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    Thread: Former Pennsylvania VW workers recall plant closing

    1. Member classicjetta's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 09:42 AM #1
      Local workers recall East Huntingdon plant closing
      By Robin Acton
      TRIBUNE-REVIEW
      Sunday, August 24, 2008

      Lloyd Marker remembers the assembly line grinding to a halt and an eerie silence as managers and men in suits gathered around the machinery.

      Immediately, he knew whatever they had to say couldn't be good.

      In November 1987, Volkswagen of America officials chose Thanksgiving week to tell employees that the East Huntingdon plant would end its 10-year run and close six months later. Workers, although not surprised, still were crushed when they learned the German automaker would leave the United States to manufacture cars in Europe and Mexico.

      "Everybody started crying and hugging. It was a disaster," said Marker, 68, of Scottdale. "After that, we just went home."

      Twenty years and one day after the plant shut down, former Volkswagen Westmoreland workers felt as though the company took another swing at them. On July 15, Volkswagen announced plans to return to America and open a $1 billion assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., that will employ 2,000 people in 2011.

      History will not repeat itself in Chattanooga, insisted Jill Bratina, a spokeswoman for the Volkswagen of America Group, which will invest $1 billion to produce a mid-size sedan there. She said the company has no plans to leave when incentives estimated at $500 million in government assistance and tax breaks dry up.

      "I wish it would have come here," Marker said. "But I hope this time, they stay forever. I hope they make it."

      Hopes and dreams

      In the beginning, there was hope for Westmoreland County, too.

      In 1976, Volkswagen invested $250 million when it chose a never-completed Chrysler plant to manufacture its diesel-powered Rabbit. In what was then the richest corporate deal in state history, Gov. Milton Shapp and local officials crafted an incentive package worth nearly $100 million in government assistance, highway and rail improvements and a property-tax exemption for the nation's first foreign-owned auto assembly plant.

      Volkswagen pumped $250 million into the sprawling complex on 1,200 acres adjacent to Route 119 near Interstate 70 and the New Stanton exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

      Criticism of the deal was overshadowed by the promise of 5,700 high-paying jobs. At a time when the federal minimum wage was $2.30 an hour, leaders reasoned that the economically depressed region needed to replace jobs lost to the decline of the steel and coal industries.

      Thousands of men and women from all over Western Pennsylvania, willing to drive long distances for the pay and benefits, flooded the plant with job applications.

      "Everybody I talked to was hoping to get a job there," said Kenneth Cramer Jr., 58, of Scottdale, who worked in quality assurance.

      There were problems from the start.

      Before the plant opened, Volkswagen conceded that the U.S. venture was a gamble in "a problem market" marked by sluggish sales and intense competition from other small car makers.

      Minorities picketed the site, seeking fair treatment in the hiring process. Six months after the April 1978 opening, employees went on strike to secure a union contract and hold Volkswagen to its agreement to pay wages comparable to auto workers elsewhere, about $3 more per hour. Strikes often idled production as workers protested policies regarding shift lengths and breaks and fought for higher wages.

      Cramer said grievances and walkouts at Volkswagen "gave me a bad taste for unions." Melvin Apicella, 51, of Menallen Township, Fayette County, disagrees.

      "When the union came in, it felt like heaven opened up," said Apicella, a skilled tradesman who repaired robots, electrical equipment and machinery. "There was a big difference for skilled workers, who went from $7 to $12 an hour."

      Rolling along

      In 1980, Rabbits were selling, production peaked at 200,000 cars and some 5,700 employees worked at the plant.

      Former employees recalled drinking together at local bars when their shifts ended. Men and women -- married and single -- started affairs during tedious days and nights on the assembly line. Workers supported local charities, patronized area businesses and enjoyed vacations and comfortable lifestyles.

      "You had a little city," said Tom Nevi, 64, of Scottdale, who worked there for 10 years. "The place was huge and there were a million stories."

      The good times were short-lived.

      By 1981, car buyers were tired of the Rabbit that hit the American market in 1974. Sales dipped as gas prices fell and consumer preference shifted to larger models.

      John Wolkonowicz, senior automotive analyst for Global Insight in Lexington, Mass., watched the demise of the unreliable compact that cost more than its competition and lacked quality.

      "It was probably the most troublesome Volkswagen ever built," Wolkonowicz said.

      As sales dropped, production cuts resulted in shutdowns and layoffs.

      Furloughed employees relied on food pantries and donations from coworkers still on the job. Those saddled with high mortgages began to lose their homes. By December 1982, many turned to charities for Christmas toys for their children.

      Mark Brinker, 58, of Derry recalls co-workers worrying over bills and high payments -- then about $500 a month -- for homes they could no longer afford.

      "I used to tell them, 'I sleep better than you,' because I kept my same house with a $151 mortgage payment even after I started making more money," he said. "I saw a lot of people coming to work sick just because they needed to make money."

