the stock variant that he wanted to let the car speak for itself.

“We wanted to maintain the soul of the Mk8, so we went with more traditional modifications.1 But we left the interior, body, and powertrain exactly as it came from the factory,” Orr said. “Take those wingback seats, with this striking red design – they are just phenomenal. Changing any of that would have been a shame.”

“We try to do most of the modifications to the exterior and leave the interiors stock on the enthusiast fleet vehicles,” Maynard added. “That way someone that might not have any experience with the Brand can still get a true feel for the vehicles.”

The Volkswagen GTI BBS concept. Disclaimer: Concept vehicle shown. Not available for sale.

First, Orr and his team changed the wheels, giving the Mk8 a classic look with a set of BBS 19×9 Super RS – featuring the iconic BBS waffle and hex pattern – wrapped in Delinte 235/35/19 D7 tires.

Then, Orr lowered the car. “We started with a set of coil overs that H&R makes for the Mk8,” says Orr. “The rear fitment is stock, but I re-designed the fronts a little because I wanted to add camber adjustment, so it’s more of a custom mix of H&R components.”

Orr was particularly happy with the new exhaust from Borla, the first available for the new GTI, which “is just a step beyond” the stock material. Finally, he gave it the BBS retro red and black vintage livery with pinstriping running from stem to stern.

For the original Mk2, “Volkswagen used all the elements their customers loved about the first GTI and built upon them,” said Orr. “The Mk8 has a new body style and more power under the hood, plus a bunch of tweaks that make it the best handling GTI I’ve ever driven.”

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A one-of-a-kind Atlas Cross Sport GT Concept

August 11, 2021

Volkswagen recently revealed its latest enthusiast concept vehicle for 2021: a punchy, turbo-powered Atlas Cross Sport GT Concept. Combining fresh styling updates and a unique color palette with a modified 2-liter turbo engine, the one-of-a-kind midsize SUV build highlights the Atlas Cross Sport’s superior handling, striking design details and the sporty potential of the midsize SUV. 1

The bespoke concept was built for and by Volkswagen enthusiasts, with Jamie Orr at the helm. The concept car took several months to create and includes a host of performance-enhancing touches befitting of its moniker.

“For more than three decades, Volkswagen has been exploring GT trims on existing cars. There has been a Passat GT, Golf GT and Jetta GT,” Orr says. “Similar to previous models, the Atlas Cross Sport GT Concept is not a full R, or a full GTI, but a well-executed, special, sportier concept built from the production model.”

To understand the midsize SUV’s capabilities firsthand, Orr went on an 8,000-mile, cross-country road trip from Philadelphia to California to test the vehicle’s chassis in a variety of conditions.

“I wanted to see what the Atlas Cross Sport was capable of,” Orr says. “I took it through desert flats and the snow-capped Rockies [and] it handled it exceptionally.”

Concept vehicle shown. Not available for sale.

Power for the Atlas Cross Sport GT comes by way of an EA888 2-liter, four-cylinder turbo engine used in the Golf R, with a larger IS38 turbo that together generates over 300 horsepower. A seven-speed DSG® automatic DQ500 transmission was added to the car’s standard 4Motion all-wheel-drive system to support the additional boost in power.

“One of my favorite things about the car is its transmission. It’s ultra-high performance,” Orr says. “It works so well, because it’s built on the MQB chassis, which underpins the Tiguan and the Golf R. It literally shares the same Volkswagen DNA, which makes the interchangeability for this project so much more fun … and lets us utilize the best components of other models to make something extra unique.”

Designed for optimal speed, the team reimagined the car as a four-seater. ST Suspension XTA Plus 3 coil-overs with color-matched and GT Concept-branded springs were added to give the vehicle an adjustable stance. In the car’s ‘track setting’, the vehicle can be lowered approximately 120mm, and in ‘street setting’, can be lowered approximately 95mm.

The build also includes many special details, including 22-inch ABT Sport HR AEROWHEELs, wrapped in Yokohama Advan Sport V105 UHP 285/35R22 tires and TAROX eight-piston front brakes. Custom GT badging is consistent throughout the entire vehicle and a concept gloss black exterior trim replaces the production model’s standard chrome finishes.

Hand painted by the Chattanooga assembly team in Eisvogelblau – a European Volkswagen color which translates to “Kingfisher Blue” in English – the car is an instant showstopper.

“Our aim was to draw attention to the many great attributes of the Atlas Cross Sport, particularly its strong exterior styling and performance capabilities,” said Sean Maynard, Enthusiast and Motorsport Marketing Specialist, Volkswagen of America, Inc.

