Why American drivers prefer monochrome vehicles – and why that might change soon

A variety of Volkswagen models If you drove down an American street and looked only at the new vehicles, you might be forgiven for thinking you’re in a black-and-white movie. Last year, U.S. car buyers chose white more often than any other color, followed closely by silver and black, according to experts in automotive paints. That’s been the trend for a decade, part of a longer evolution toward muted shades in automotive exteriors stretching back 70 years. It’s one that Volkswagen experts see as likely to continue – with a glimmer of hope for the color-curious. “Color is always shifting, and our color perception is always evolving depending on what we see, what we observe, and what we live with,” said Volkswagen Senior Color and Trim Designer Jung Lim “Limmy” Park. Old films of American highways from 1950 to 1970 captured the spirit of the era with colorful hues of aqua, cherry red, salmon and gold – a common sight on the road at that time. From 1970 to 1990, drivers started to transition towards neutrals and gravitated towards browns, greens and beiges. Today, variations of white, black, gray and silver make up over half of the market, leaving just 21 percent of cars sold in 2020 in the red, green or blue family. Americans reportedly favor the color black for luxury vehicles, and gray has replaced silver for all vehicles due to its perception as a more upscale and modern color. “Silver used to be way more popular than gray, but it has really flipped,” noted Park. “Gray brings so many variants from cool to warm, dark to light, luxurious shimmering to outdoorsy flat effect. Thus, gray speaks more to the persona that drivers want to communicate.” At Volkswagen, color design is inspired from a multitude of sources – from nature, food and athletics, to new digital technology and virtual experiences. Determining the color goal at the beginning of a vehicle project allows the color designers to create the perfect color palette for the model’s intended driver. Understanding the desires of the customer goes hand in hand with selecting colors that complement the vehicles’ body style and influencing industry color trends. Color design “is complicated and a complex theory that depends on the design of the car, type of the car, the size of the car and also types of trends that project on certain demographics and lifestyles,” said Park. A 2021 Tiguan While color trends in fashion, interior design and technology are going global, automotive color trends are still highly regional. It’s not just cultural preferences; a red in the United States can look different from a red in Germany due to the surroundings of that region. “Working in the color world, I learned that Asia Pacific, Europe and North America have very distinct color preferences,” said Park. “For example, Asia Pacific is actually the least colorful [region] … and in Europe, compared to North America, gray has always been more popular than silver, as has been blue.” “Color preferences really reflect the unique social and cultural trends and even geography [of a region],” Park added. Volkswagen has continued to experiment with bold colors even as market preferences move towards shades of white and black, from the Kurkuma Yellow of the Atlas and Arteon to the Spektrum program for the Golf R that allowed buyers a choice from 40 vibrant shades. “The colors found on the original Buses and Beetles are iconic to Volkswagen and continue to be recognized even as the colors are no longer in production,” Park explained. “The bright contemporary yellow on the Volkswagen ID. Buzz concept is a great example how the original color image could be reinterpreted for the high-tech and it is not available in other places but in Volkswagen.” Market demands for black, white and monochromatic shades in between will continue, Park says, but consumers are showing an increased appetite and interest in returning to bright and bolder colors. The reason? Because so much of our lives are now filtered through screens – from phones to tablets to computers to televisions – a certain segment of drivers will want vehicles that visually pop in real life as they do virtually. “We are all so impacted by our digital life through the pandemic, and the colors you mainly see are [on] your screen more than actual physical objects.” said Park. “The future is getting colorful, for sure.” An electric yellow ID. BUZZ concept car. Disclaimer: Concept vehicle shown. Not yet available for sale. Specifications may change.

