The Illusive VW Roadster

As you have likely heard by now, Porsche has cancelled plans for a two seat entry level sports coupe. As one that worries about dilution of the brand and mission creep, I think this is absolutely the right decision for Porsche. That said, this discussion has always included a Volkswagen version of the same vehicle. This has generally been presented as a badge engineering side between the two brands. Obviously this would have been a mistake.

Even as the Porsche product has been officially cancelled, there has been no word or rumor as to the fate of the VW sports coupe since the last discussion of the BlueSport roadster 5 or 6 months ago. Astute readers will note that a VW sports coupe already exists in the Scirocco, but that is not what was presented in this case. What has been rumored is a Mazda MX-5 style roadster. And I still think this is a possibility.

To be clear this is me in pure unadulterated and irresponsible speculation mode. Yet the IDEA of a VW Roadster really strikes me as one that makes sense. Sort of. First, one has to consider if there is a market for it. Second, one must consider if that market is large enough to offset development costs. As for the market, I firmly believe it does exist. Consider that the MX-5 has sold, consistently, for almost 25 years. Numbers, obviously, have dropped over the years but it is still the ultimate (and I make no apologies for that word) roadster. But this drop in numbers is exactly the opening that VW needs. The MX-5 sales are not dropping due to lack of interest for the type of vehicle, but simply because it is getting long in the tooth. VW can move into this segment with a global vision that Mazda simply can’t project.

Now, can it be profitable? I think this is a resounding yes. The platform essentially already exists. Take the GTI Cabriolet, change the sheet metal, trim some weight (ok, trim substantial weight), and you are there. Obviously, I am over simplifying this, greatly. But the path forward exists. Additionally, it is likely that it could come in BELOW the MX-5 in price.

There is still one barrier to being truly competitive, handling. The dynamics of the MX-5 are beyond reproach. If VW were to take the "quick and easy way" of design, detailed above, they have to teach a front wheel drive to compete with one of the best rear wheel drive vehicles on the market. The loss of Porsche being part of this equation means the loss of expertise and available engineering. Designing this project from scratch makes it significantly more expensive and really requires it being a hit in China to make the economics argument work.

So where does this leave us? Nowhere. Not only do we not know if it is still on the table, we don’t know if it even makes sense.to the accountants and engineers. Do we hope it comes? You tell me. I do.

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