2018, Mar - May

ARTEON: VW introduces its stylish replacement for the CC model. 

By Cliff Leppke

Arteon: VW’s new ‘brand shaper’? 

McCormick Place is the Chicago Auto Show’s home. It’s the nation’s largest consumer-oriented auto show. It has floor space for several indoor tracks and thousands of tire kickers. It’s the spot where carmakers introduce specialty models, such as the 2019 VW Arteon. 

This venue, unlike Detroit’s, commences with a media preview that leads directly to the consumer show. In Detroit, press days precede an industry world congress, which is followed by the consumer show. That’s why your correspondents arrived in Detroit on a Saturday — a week before the show opened to the public. 

In contrast, this correspondent arrived in Chicago via Amtrak’s Hiawatha on Wednesday ready to check out the Concept and Technology Garage. Because VW’s Jetta design soiree (Wednesday night) was intimate, I joined Nissan’s party atop the Marriott Marquis — great view, and then headed to Lexus with its “Black Panther” movie car. 

Chicago’s show is easy to navigate. In Detroit, much planning is required. You select a few events and then arrive early. Due to 5,000 credentialed media, late-comers cannot witness the fuss.

Chicago’s Thursday press ops commenced with the Midwest Automotive Media Association’s breakfast. Then the fun began. I nabbed a press-guest ticket to hear VW CEO Hinrich Woebcken address the Chicago Economic Club — noon, McCormick Place. 

VW’s pressers: the 2019 Arteon (Thursday), and a 2019 Jetta designer-led walkaround (Friday).

I scored time with VW’s, Klaus Bischoff. He was my Arteon tour guide. Besides designing it, he drives one. The “3D” headlamps, he says, vexed VW’s production engineers. They’re exquisitely detailed. The LED daytime running lamps, for example, add excitement and widen the car’s face. Bright grille slats flow seamlessly through these lamps. Lower your eyes. The bumper’s functional scoops direct airflow. Enjoy the Audi TT-like clamshell hood. It meets each fender with a nifty cutline that doesn’t mar wheel arches.

Raised lines flank the Arteon with uncuts above and below them. He pointed his finger at a panel behind the rear-door cutline. The peaked metal sculpture ends there and then bends unbuckled into the door-surround. Another theme: the undercut or indent below fender-arch lines. Just enough negative space makes it a light catcher. If not done well, this delicious bit would be a wavy mess. It’s flawless.

Sometimes style requires hand-crafting. The best example: the upper rear quarter panel that forms a spoiler. It wraps through the liftgate. This chamfered surface must end at the liftgate’s cutline and then bend 90-degrees inward. That cannot be stamped. Therefore, each quarter panel’s upper rear edge is filled by hand. 

Woebcken’s talk to the economic club began by addressing the company’s crisis, which he politely described as the TDI disappointment. VW removed 440,000 of about 500,000 polluting machines from American roadways. This prompt, one-year action met EPA mandates and compensated consumers. Now, VW must tell a comeback story.

Woebcken says a whole generation grew up with VW’s original American success story that peaked in the late 1960s. Then, VW sold more than 560,000 vehicles a year based on what he says was a two-product line: Beetle, Bus. He admitted that while a generation of VW fans grew up with these vehicles, some were conceived in them (much laughter). During the 1970s, VW tried but never regained traction in America. 

This high point, however, wasn’t based on two models. The Type 3 series found nearly 100,000 takers in 1970. The Bus wasn’t nearly so hot a seller at, say, 56,000 units. And the Karmann Ghia found nearly 38,000 buyers. During VW’s glory days, Americans bought Fastbacks, Squarebacks and Ghias. These were omitted from Woebcken’s narrative. It’s time to put the record straight.

While the VW brand still resonates with people, Woebcken says VW has more fans than customers. To build momentum, the firm’s new North American Region will chart its own course. This, he says, might be a bright spot because the diesel crisis required a major shift away from German control over its American outpost. 

Evidence that the NAR is working: the Atlas. Germany wanted another tongue-twisting T at the beginning of this machine’s sobriquet. Dealers said, no! And Atlas, which received their approval, won. Hmmm. Remember when the U.S. operations changed the Golf’s name to Rabbit in 2006? Sorry, just saying…

Anyhow, VW is pushing roomier vehicles stateside rather than smaller ones. VW must grow; that’s the American market’s heart. Yet, the relatively svelte Jetta, which he describes as popular with college students, has been remade for the USA. The Arteon, he hopes, will become VW’s “brand shaper.” 

VW is rebuilding the brand in several ways. One is future product including the Passat and two more CUVs — one derived from the Tiguan, the other from the Atlas. Another is price. VW wants to be in the market’s sweet spot, not $2,000 to $5,000 more. With NAR, engineering and manufacturing costs can be reduced. The U.S. consumer wants reliable cars that don’t cost too much to operate. That’s why VW offers the transferable People First Warranty. 

This hardly scratches the surface. There’s the new electric vehicle platform. Don’t probe autonomous vehicles too much. He describes them as exciting, but the ethics of who’s responsible for critical situations hasn’t been determined.

