Volkswagen Puts Some Combustion-Powered Cars On The Chopping Block

The Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake in a beautiful shade of blue.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

Volkswagen Sharpens Its Axe

A Volkswagen Arteon R Shooting Brake in a delicious shade of blue. Pretty cool, right?
Photo credit: Volkswagen

Over the course of the pandemic, automakers seemed to have rediscovered trading on margin rather than volume. Profits went up, production went down, and everyone on executive boards was generally happy with the financial results. After a long and brand-diluting push to be the biggest automaker in the world, Volkswagen’s decided to refocus. The German automaker’s new plan is to cut 60 percent of its combustion model range by the end of the decade to focus on profits and quality. We all knew this was coming, right?

Honestly, I’m not entirely opposed to this plan. Returning to the rich interior materials of the B5 Passat and preventing major mistakes like the ID.4’s infotainment system from entering production sounds like an ideal situation. Volkswagen Group should still be churning out plenty of electric cars, so market positioning should remain roughly the same. Still, slicing 60 percent of combustion model range by the end of the decade leaves VAG fans with some uncomfortable questions: Will the Mk. 8 GTI be the last GTI as we know it? How many fast Audis will be left? What repercussions will this have for the used market? I’m afraid that only time will tell.

Impractical Yoke-ers

The Lexus RZ's yoke
Photo credit: Lexus

After years of watching competitors roll out weird steering wheels, Lexus has decided to get in on the action. Not content with the hexagonal steering wheel in the BMW iX or the six-spoke steering wheel available in the new S-Class, the Japanese automaker is bringing a yoke to its new RZ electric crossover. Different in nature from the much-derided Tesla yoke, the RZ’s yoke promises to be a completely different kind of terrible. Assuming this electric crossover rides on the same platform as the Toyota bZ4X, the yoke will be attached to a steer-by-wire system. 

I know that Toyota crossovers aren’t exactly bastions of steering feel, but speed-dependent steering ratios always feel a bit screwy. Just ask anyone who’s driven a specced-up Infiniti Q50 or Q60. Hopefully customers will have the option of choosing or puff-puff-passing on the RZ’s yoke as the production version debuts on 4/20. I wish I was making this up. 

Still, the rest of the interior actually looks really nice and the near-production model shown in December sports a fairly handsome design. I have fairly high hopes for the RZ, electric crossovers generally tend to be really good everyday transportation and the new Lexus infotainment system fixes the most loathed part of the brand’s interiors.

My Neck, Maybach

The Mercedes-Maybach S 680 by Virgil Abloh
Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz

The late designer Virgil Abloh’s Mercedes-Maybach concept is absolutely brilliant, and now a slice of that design is coming to market. Dubbed the 2023 Mercedes-Maybach S 680 by Virgil Abloh, it takes the standard car up a notch with a rugged colorway and some brilliant little details. Let’s start with the paint, a two-tone scheme with Obsidian Black on top and a bespoke tan on the bottom. Complementing this two-tone finish is blacked-out greenhouse trim and a set of tan colour-matched monoblock wheels that just look so damn right. 

Concave faces and serious visual heft fill out this Maybach’s arches perfectly and add an old-school AMG-inspired twist. The tan continues on the inside, with Nappa leather adorning just about every surface and tan accents on metallic trim bits, in the infotainment system and in the digital gauge cluster. It’s exceptionally rare for a manufacturer to re-work parts of the user experience for special edition models, but it really does fit here. 

After all, Virgil was one of the most iconic designers of the 21st century, from founding Off-White to becoming Artistic Director of menswear at Louis Vuitton.

Capping off this special edition is a serialized console plaque, a set of bespoke leather pillows, a special car cover, a carabiner and a 1:18 scale model of the car. Limited to 150 units, this designer-spec V12 über-limo certainly won’t be cheap. Figure a starting price well north of $200,000. 

Hey Siri, remind me in 15 years to search Copart for Virgil Abloh Maybachs.

We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Charging Network

An electric car plugged into a charging station.
Photo credit: "Electric car charging station" by Håkan Dahlström is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Much to the surprise of absolutely nobody who’s ever tried to charge an EV in public, we’re not doing so well on the charging network front. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified on Tuesday that the federal government only has about one percent of the EV chargers it needs to support widespread EV use. Yikes. While 1,100 federally-owned EV charging stations is a start, it isn’t anywhere close to the more than 100,000 federally-owned EV charging stations the GAO says we need.

In addition to falling short on charging network needs, the government is also taking its sweet time ramping up its light-duty zero-emission vehicle acquisition plans. The General Services Administration (GSA) was able to blag some 2021 Chevrolet Bolts at around $10,000 under market pricing, but only 1,854 new ZEVs have been ordered for federal use since the GSA’s last report. Not exactly rapid and assured action, yeah? Especially considering the federal goal of 100 percent of federal light-duty vehicle fleet purchases to be ZEVs by 2027. 