      By the beginning of 1983, with more than half of the work force furloughed, the second shift was eliminated.

      Faced with diminishing popularity, the company introduced the high-performance Rabbit GTI. In 1984, the Rabbit was modified again and called the Golf. As sales of the GTI and Golf slowed, production of the Jetta followed in 1986.

      Former workers watched the downhill spiral. They just didn't know how -- or had no power -- to correct a series of mistakes.

      "Back then, the Germans didn't understand the American market. They insisted that people buy cars for the engineering, but here, people like the bells and whistles," Marker said.

      Ken Prevenslik, president of UAW Local 2055 for 10 years, said he wrote to German managers offering to renegotiate the contract to keep the plant open.

      "They told me they decided to sell cars in Europe built on German engineering and not to attempt to appeal to a fickle U.S. market more concerned with cosmetic appeal," said Prevenslik, the human resources and risk manager for Jameson Family Markets in Uniontown.

      After Volkswagen

      Employees who helped make a million vehicles heard no bells and whistles when the last car rolled out of the plant on July 14, 1988.

      The lucky ones found new, albeit lower-paying, jobs. Training benefits helped others with college, nursing programs or trade schools. Some foundered aimlessly, moving from one menial job to the next.

      Money problems, alcohol abuse and depression were common, former workers recall. Changing lifestyles broke up many marriages, according to Marker, who divorced after the shutdown.

      Marker found a manufacturing job at Williamhouse in Scottdale, where he earned $4.25 an hour -- a far cry from his $16 rate at Volkswagen. Retired, he collects a $149 monthly Volkswagen pension and works part-time as a school crossing guard.

      "It was tough. People didn't want to hire us. They thought we wouldn't work because we were used to high wages," Marker said.

      Prospects were few in the region, where steel mills, mines and factories were idle. Local businesses suffered from the loss of Volkswagen's $78 million payroll.

      Brinker learned to do plumbing and heating repairs and then worked for an environmental firm from 1990 until 1997. He applied three times before getting hired at Sony, the plant's current tenant, and remained there for 10 years before his division closed.

      "It was good while it lasted. Very few people my age work at the same job for 30 years anymore," said Brinker, an ice delivery truck driver.

      Apicella, then 31 with a pregnant wife and three children, used training benefits to complete a 28-month program at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia while working part-time to feed his family back in Fayette County.

      He loves his job at Southwest Regional Medical Center in Waynesburg, Greene County, where he performs cardiovascular testing. Still, he worries about the future because he's moved through a series of healthcare jobs.

      "How do you save for retirement? I'd tell the people in Tennessee to get Volkswagen for all they can, because in 10 years they could be left with half their life gone and a whole new direction," Apicella said.

      Depression rendered some workers unable to cope with the shutdown. Former workers still talk about a string of suicides, including a single mother who hanged herself and a man who shot himself on the road leading to the plant.

      Mt. Pleasant Mayor Jerry Lucia, the union's group benefits representative, kept track of the Volkswagen suicides for about two years.

      "After about a dozen, I got so depressed I quit counting," said Lucia, a manager at Klocek Burial Vaults.

      Cramer remained positive, even after prospects at auto plants elsewhere fell through. He handed out 200 resumes at job fairs but could not get hired, so he started a home remodeling business.

      Still, he thinks about Volkswagen.

      "I wonder whether they had it planned. From the beginning, it was rumored that the plant would stay open for 10 years, until all the government incentives and tax deferments ran out, and that's exactly what happened," Cramer said.

      "Who knows what will happen this time?"

      http://www.pittsburghlive.com/....html


    2. Member classicjetta's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 09:43 AM #2
      Quote, originally posted by article »

      John Wolkonowicz, senior automotive analyst for Global Insight in Lexington, Mass., watched the demise of the unreliable compact that cost more than its competition and lacked quality.

      "It was probably the most troublesome Volkswagen ever built," Wolkonowicz said.

      And I'd just like to say this: Clearly this man has never owned a 1.8T MkIV.


    3. Moderator Harv's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 09:52 AM #3
      Growing up 10 mins from this plant, it was a little surreal reading it.
      VW/Audi/German Car T-Shirts - CHEAP ----> http://forums.vwvortex.com/showthrea...7#post82955767

    4. 08-25-2008 10:19 AM #4
      a tough situation for those people + this area

      here on the cl, it's easy to get lost in the glamour of cars, but there's a darker side, too


    5. 08-25-2008 10:35 AM #5
      Am I supposed to feel bad for these people? Because frankly, my reaction has gone in the exact opposite direction.

    6. Banned 29er's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 10:37 AM #6
      sucks to hear about stuff like this
      Especially knowing GM, Ford, and Chrysler are doing the same thing all over the country as we speak.
      I think that VW's new plant will be far more successful in the long term. Unlike in the 80s when they were overdependent on cars that werent very appealing in a time when gas was cheap, they now have a broad product base and strong growth.