Now, back to the Chicago press preview. Probably the most amusing press kit goes to Ford’s Transit Connect. Because baby boomers buy them, Ford handed out bags with reading glasses, Lifesavers and facial tissue — I’m not making this up! I asked for a Connect with an eight-track tape player. Just kidding. Fiat announced that every Lilliputian 500 gets a boosted engine; Toyota presented off-road trucks; Subaru its 50th anniversary specials; and Mazda presented a refreshed Miata and Mazda6. 

Jody Hall, vice president for the Steel Market Development Institute, made the strongest steel pitch I’ve heard. The claim: the focus on vehicle fuel economy is shifting material use toward stuff that creates more pollution to produce, form and dispose. Steel, in contrast, has a significantly lower environmental impact. Earlier, Hall showed me how new steels meet vehicle safety requirements without big roof pillars. The 2019 Jetta, she says, incorporates new steel grades. Her keen eyes saw smooth paint and expertly stamped metal.

Due to an approaching storm, the press and some manufacturer reps left Chi-Town before Friday’s pressers. This meant a less-crowded Wednesday night Mazda pizza party. And the much-loved Chicago blues joint where we gather before heading back to our hotels wasn’t as hot. 

On Friday, VW’s California-based designers became Jetta tour guides. Sangwoo Lee, an interior expert, gave me the lowdown on the car’s use of six-sided shapes. From the grille and headlights, to the instrument panel and cup holders, hex-like forms abound. The front center armrest now covers a mega-sized compartment that ingests an iPad. It’s also ergonomically shaped to provide the driver with a soft-touch elbow pad. It’s shorter on the passenger’s side to accommodate cup-holder beverages. 

Because the car must be affordable, you’ll notice that the passenger sun visor doesn’t extend when swiveled to block side-window sun. The driver’s does, however. Also, don’t expect rear face vents or rear electrical outlets. Front vent thumbwheels were nixed. The under-dash bits are untidy.

In exchange, the dashboard and front door panels are pliable, a welcomed change. And because of American input, VW put the center infotainment screen high on the dashboard for easy viewing — vents are below it. Thus, the driver-focused dashboard is uniquely Jetta.

Suddenly, I noticed that I had to catch the Metra train in order to walk to Union Station to board the Hiawatha. So, I left snowy Chicago and arrived in Milwaukee just in time to dig out from one snowstorm and prepare for the next. 

Cliff Leppke | leppke.cliff@gmail.com 


  • NEW JETTA:  The2019 Jetta joins the stable of VWs unique to the North American market.
  • PASSAT GT: VW is expanding its U.S. Passat range with this limited-production model.
  • MANUAL CHOKE:  Beetles with an automatic choke can benefit from this downgrade.


  • Driver's Seat - VW news & views by Cliff Leppke
  • Frontdriver – Richard G. Van Treuren
  • Small Talk - VW and Audi news - quickly
  • Retro Autoist - From the archives
  • Parting Shot - Photo feature
  • Local Volks Scene - A snapshot of local chapter activities
  • VW Toon-ups - Cartoon feature by Tom Janiszewski




Autoist Archive

May-Jun | 2019
From beater Bus to dragstrip demon

The Goblin Works Garage team, part of a UK-based collective that rebuilds vehicles as part of a cable TV series, takes on a 1969 VW Bus.


Mar-Apr | 2019
Anniversary Theme

February’s Chicago Auto Show paid tribute to the anniversaries of four venerable marques, including VW’s Jetta GLI.


Jan-Feb | 2019
Tribute to a mom: How Kathy Janiszewski and a '72 Volkswagen helped inspire a lifelong hobby

From this VW Bus, Kathy Janiszewski emerges with her wedding party in July 1966. She inspired her son, Tom, to follow a passion for VWs.


Nov-Dec | 2018
Commemorative Issue

In commemoration of its milestone 500th issue as publication of the VWCA, the Autoist gets a facelift for the first time in a decade.


Sep-Oct | 2018
2019 Jetta: New, Larger Economy Size

Some things come in small packages, and the seventh generation of VW's popular Jetta sedan delivers.


Jul-Aug | 2018
What's in your garage?

Amid the chaos, a home to vehicular gems and memories.


May-Jun | 2018
GTI AUTOBAHN: VW's latest version is a shopping cart full of enjoyment

Pack 220-hp and 258 ft.-lb of turbo kick under this hot hatch's hood and you've got a grocery-getter with options.


Mar-May | 2018
ARTEON: VW introduces its stylish replacement for the CC model.

Volkswagen’s attention to detail is notable in its new Arteon sedan, which made its debut at the Chicago Auto Show.


Jan-Feb | 2018

Volkswagen has upped the ante by inflating the 2018 Tiguan to almost mid-size capacity. Is it fit for a king?


Nov-Dec | 2017

Hundreds of VWs of every stripe gathered at Foster Park in Kokomo, Ind. for the annual Oktoberfest.