While Joe Biden’s $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill definitely has the funding to support this, the feds better hurry up on using that cash to its full potential.

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on this edition of The Morning Dump. While the Mercedes-Maybach S 680 by Virgil Abloh definitely isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, designer editions of cars have a long and illustrious history. Models like the Bill Blass Designer Edition Lincoln Continental Mark V, the Gucci edition Fiat 500 and the Lamborghini Murcielago Versace Edition blended high-fashion with high-octane for the few who dared to order them. 

If you could get any carmaker and any brand to collaborate on a limited edition, what would your ideal end result be? I certainly wouldn’t mind a Jägermeister Edition 718 GT4 RS for a touch of racing heritage.

Top photo credit: Volkswagen

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37 Responses

  1. Something I hadn’t thought of before, but for these uber-lux vehicles with leather-everything and minimal usage, I now wonder how feasible it would be to find something (like this) on copart and completely strip the interior leathers to repurpose in some way. Hhmmm…. Whatever it gets applied to might be a bit patchy given all the precut / assembled swatches, but it’d still be great material!

    1. Couch has been making wallets and guitar straps out of repurposed automotive vinyl for years (seat and vinyl roof material), the fact that nobody’s thought to go salvage leather out of junked Rolls-Royces is kind of surprising. Granted, most automotive leather is terrible – coated in plastic sealant and heavily treated and chemically processed, but, as you said, there are still some ultra-luxe brands using good quality, natural stuff that would work for belts or wallets and the like. You could even cut strips out of the intact portions of otherwise unsalvageable (unsaleable) seats.

    1. There was a Chrysler 200 Carhartt edition, back in 2013 (so, the one that was a warmed-over Cerberus-era Sebring). There are few things that baffle me more than how they didn’t do it on the Ram instead.

  2. No yokes. I don’t understand what the allure is, besides “looks futuristic”. It can’t be better for, you know, turning the wheels. And sometimes you want to turn that wheel quickly. Steering the car to not hit things is a nice ability to have.

  3. I guess it’s appropriate for the venue that the Lexus yoke picture shows a driver that has had cat litter thrown (scratched?) on him. But why in the world would Lexus make that photo themselves, rather than photoshopped by some scatalogical automotive blog?

  4. A Budweiser edition Ram 1500 would be brilliant.

    Just picture the money shot in the commercial with the Ram 1500 driving alongside galloping Clydesdales when the driver raises his can of Bud in a respectful salute, chugs it, then chucks it out the window before accelerating away in a cloud of dust and gravel.

    Of course, every Limited edition Bud truck would have some special red paint and a case of Bud in each side of the Ram box. (One side regular and the other side But light.)

    I’ll see myself out.

  5. The Flush

    I thought that the Varvatos 300 was cool marketing idea at the time, for a bunch of reasons, that most probably never made the connection. However, I think there’s always room for cross-branding onto cars. Maybe a Tom Ford Ford?

  6. I think that we should be happy that they’re still putting steering wheels in cars. They probably think that full autonomy is right around the corner so why even bother with having to buy those parts when they’re not going to need them in a year.

    Please tell that there are plans to rename this feature. I have no problems with scatalogical humor, but this is leaving streaks on the bottom of the bowl.

  7. The super-futuristic movie Lexus in Minority Report doesn’t have a yoke. I agree that the yoke looks futuristic, but is it form before function? I can’t wrap my head around piloting a vehicle with a yoke. Perhaps I’d get used to it with a learning curve of some kind, but doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you can just hop in and intuitively use.

    1. As one of the international readers, I am pleased to see a lack of politics so far, the “My side good, other side terrorists/socialists/capitalist evil etc.”

      However, I’m hoping what we will see (when appropriate) is some sensible articles and discussions around policy, which is different than politics.

      Torch already has his personal mission in relation to autonomy (my brief take of his position is “better/stricter regulation until technology can reliably meet the promises”), but it might include things like public transportation, EV Charging points, taxation or incentives that distort markets (e.g. The Chicken Tax, but there are many others around the world, like the fuel excise in Australia) and so forth.

      We can’t pretend that our interest in cars and transport, old, current and future is decoupled from the political sphere, but fundamentally I don’t care which side in which country implements what, as long as it is good policy, which I’m still happy to see discussed and debated using reason and evidence.

    1. I don’t know the cost because it’s not in the US but I would empty my bank account if necessary to own it. So VW should really get on that. I really hate that a beautiful vehicle like that isn’t available here. I understand why but it doesn’t make me hate it any less. I’d even settle for a slightly less attractive Focus ST Estate stateside or even a Mondeo ST-Line Estate.

      https://mediacloud.carbuyer.co.uk/image/private/s–_X6MCcBd–/f_auto,t_content-image-full-desktop@1/v1579654329/carbuyer/2019/09/08_28.jpg

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