Why Volkswagen Doesn’t Need Facelifts

I’ll be honest with you guys. I really don’t know very much about smartphones. Since I’m in front of the computer for most of the day, I can’t even be bothered to upload songs and listen to them on the go. Still, just like most of you, the geekiness inside me draws my attention towards anything new and technical and I’ve come to the “objective” conclusion that Apple only makes one phone and Samsung makes a whole bunch of different ones to rival it.
It’s like Apple knows what everybody wants before they do and its main rivals are playing the guessing game. That to me sounds like a cult product and a bunch of copycats. Strangely enough, even Apple fans admit the new iPhone isn’t perfect, yet they still go “oh my got, it’s got a shiny new white cable… must… buy… it… now.”

This zombie-like reaction to everything Apple puts on sale is not unlike Volkswagen and its cars. Think of only the models that have above three generations, the Polo, Jetta, Golf and Passat. The kind of loyalty customers have for those cars can’t be bought with money.

Sharp styling, a specious cabin, fantastic interior quality and good engines are all things they have in common. These are also the classic characteristics of any Volkswagen, which is why people never expect particularly exciting or quirky design. It’s very rare that these Germans have to change anything major about a car, which brings me to my subject of the day.

Have you guys noticed how Volkswagen doesn’t do that many facelifts, while the other companies have at least the mid-life refresh if not a whole lot of other little changes every year.

How do they get away with that? It’s simple. There’s a Passat man, a Golf man and a Jetta man, and they will only buy… well, you get the idea.

The Looks – Different Sizes of the Same Car

Volkswagen doesn’t need Kodo, Fluidic Sculpture in Motion, L-Finesse and Keen Edge. The Golf VII looks about the same as an older Jetta and no buyer is ever going to have a problem with that. While this leaves cars looking dry and unimaginative, there are also so advantages.

For example, everybody know a Golf when they see it. This helps resale value, which in turn encourages people to buy new because they know they will get more money when they pass their cars on in three years. The Opel Astra J looks nothing like the Astra H, which in turn looks nothing like the Astra G. A second hand Citroen C4 can be half the price of the equivalent Golf, which means somebody is losing money. In say 2006, the C4 seemed so cool with its floating steering wheel and crazy looks, but now it’s dated and strange.

Coming back to the iPhone analogy, selling a used iPhone 4 is much easier than selling a used Samsung Universe… or whatever you call it, because people know what it is and desire it.

I do despise the way VW makes the same car in different sizes, but I’ve also seen the advantages. Because they haven’t designed the starship enterprise, basic maintenance and repair is easier. You don’t have to take the wing off to change a lightbulb or replace the bumper to fix a foglight surround. Renault Megane owners, you know what I mean.

The Trim

Just like the iPhone 4S was somehow totally different and much hotter than the iPhone 4, so to is a Passat with LED daytime running lights and new wheels totally different. If people spend enough time looking at a single car, like mister Passat man does, they notice the most minute changes and love them. You can change everything about a Hyundai, and Passat man will still ignore it because he’s spoiled for diversity and choice.

And because VW doesn’t have to completely rethink every car’s interiors once every 3 years, they have all their money invested in better multifunctional steering wheels, window switches, seatbelts, supportive headrests, radios and so on.

No Fun? No Problem

None of the cars Volkswagen makes are performance benchmarks in their respective classes, but because they offer what they promise, nobody seems to complain. For this reason, they’ve been able to get away with electric power steering, electric handbrake, using cylinder deactivation and thin tires. This in turn means they are the go-to brand for real world fuel economy.

I’ve seen some pretty crazy economy claims, especially for French and Japanese small cars. They are sometimes 50% better than the equivalent Volkswagen. But VW’s figures are genuinely achievable if you drive carefully. Think about it; if you can get 7.5 l/100km in a 180 hp Polo GTI, why would you ever care that the design isn’t as good as Kia’s or Renault’s.

Of course, one of the biggest reasons people buy VWs is the reliability claims. This is sort of a sticky situation right now, because the brand’s expansion over the past few years may have cost some reliability points. But the fact of the matter remains they still make very safe, relatively bulletproof cars. Take the Polo for example: there have been only eight recalls since the first model was launched in 1975.

Statistics suck if your car has bad electrics, a prematurely broken suspension strut or faulty DSG. But no car is ever without faults, but since facelifts are rare, problems can be fixed uniformly over four or five model years.

So yeah, the reason Volkswagen doesn’t make or need facelifts is simple. It’s because it sells iPhones.
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
Mihnea Radu profile photo

Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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