Concept vehicle shown. Not available for sale.

Orr’s team made sure to incorporate the color scheme throughout various interior details of the car – from the original concept RECARO Sportster CS seats to the Black Forest Industries blue DSG® gear selector and door cards.  For a clean, cohesive look, the team added blue accents on the car’s steering wheel, safety belts and Volkswagen floor mats. All of the modified interior materials are also non-animal based.

Rounding out the custom interior seating layout is a special center console, which follows the design language of the front console. Inside the rear console storage compartment is an available Volkswagen Accessories convenience safe and additional USB charging ports.

“I’ve shown several people who’ve gotten a sneak peek of the car the safe and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, how did you think of this? This is phenomenal,’” Orr says. “They are surprised to learn that the interior accessory is currently offered in the Volkswagen store.”

Orr’s hope is that the special SUV project will bring as much joy to other Volkswagen fans and enthusiasts as it has brought to him. “Seeing it all come together is just so exciting,” Orr says. “The finished quality is high—just as the Atlas Cross Sport deserves.”

Keep an eye out for the Atlas Cross Sport GT Concept vehicle, along with the rest of the 2021 Volkswagen Enthusiast Fleet, at select VW enthusiast events across the country this year.

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Why AI and app stores will power Volkswagen factories in North America

August 10, 2021

The technological changes that have turned cars into software-driven machines have begun to apply to the factories that build them too.

Backed by an estimated $1 billion investment in electric mobility and digitalization in North America through 2025, Volkswagen plans to roll out technologies such as cloud-based industrial software, new intelligent robotics and artificial intelligence throughout the factories in its North American Region. The goal? A 30 percent improvement in productivity by 2025 – and a chance to ensure the footprint and manufacturing jobs for years to come.

Johan de Nysschen, chief operating officer of Volkswagen Group of America, and Susanne Lehmann, Senior Director Production, Volkswagen de México, answered a few questions about how these technologies could work, and why they embrace them:

Q: How is the digital transformation in the North American region of Volkswagen expected to change its factories? What makes Volkswagen’s digital push different to what its competitors do?

SL: The digital transformation is massive. We are connecting our factories to a cloud-based industrial IT platform, the Industrial Cloud. This helps setting the foundation for the digitalization of not only our manufacturing, monitoring, and daily operations, but also our supply chain management across North America. We’re developing tools, for example, that help us manage manufacturing performance, control inventory, and maintain visibility down our virtual pipeline to understand supplier performance and track production. Ultimately, the Industrial Cloud is steered by the global Volkswagen Group, and has a global approach with other sites in the global production network.

JdN: In a digital world, where all manufacturers are anonymously linked – removing any bias against us or others – suppliers are given full transparency into the various needs and demands of all their customers around the world. This is a crucial piece for suppliers to better understand capacity planning, where they need to invest in production equipment, and how to price their goods to synchronize their operations to meet real-time supply and demand. Over time, this could bring more far more efficiency, reliability, and lower costs for everyone.

Q: What impact could these advancements have on workers today, and those Volkswagen seeks to recruit in the future?

SL: For our workers on the shop floor, certain aspects in car manufacturing can be labor-intensive yet tedious processes, but technologies like cobots, cloud-based apps and artificial intelligence can reduce this because of their ability to anticipate problems and provide instantaneous feedback. In turn, our teams can better focus on training and more valuable, enriching tasks – all of which can lead to better personal opportunities and a more efficient and safe workplace overall. By digitalizing, we are not only moving our assembly lines forward, but supporting our people, too.

Q: What’s the ultimate vision for this transformation? What will it enable for the North American region of Volkswagen?

JdN: Embracing technological change is a given, but more importantly, we need to be shaping the landscape for tomorrow if we want to drive true innovation and differentiate Volkswagen from our competitors. Generally speaking: Digital technologies shouldn’t solely focus on our core products and customer experience, but frankly, be designed with other upstream areas such as production, design, and development in mind. The North American region of Volkswagen is part of a much bigger global network, and we’re in this for the long-game.

Q: Outside of manufacturing, where else can digitalization play a big role in transforming how Volkswagen does business?

JdN: I’d say: Everywhere. When Volkswagen develops a vehicle, there are hundreds of factors between design and concept, customer profile, pricing, manufacturing, up to shipping and selling it.  And most of these factors are, ultimately, trade-off decisions that require collaboration all across the organization. Technology enables a level of collaboration that we have never had before. From a fully virtual design process to predictive pricing and purchase models, highly advanced manufacturing and state-of-the-art marketing, digitalization will be, no doubt, a game changer and how Volkswagen does business worldwide.

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