    7. Geriatric Member VDub2625's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 10:41 AM #7
      Quote, originally posted by classicjetta »

      "When the union came in, it felt like heaven opened up," said Apicella, a skilled tradesman who repaired robots, electrical equipment and machinery. "There was a big difference for skilled workers, who went from $7 to $12 an hour."

      ...

      "It was probably the most troublesome Volkswagen ever built," Wolkonowicz said.

      ...

      "Back then, the Germans didn't understand the American market. They insisted that people buy cars for the engineering, but here, people like the bells and whistles," Marker said.

      Ken Prevenslik, president of UAW Local 2055 for 10 years, said he wrote to German managers offering to renegotiate the contract to keep the plant open.

      "They told me they decided to sell cars in Europe built on German engineering and not to attempt to appeal to a fickle U.S. market more concerned with cosmetic appeal," said Prevenslik, the human resources and risk manager for Jameson Family Markets in Uniontown.

      ...

      "How do you save for retirement? I'd tell the people in Tennessee to get Volkswagen for all they can, because in 10 years they could be left with half their life gone and a whole new direction," Apicella said.

      ...

      "I wonder whether they had it planned. From the beginning, it was rumored that the plant would stay open for 10 years, until all the government incentives and tax deferments ran out, and that's exactly what happened," Cramer said.

      I really can't believe the attitudes. It's like the workers were, are, and always will be against the employer there was one guy in this interview that actually seemed to care that VW was giving him money to live. Most troublesome car? Wonder why?

      About the last part, I had no idea that that was the plan. Interesting.


      Modified by VDub2625 at 9:42 AM 8-25-2008

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    8. Member jaysvw's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 10:42 AM #8
      Quote, originally posted by classicjetta »
      Cramer said grievances and walkouts at Volkswagen "gave me a bad taste for unions." Melvin Apicella, 51, of Menallen Township, Fayette County, disagrees.

      "When the union came in, it felt like heaven opened up," said Apicella, a skilled tradesman who repaired robots, electrical equipment and machinery. "There was a big difference for skilled workers, who went from $7 to $12 an hour."

      Thats pretty much all you need to know.


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      08-25-2008 10:44 AM #9
      That last part I would think is speculation...as you said, just employees hating the employer.
      I do tend to sympathize with the workers, even though I dont BLAME the corporation.
      If VW was losing money, they cant be expected to stay there simply to help out people living in the area. But it is unfortunate that there were no other major industries in the area allowing workers to find new jobs.

    10. Member Chrissy's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 10:51 AM #10
      That was a good read, although really sad. I guess that I never thought the plant would be that devastating that people would take their own lives because of it!

    11. Member chucchinchilla's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 10:55 AM #11
      Quote, originally posted by classicjetta »
      I'd tell the people in Tennessee to get Volkswagen for all they can.

      This is why Western Pennsylvania has a fraction of the manufacturing jobs it used to.
      Quote Originally Posted by jamie@vwvortex View Post
      This forum is more and more of an embarrassment every day...

    12. Member GTI_2.0T's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 12:00 PM #12
      Quote, originally posted by classicjetta »
      And I'd just like to say this: Clearly this man has never owned a 1.8T MkIV.

      Jason • Now 2.0T / 400 • Then 2.0T / 1.8T / 2.0
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      08-25-2008 12:17 PM #13
      Quote, originally posted by classicjetta »

      And I'd just like to say this: Clearly this man has never owned a 1.8T MkIV.

      I've got a long-term road test of the Rabbit diesel in the archive that I should post up. Makes the MkIV look like a Honda in terms of reliability and quality.


    14. 08-25-2008 12:19 PM #14
      Quote, originally posted by vrDUCKin »
      If VW was losing money, they cant be expected to stay there simply to help out people living in the area. But it is unfortunate that there were no other major industries in the area allowing workers to find new jobs.

      Sony bought out the factory and used it to make TV set picture tubes. However, the Westmoreland plant closed again recently by Sony, due to the dry-up in the market for tube TVs.
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    15. 08-25-2008 12:23 PM #15
      Quote, originally posted by VWestlife »
      Sony bought out the factory and used it to make TV set picture tubes. However, the Westmoreland plant closed again recently by Sony, due to the dry-up in the market for tube TVs.


      it's still open. from last wk...


      Quote, originally posted by Pgh Trib Review »
      Demand for flat panel television sets is improving the jobs at Sony Corp.'s television assembly plant in Westmoreland County, where about 850 people are working, compared to a low of 600 last summer after a series of layoffs, Sony said Monday.