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Volkswagen fans create new traditions amid COVID-19

Attendees socially distanced and enjoyed the outdoors through activities like hiking and cycling. Photo credit: Tom Hutch. Many classic car enthusiasts have turned to restoration projects to stave off boredom during the COVID-19 lockdown. Mike Hanyi, a former automotive mechanic from Towson, Maryland, is one of them. But while he has enjoyed the quality time with Bonny, his yellow 1984 Vanagon Westfalia, he felt that something was missing: a sense of community. Hanyi has been a Volkswagen fan for decades but is relatively new to van culture. On a trip to Arizona in 2017, he borrowed a friend’s Volkswagen Westfalia and drove across the Southwest region with his wife, Mary. “We immediately fell in love with it,” said Hanyi. “I sold off my other vintage vehicles to buy one.” He purchased a Vanagon later that year and since has traveled up and down the East Coast with his family, attending events with other Vanagon devotees. He owns two other Volkswagens — a 1992 Cabriolet and a 2014 TDI Wagon — but Bonny is his most prized possession. Many of the Vanagon events that have become annual traditions for Hanyi were canceled over the past year due to COVID-19. Although he remains active in the Volkswagen community through social media, Hanyi missed the immersive experience of in-person, weekend-long events with other van owners and their families. He spoke with others from the Maryland van community online, and they too wanted a way to safely connect with one another. As the weather got cooler, Hanyi decided to create his own tradition: a small outdoor meet-up of Volkswagen buses at a local campground in Maryland. While he had attended several van events before, this was his first time organizing one. Hanyi found a large nearby campsite and gauged interest in meeting for a weekend in early November with the group. Vans allow families like the Hanyis to go camping without worrying about crowded airplanes, hotels or tourist attractions. Photo credit: Mary E Mays.   “I expected 10 vans to show up,” he said. “Instead, we had about 30 vans, all from the Maryland area.” This was the first time the Maryland social media group, which was formed just a year ago and now has over 150 members, had come together for an event. While COVID-19 posed challenges for gatherings of this size, Hanyi saw the outdoor setting, individual sleeping arrangements, and masks as a solution. “This type of event would really only work with a Vanagon or another camper van,” said Hanyi. “It’s allowed us to get outside and see new places without flying or staying in hotels. We’re blessed that we’ve got our own isolated little home that we can take with us.” Although it was the attendees’ love for the Vanagon that brought them together, Hanyi said the group soon bonded over more than vehicles. Many of the families went hiking or bicycling along the nearby Potomac River and got to know one another over socially distant campfire chats. “It wasn’t just the men talking about mechanics with the hoods of our cars open,” Hanyi said. “Yes, we were there because we love our vans, but the event is about traveling with your family to a scenic location to relax. There’s something for every member of the family to enjoy, even if cars aren’t your thing.” Like Hanyi, some of the attendees had been to several van meetups over the years, including larger festivals in different areas of the country. For others, it was their first time. “It didn’t matter if you were a veteran van-lifer or if it was your first event. Everyone was welcoming,” Hanyi said. He was happy to initiate the new attendees into Maryland’s van culture. “It was a really nice feeling to know that we could bring a sense of community to them during a difficult time and do it in a safe way.” After just one weekend, Hanyi described the event attendees as a “family,” with members extending their friendship and support to one another — whether that meant sharing their stories, an extra vehicle part or even vegetables from their home gardens. While next November is months away, Hanyi is committed to keeping the tradition going. “The sense of community I felt at the meet-up was incredible, especially after this past year,” Hanyi said. “I was happy to have created that feeling for everyone who attended, and I know it’ll be something we all look forward to for next year.” For Hanyi, the best part about Volkswagen van meet-ups is the joy they bring to every member of the family — not only those who are interested in mechanics. Photo credit: Tom Hutch.