Sep-Oct | 2017
62nd VWCA Convention Wrap-up

Members gathered at the throw-back Cascade Drive-in Theater for "Cars 3," part of the VWCA Convention


Jul-Aug | 2017
Back To The Future Car

Cliff Leppke's 1983 Scirocco has notched its share of more than 333,000 miles in trips to Road America in Wisconsin. The latest covered about 3,000 miles during a whirlwind vacation excursion.


May-Jun | 2017
Swingin' time is in store for members, guests at 62nd annual Club gathering

Augustino's will get members rocking while the NIVA Club will roll out another lineup of VWs at its annual BugFest, part of the VWCA Convention in St. Charles, Ill.


Mar-Apr | 2017
Will VW See The Light?

VW once again evokes the memory of the beloved Microbus with its new concept called I.D. Buzz, which created quite a stir at the annual auto show in Detroit. (Photos by Tom Janiszewski)


Jan-Feb | 2017
Costly Mistake?

Joe Mayer says he's not out to punish VW over its diesel scandal - he just wanted to make some extra money on a car he thought would be junked. (Photos by Joe Mayer via jalopnik.com.)


Nov-Dec | 2016
WATTS OF FUN . . . . . . Meet the new e-Golf

Here's the car that, when you give it a charge, you'll get one back. In VW's first important pivot from its diesel scandal, the e-Golf provides an opening salvo in the carmaker's goal to electrify its fleet.


Sep-Oct | 2016
61st Annual Convention

What's an anniversary without a cake? This one didn't go far or last long as Club members enjoyed a variety of activities, including a Sunday car show and picnic, part of the 61st Annual Convention.


Jul-Aug | 2016
It's Time To Show Off

A couple of Karmann Ghias are resplendent at the Michigan Vintage VW Club's Festival in Ypsilanti, Mich.  The club held its 29th event in May, while Mid America Motorworks in Effingham, Ill., saluted the air-cooled crowd with a big show in June.


May-Jun | 2016
Windfall for TDI owners?

The scam was on as early as 2008, when this Candy White Jetta TDI Clean Diesel model, embellished with green plant matter, was rolled out.  In case anyone had a doubt, VW added the wording "Not a concept car."


Mar-Apr | 2016
Lost In Translation

VW CEO Mattias Mueller was in the hot glare of media lights at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, providing the company's latest response to the diesel emissions scandal.


Jan-Feb | 2016
VW's Game Plan

VW remains embroiled in a high-stakes game involving government agencies  and hundreds of thousands of owners of diesel models. The company's car on the road of Life has taken a big detour.


Nov-Dec | 2015
Engine with a split personality puts VW on the hot seat

The news in September was beyond belief for many VW and TDI enthusiasts: Volkswagen executives admitted that the company intentionally produced cars that violated clean-air laws.


Sep-Oct | 2015
Big bites of fun at the 60th VWCA Convention

Doug Narczewshi from Spring Valley, IL, looks over an assortment of water-cooled VWs on display at NIVA's Bug Fest event, part of the 60th VWCA Convention in suburban Chicago.


Jul-Aug | 2015
1969 Beetle gets a second chance to adorn the silver screen

Crew members working on the film "The Good Blonde" prepare for a shot on the California coast involving a 1969 Beetle owned by VWCA member and correspondent Lois Grace.


May-Jun | 2015
My Mom, the Daredevil

Around 1960, Cliff Leppke had no idea what was in store for him while being ferried about by his mother. Needless to say, his head was up and his eyes were open.


Mar-Apr | 2015
It's Show Time!

The Northeast Illinois Volkswagen Association has an activity-packed weekend planned for the 60th VWCA Convention in suburban Chicago.


Jan-Feb | 2015
Diesel Memories

Jack Pavie of suburban Philadelphia had to wait several months to get his 1975 Rabbit diesel, one of three models he enjoyed in the '70s and '80s.


Nov-Dec | 2014
Golf Lessons: Three new models charge up hatchback lineup

The scene at the Salamander Resort in Middleburg, Va., where Cliff Leppke and other media members ran the 2015 Volkswagens through their paces.


Sep-Oct | 2014
Having fun with miles per gallon

A morning commute for a 2012 Golf TDI has become a test on how high the fuel mileage will end up. It hit a high mark in July.


Jul-Aug | 2014
2014 VWCA Convention: Wagons, wagens and more - where the buffalo roam

In the VWCA's 59 years of Conventions, the setting in Hudson, Mich. was unique. Just ask VWCA's Tom Janiszewski, the guy driving the orange 1974 Camper.


May-Jun | 2014
New Beetle milestone: Though this 1999 model has shown it's flaws over 15 years and 90,000 miles, it's been a blast to drive

May 25 marks the 15th anniversary of my family's New Beetle ownership experience. It was on that day in 1999 that we took delivery of a brand new red GLS model from Kempthorn Volkswagen in Canton, Ohio.


Mar-Apr | 2014
Dune buggy with a twist at the Detroit Auto Show

There's a saying that everything old is new again, and since the New Beetle's production debut in 1998, that has been the car's underlying theme.


Jan-Feb | 2014
Back At The Ranch

At northern California getaway, Vernon and his family found plenty of ways to enjoy life