Volkswagen has the right idea. Certain amenities in a premium car should not cost extra. Driving aids such as onboard navigation and a rearview backup camera should come as standard equipment, as they do in the subject of this week’s column, the 2014 Volkswagen CC R-Line sedan, available for an out-the-door price of $35,025.
That remains a lot of money. But it is $12,000 less than the 2014 BMW 328d (diesel) sedan that recently came to me without onboard navigation, rearview backup camera or the simple nicety of heated front seats.
Many will argue that it makes little sense to compare anything BMW with something Volkswagen. Practically, that argument makes little sense to me.
I drove the round trip (an estimated 600 miles) from my home in Northern Virginia to my eldest daughter’s place in New York City just as quickly, safely and comfortably in the Volkswagen CC as I did in the BMW 328d. The rear-wheel-drive BMW delivered better mileage, at 45 miles per gallon on the highway, compared with 32 for the front-wheel-drive, gasoline-fueled Volkswagen CC.
Both mid-size cars had in-line four-cylinder engines. The Volkswagen CC had more short-range oomph — 200 horsepower, compared with 181 for the BMW 328d. But the BMW had considerably more torque — 281 pound-feet vs. 207.
In steady, long-distance highway driving, it is torque — the engine’s twisting power, which keeps you moving with authority over the long haul — that really matters.
Did I have fun driving the BMW? Yes, I did. Did I also enjoy driving the Volkswagen CC? Yes, I did. But, overall, I liked the Volkswagen CC more. My affection for that car has little to do with on-road performance. It has everything to do with the concept of shared value — in this case, a car company opting to load a vehicle with standard equipment that is useful and valuable to the driver.
Volkswagen and companies such as Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia — and, increasingly, General Motors, Ford and Toyota — get it. BMW apparently does not.
Shared value — in the automobile industry, it should work like this: Every customer gets a high-quality automobile in terms of fit, finish, durability and reliability. That kind of quality should set the bar for all automobile manufacturers. A company that can’t reach that bar should exit the business.
Safety and better fuel economy are other major requirements. Companies that can’t or won’t deliver those items should also consider doing something else. But completion should focus on the delivery of standard equipment when it comes to safety, fuel economy and passenger comfort.
It should be a matter of shared value — simply put, what is good for the consumer is ultimately good for the company. It should not be a ceremony of price-gouging consumers at every available turn, and then dressing that gouging in the flimsy garment of “prestige.”
Honda, Hyundai and Kia understand that. They offer some of the safest, best standard-equipped automobiles on the road at reasonable prices. Volkswagen, through its approach in putting standardized driving aids in its premium CC sedans, understands all that, too.
Shared value, of course, means shared costs. The newest advances in automotive safety cost money. Although many of those costs are being mitigated by rapid developments in technology, someone still has to pay them. I suspect many consumers won’t mind paying those costs as long as the costs are presented to them clearly. They appreciate the value of a car equipped with onboard navigation, rearview backup camera, blind-side monitoring and other items. Their appreciation means they appreciate and accept the value of those that equipment and are willing to share in the prorated costs of those items.
What consumers don’t appreciate is climbing behind the wheel of a $47,000 automobile and discovering that it lacks driving aids and comfort amenities found in cars costing $12,000 to $20,000 less. They don’t like being told that, to get that extra equipment, they have to ante up $3,000 more for a car that already is stratospherically priced. Many people take a dim view of “prestige” under the circumstance.
Volkswagen understands that. Thank you, Volkswagen. I enjoyed driving your CC R-Line sedan.