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From stone wheels to EV, bringing progress to life in a new Volkswagen ID.4 EV ad

Volkswagen has a history of groundbreaking, memorable advertising, and the new all-electric ID.4 coming this spring has inspired its next chapter with a visually stunning demonstration of transportation’s progress from the wheel to the EV future. The ad, created by Johannes Leonardo, was the result of months of planning and imagination using different types of zoetropes – forerunners of motion pictures that were the first examples of animation. All zoetropes in the ad were real machines instead of digital effects, built by hand and precisely synchronized to showcase the innovations that have led to the Volkswagen ID.4 and future Volkswagen electric vehicles. “We wanted to get across the ideas that this was a historic moment of innovation becoming accessible,” said Patrick Wells, copywriter at Johannes Leonardo (JL). “Electric cars have been around a while, but the adoption rate has been slow, and it was key that we show how momentous this moment can be.” The ad’s concept grew from the idea of showing how technology has progressed from the wheel to the electric vehicle, inspired by the classic “stages of man”-type drawings. To make the progression visually interesting, JL chose to build an animation of key innovations using zoetropes – devices that create optical illusions of motion. Using 3D printing, archive photos and hand-drawn images, the zoetropes take different shapes in the progression. The first is technically a phenakistoscope – a wheel with images on its edges that create motion when spun. Others include a classic zoetrope and a praxinoscope, an invention from the 1870s that uses a ring of mirrors to animate images. The creators also used different styles of animations to highlight different eras, like the “rubber hose” movements of early cartoons in the 1920s and ‘30s, along with nods to VW history via images of the original Beetle. “By telling a story through devices, we’re showing the progress of technology on multiple levels,” said Iwona Usakiewicz, art director for JL. “As we move through the ad the machines become more complex, and the visuals build to a nice transition to the Volkswagen ID.4 EV.” All of the devices were arranged and timed so that they could be filmed in one take. Each had to be tailored to move at just the right speed to create their animated visual effects on digital video. The results are captivating: “We wanted to use the wheel as a motif, to show how technology progresses and put the arrival of the Volkswagen ID.4 in context,” said Kevin Watkins, creative director at JL. “The spot reflects how important this moment of transition to electric mobility will be.” The Volkswagen ID.4 Pro S and 1st Edition models are expected to arrive in dealers this March, with 201 hp and 250 miles of EPA-rated range, offering a unique style and plenty of space along with zero-tailpipe-emissions driving.1 You can reserve yours at vw.com.

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Why winter isn’t a worry for modern electric vehicles like the Volkswagen ID.4 SUV

As winter takes hold in much of the United States, Americans’ interest in electric vehicles continues to warm up – driven by models such as the Volkswagen ID.4 SUV, due to hit dealers in a matter of weeks. But the season can spark questions among EV-curious drivers about how an electric vehicle can stand up when the temperatures drop. The answer is: quite well, if owners prepare a bit and take advantage of the benefits EV technology can offer. “Winter isn’t a reason to avoid joining the EV revolution,” said Matthew Renna, vice president of E-mobility and innovation at Volkswagen of America. “We’ve designed the ID.4 to make the transition to electric driving as seamless as possible regardless of the season, and we think owners will enjoy it year round.” Cold temperatures can affect the efficiency of all vehicles, and it’s not that modern EV batteries perform markedly worse in cold temperatures. Rather, it’s that heating requires more energy. In a fossil-fueled vehicle, typically a third of the fuel burned escapes the engine as heat, some of which can be used to warm the interior. In an electric vehicle, where the motor may be up to 95 percent efficient, there’s no spare energy lying around to be used on interior climate control. Powering those heaters will lessen an EV’s range by a moderate amount, especially in temperatures below freezing. But the Volkswagen ID.4 EV was designed with several technologies meant to optimize heating efficiency while minimizing the impact cold temps will have on the vehicle. The first is pre-heating. Just as people warm up gas-powered vehicles, you can use the Volkswagen Car-Net mobile app1 to start heating the ID.4 while it’s still connected to the charger. This uses energy from the grid rather than from the vehicle battery, preserving range, and leaving you with a toasty car when you’re ready to depart. Every 2021 VW ID.4 EV comes with heated front seats and a heated steering wheel – two features that winter veterans swear by, since they heat your body directly providing an efficient way to warm up quickly on cold days. Beyond those features, the ID.4 also has an electric resistance heater as part of the Climatronic automatic climate control system, which is designed to get to temperature faster than the traditional heaters from gas-powered vehicles, which can sometimes blow cold air until the engine warms up. By next winter, the ID.4 will have one more tool to help handle what Mother Nature dishes out: available all-wheel-drive, with 302 hp provided from two electric motors. EVs have already shown their cold-weather abilities in other countries, such as Norway, where they account for 40 percent of all vehicle sales. By next winter, the ID.4 could be your zero direct-emission sled.

