Volkswagen’s current lineup is sourced from China. It is no surprise, then, that the brand has been struggling to excite customers who are naturally averse to anything made in the People’s Republic. According to VW Philippines president Felipe Estrella III, the rationale behind his company’s China-built cars is that the same German quality can be had at a much lower price point.
But it seems like it has not changed the way consumers view the Volkswagen of today. No matter how hard we try to stir up excitement for the automaker’s products (like the T-Cross), there is just no shortage of readers clamoring for the return of VW’s legacy catalog—citing specific models like the much-loved (and missed) Jetta.
The simple reason why the Philippines gets the Lavida and the Santana is that AC Motors sources its stock from SAIC Motor. There is nothing bad about this; the popular MG ZS crossover is built by the same Shanghai-based conglomerate. But it is probably the unfamiliar and China-exclusive VW nameplates that turn people off.
But what if Volkswagen’s local distributor procured its wares from FAW, the other half of the Chinese VW pie? Previously spelled out as First Automobile Works, the FAW Group is the younger of the German automaker’s two ventures in China. Just like SAIC, FAW-Volkswagen holds manufacturing rights to certain models that you might be familiar with (and would be interested in buying).
Volkswagen Sagitar. This is basically the China-built version of the seventh-generation Jetta. The Sagitar name probably makes sense as Jetta is now a chic sub-brand catering to the budget crowd in China. According to the FAW-VW website, this car is sold as a long-wheelbase model with a choice of turbocharged 1.2- or 1.4-liter engines. With prices starting at 129,900 Chinese yuan (P962,000), a Jetta-badged Sagitar is a potential sales hit.
Volkswagen Golf. Hatchback fans will be happy to know that FAW has the beloved Golf MkVIII in its stable. And thankfully, it does not get a different name. The range of engines consist of turbocharged 1.2- and 1.4-liter mills, both mated to a seven-speed DSG (just like the Sagitar/Jetta). Interestingly, the Golf’s pricing is almost identical to that of its sedan cousin, with the cheapest variant going for 129,800 Chinese yuan (P962,000).
Volkswagen Golf GTI. FAW also has rights to the iconic hot hatch. In fact, its factories have previously assembled the vehicle’s sixth and seventh generations. The automaker is currently taking preorders for the latest version of the GTI for the Chinese market. While prices have yet to be revealed, a return of the GTI to the Philippines could make the Volkswagen brand desirable again.
Volkswagen CC. For those looking for the Passat midsize sedan, the model is unfortunately exclusive to SAIC. But FAW counters with the car’s sleeker and sportier twin, the CC. Customers can choose from two versions of the EA888 2.0-liter turbo engine: 184hp and 217hp. Not only is the CC’s retail price of 249,900 Chinese yuan (P1.85 million) quite attractive, but there is also a shooting-brake version for not much more money.
Volkswagen T-Roc. Just like the Passat, only SAIC has the rights to the T-Cross name. But that doesn’t mean FAW’s roster of crossovers is less competent. Just like the T-Cross, the T-Roc is a global SUV model based on the MQB platform. It is the slightly longer vehicle of the two cars, which should make it popular with families. The T-Roc has a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine with 148hp, and retails for 158,900 Chinese yuan (P1.18 million).
We think that the above-mentioned models would be a better match for the Philippine market. However, we also understand that it would probably be a nightmare for AC Motors to obtain its stock from both SAIC and FAW. The former makes much more sense as Maxus is also under the same umbrella. But given the clamor for iconic nameplates like the Jetta and the Golf, FAW-built products seem to be really attractive.