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How Volkswagen Automotive Cloud will help shape the connected car of tomorrow

Seattle may not be known as a hotbed for the U.S. automotive industry, but that’s changing, thanks to the increasing importance of cloud computing for connected and autonomous vehicles. In recent years, Seattle’s nickname of “Cloud City” has not only referred to the weather, but for the industry built around some of the best cloud companies and experts in the world. That’s why Volkswagen Group chose the city to help shape the future of connected vehicles with the Volkswagen Automotive Cloud. In 2018, Volkswagen announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft to help accelerate the development of one of the largest dedicated automotive industry clouds, known as Volkswagen Automotive Cloud or VW.AC. Designed to provide a smart, and scalable foundation for connected vehicles, VW.AC is expected to handle data from millions of vehicles per day, with the goal of delivering connected experiences to customers around the globe starting in 2022 – a key part of the Volkswagen Group strategy to become a leading automotive software innovator. “We are now a global leader with our electric platforms and a broad range of electric vehicles,” said Herbert Diess, Chief Executive Officer of the Volkswagen Group earlier in November 2020. “In the coming years, it will be crucial to also reach a leading position in car software in order to meet people’s needs for individual, sustainable and fully connected mobility in the future.” To that end, the Volkswagen Group announced in November that it anticipates doubling its spending on digital development to approximately $28 billion over the next five years. Under the Car.Software Organisation, the large-scale software powerhouse for in-car software development in the Volkswagen Group, the automotive giant is building its own end-to-end software platform which includes VW.AC, an in-car operating system (VW.OS), and capabilities that will help enable the next generation of infotainment, vehicle performance, and passenger comfort up to automated driving. “Software decides how people will experience and use their cars in the future. We want to take advantage of these opportunities. The Automotive Cloud helps us realize new business functions like remote control services, electric vehicle charging scenarios, and over-the-air updates,” says Dirk Hilgenberg, Chief Executive Officer of Volkswagen’s Car.Software Organisation. “We’re building a cloud that will scale to serve millions of customers around the world and will enable us to deliver ever-increasing customer value much faster.” Think like a startup, scale like an enterprise Zoran Lazovski, Chief Executive Officer at VW.AC, leads the team of almost 200 experts and counting. He says basing the unit in Seattle has enabled Volkswagen to attract many cloud computing experts who are passionate about building software for an automotive company that sells more than 10 million vehicles worldwide every year. “We’ve already hired top talent on the team but we’re still growing. We want to attract even more best-in-breed expertise, especially in cloud innovation,” said Lazovski. “One of our biggest draws is the opportunity to solve challenges at the scale of one of the world’s largest automakers.” “We invent very quickly here at VW.AC. To do that, we’ve built a value-led culture that is rooted in trust, accountability, teamwork, innovation, and integrity,” he added. “We’re organized into small, agile teams that use remote mob programming, overall retrospectives, and other methods to collaborate and continuously improve the way they work. We also actively seek to create teams made up of people with different backgrounds and experiences because diversity leads to better ideas, solutions, and experiences.” Currently, the Volkswagen Group writes less than 10 percent of the software embedded in its vehicles, the rest of which is tied to third-party-owned proprietary software. With efforts like the Car.Software Organisation and VW.AC, the Volkswagen Group aims to write 60 percent of the vehicle software in the next few years, providing a foundation for truly integrated end-to-end software. “With our development work here in the Northwest, Volkswagen is building up specialist knowledge and core software competencies in cloud innovation for the entire Volkswagen Group. Our platform will enable developers from Car.Software Organisation and beyond to quickly and easily build and deploy applications, leverage real-time data, and speed time-to-market,” said Lazovski. How will the Automotive Cloud benefit drivers in the future? For starters, it can help enhance existing services like emergency assistance or remote vehicle access, while building the foundation for new ones like intelligent navigation, smart parking and automated driving. For electric vehicles, the Automotive Cloud could power an in-car navigation system to provide charging station locations and recommended stops to avoid range anxiety. Beyond that, the cloud could harness driving and battery data generated by EVs, to help optimize and develop batteries with longer range and higher performance. VW.AC sets the stage for a rapid digital transformation. Together with the work from Car.Software Organisation, the Volkswagen Group and its brands are being equipped to deliver hyper-personalized customer experiences, while benefiting from economies of scale. “Our people are excited and passionate about being part of something that will shape the future,” Lazovski said.

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#TBT: The ultra-economical 1988 Volkswagen Öko-Polo

The 1988 Öko-Polo. Cupples owns the only known Oko-Polo chassis in the U.S.. Photo credit: Ross Cupples Many enthusiasts are familiar with Volkswagen’s niche models. But not even Ross Cupples, a lifelong fanatic with dozens of Volkswagen cars in his personal collection, had heard of the Öko-Polo — a rare 1988 prototype with a retro rainbow stripe across its doors — when he acquired the only known model in the United States. Volkswagen vehicles have always been a part of Cupples’ life. At age 10, he fell in love with a yellow 1972 Beetle at his family’s used car business in Belmont, NH. He purchased his first car, a 1985 Jetta GLI, at age 16 and slowly began acquiring and restoring Volkswagen models. Since then, his collection has grown so large that even he has lost track of how many he owns. “I have about 70, most of which are low-mileage, original cars,” Cupples said. His collection fills two buildings, and he is still running out of indoor space as he seeks to keep his vintage vehicles in protected from the elements. “It’s been a fun challenge to research and make connections as I seek out rare models over the years.” With its rainbow stripe, the Öko-Polo embodies the bold style of the 1980s. Photo credit: Ross Cupples The prototype was designed to run 100 km (62.13 miles) on just three liters of fuel, making it an ultra-economical car at the time. (In fact, the German name Öko-Polo translates to Eco-Polo.) It had a two-cylinder diesel direct-injection engine and a G40 supercharger. The two cylinders displaced only 858 cubic centimeters and a heat-resistant foam substance encapsulated the engine bay to minimize the engine noise and vibrations. After a year of testing in 1988, the series of about 50-75 Öko-Polo prototypes ended. The car was never mass-produced, due to its high cost of production, but it did help future models become more efficient. The Öko-Polo’s newly developed technologies were gradually implemented in other Volkswagen models. The chassis Cupples purchased was missing many original Öko-Polo parts, including the engine and supercharger that made it an economical choice. He imported a one-liter Polo drivetrain and fit it in the body of the car so it could run, albeit without the Öko-Polo engine. A photo that showcases the interiors of the 1988 Öko-Polo. Photo credit: Ross Cupples Still, the chassis belongs to just 50 to 75 total prototypes and remains the only known Öko-Polo in the country. Its origins in the U.S. are unknown, but the seller in Wisconsin purchased the chassis from a government auction. “Other than the signature stripe, the Öko-Polo is indistinguishable from any other late-‘80s-style Polo Squareback,” Cupples said. “At the same time, it’s one of the rarest models in my collection.” Even the Volkswagen museum in Wolfsburg does not display an Öko-Polo prototype, he noted. The vehicle also sparked Cupples’ interest in other Volkswagen Polos. Over the past two decades, he has collected every Polo model and its variants, and believes he is the only collector in the U.S. to have done so. While some might consider 70 Volkswagens too many, Cupples is not done growing his collection. “I have a mentality of trying to have owned at least one of every model in every generation of Volkswagen,” he said. “And having the Öko-Polo has been a part of that mission. I love being able to hold a part of Volkswagen history.” Among his dozens of other Volkswagens have been five Golf Harlequins, with at least one of each color combination. Cupples’ storage spaces for his 70+ Volkswagens. Photo credit: Ross Cupples

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These 10 features of the Volkswagen Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport foster winter family fun

The 2021 Atlas Cross Sport. The holidays are over, but winter is not. And while your family may be tempted to stay in their pajamas for the next three months, it can be good to get outside and go for a drive — even in the chilly weather. Outdoor activities like sledding, ice skating or even driving to look at lingering holiday decorations can help your family make the most of the season while following COVID-19 guidelines. Whether you are headed to a faraway cabin or just across town, the 2021 Volkswagen Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport help make winter activities easy and fun for the entire family. These 10 available features can give you confidence and keep your family comfortable on winter drives. The Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport offer plenty of space for passengers to get comfortable. Stay warm With the extended-range remote start kit, you can start your car without leaving the house.1 While you’re still bundling up indoors, the car can begin warming the interior, saving you time and making your drive more comfortable. The extended-range remote start kit is an available accessory for both the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport. The heated front washer nozzles and heated side mirrors melt pesky ice and remove fog on your windshield and side mirrors, keeping you from scraping frost by hand. Heated side mirrors are standard on both models, while heated washer nozzles are standard on SE trims and above. Heated seats, standard in the front row and an available option for the second row, offer three levels of warmth to keep the family cozy. And for drivers with cold fingers, a heated steering wheel offers additional relief from the winter weather. Heated front seats and steering wheels are standard on SE trims and above, and the top-of-the-line Premium trim includes heated outboard seats in the second row for both models. With ample cargo space, you can transport everything your family needs to hit the slopes. Utilize storage space The Atlas has extensive storage space to fit equipment for every winter activity. With 20.6 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third row, there is ample space to store the family’s winter coats and luggage — and more when you fold down the third- and second-row seats. With just two rows of seats, the Atlas Cross Sport offers even more cargo room, with 40.3 cubic feet of space behind the second row and 77.8 cubic feet when folded down. When your hands are full of luggage or groceries, the last thing you want to do is set your bags down in the snow, dig out your keys and open the hatch — especially in the chilly weather. With the hands-free, foot-operated tailgate, you can load your snow gear into the trunk quickly and easily. This is available as a higher trim option in both models. Snow Mode helps drivers navigate snowy and icy conditions. Disclaimer: When driving during winter weather conditions, ensure that your vehicle is equipped with appropriate all-season or winter tires. Always drive in a manner appropriate for the weather, visibility and road conditions. Drive with peace of mind The Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport offer a myriad of driver assistance features. The blind-spot monitoring system, adaptive cruise control, and lane and front assist technologies are helpful as you drive year-round When you’re driving in snowy or icy weather, Snow Mode, a function of the 4Motion All-Wheel Drive system, adapts to the conditions of the road and shifts the engine into high gear.2 This minimizes slipping and provides as much traction and stability as possible. The 4Motion All-Wheel Drive system is available on every trim of the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport. The Fender Premium Audio System offers concert-quality sound. Settle in for the ride Many vehicles have cup holders, but the Atlas has 17 — far more than most SUVs. This helps ensure that your family’s hot chocolate or apple cider stays steady and within reach throughout the journey. The Car-Net service offers an in-vehicle WiFi Hotspot, which you can use to help avoid traffic jams, search for a parking space and arrive at your destination more quickly.3 Available as a higher trim option in both models, a Car-Net Hotspot can also help passengers work on-the-go or stay entertained by streaming TV shows, movies or games. If your family is still in the holiday spirit, a panoramic sunroof is perfect for viewing the holiday lights that decorate trees and homes as you drive. In addition, the 12-speaker Fender Premium Audio System offers concert-quality sound, adding a little extra cheer to any winter drive. The sunroof is available in both the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport, and the Fender Premium Audio System is available as a higher trim option in both models.

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