      The Sony Technology Center-Pittsburgh in East Huntingdon and Hempfield has boosted production of the liquid-crystal flat panel televisions, increasing the number of automated assembly lines to five from only two, spokesman Michael Koff said. Sony's first automated assembly lines were installed at the Westmoreland County plant, Koff said.

      There is an increase in employment at the Sony plant because the demand for the flat panel sets has grown tremendously, Koff said. The company, however, does not reveal how many sets it produces at the plant, Koff said.

      "It's all in favor of the LCDs flat-screen displays, high-definition TVs. We anticipate it increasing even more next year," Koff said.


    16. Get Off My Lawn!!! vwlarry's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 12:30 PM #16
      FTA: "...the nation's first foreign-owned auto assembly plant."

      Technical correction: The nation's first foreign-owned auto assembly plant was actually the Springfield, Massachusetts assembly factory for Rolls-Royce automobiles, which was in operation for something like ten years or so, and closed its doors in 1931.

      As to the "quality" of Pennsylvania Volkswagens, there is little debate. They were, especially during the Rabbit-years, abysmally poorly assembled cars. Today's VW dash-strokers would go into apoplectic shock upon seeing (and touching) the wax-like plastics and vinyls that went into these cars' interiors. Besides awful textures, the interiors displayed mis-matches in colors (a blue dashboard could show four or five unintentionally different shades of blue, for example ). The bodywork was filled with misaligned panels and sloppy welds, not to mention paintwork that was far below VW's standards elsewhere. The cars were a kaleidescope of rattles, thunks, and other assorted strange and (often) unidentifiable noises while in motion.

      My parents bought a brand-new '82 Rabbit LS four-door. They put up with it for 18 months, and finally traded it for an A-body Buick Century sedan (and never regretted it; it was their last VW). My brother bought a brand-new '84 GTI, and so did my best friend, on the same day, in fact. While they were both excellent performance cars, the lack of quality control was embarrassing to them both, since they were, as myself, "old school" German-car enthusiasts, and not accustomed to the sloppy build quality of these VWs. Several other relatives and many other friends also purchased new Pennsylvania-built VW, usually at my urging. Let's put it this way. These people seldom thereafter came to me for new-car purchase advice.

      In defense of the PA VW plant, things did get better after the changeover to Golf II production in 1985. These cars were far better built, to at least similar standards as Wolfsburg cars, than the previous Rabbits. That being said, even the Golfs had their quality issues. I bought a brand-new 1986 GTI, a car which I LOVED, and still miss to this day. But, the sunroof rattled so badly that it nearly drove me to distraction, and I never did find a way to eliminate all the maddening rattles it made. The rear hatch was badly misaligned, and the panel-gap on the passenger side was large enough to allow one's fingers to slip through it, while the gap on the driver side almost allowed the hatch to rub against the body. This sounds like nitpicking perhaps, but how many today would tolerate such things? The dashboard on Golf IIs (I had several buddies who drove similar GTIs and Golfs, and was able to gather comparisons) was a RIOT of rattles. The rest of the bodywork was (usually) much more "tight" and well-constructed and finished than the Rabbit had been.

      But by then it was too late for VW in America. The public had gotten the word that their American-built cars were junk. The widespread public acceptance of the cars, early-on, evaporated into a remaining base of die-hard VW-only "nutcases" (like me ) who were willing to forgive, and overlook the many faults and drawbacks the cars presented (remember too that these VWs were MUCH more expensive than their direct competitors...the final nail in their coffin). "More money...less quality" is not a formula for success in any advanced consumer marketplace, and Volkswagen reaped the whirlwind with their Pennsylvania experiment. They're still paying for their sins to this day.

      Do you enjoy old cars and long-winded stories about them? If your answer is "yes", then you might enjoy my blogpage. Try it here: http://vwlarry.blogspot.com . Leave a comment, too; I love feedback! Thanx for reading.

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    17. Member Sledge's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 12:35 PM #17
      Quote, originally posted by vwlarry »
      They're still paying for their sins to this day.

      In some cases, they're still repeating those sins.

      "The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering."
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    18. Get Off My Lawn!!! vwlarry's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 12:39 PM #18
      ...over and over and over again.
      Do you enjoy old cars and long-winded stories about them? If your answer is "yes", then you might enjoy my blogpage. Try it here: http://vwlarry.blogspot.com . Leave a comment, too; I love feedback! Thanx for reading.

      “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” - Aristotle

    19. Geriatric Member VDub2625's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 12:42 PM #19
      Interesting to get some firsthand experience with a brandy-new Westy-built VW. The idea that US-built Mk2s (I can't attest for the Mk1s since I don't hang out there) being of very sub=par quality has been a rumor in the forum for quite some time, without any substantiation. Interesting to hear this

      Also seems like VW used some sub-par metals in those cars, as they tend to rust quite easily. it's interesting to note that many of the parts weren't even built in the US. Body and frame panels were stamped in Mexico (before Puebla was "cleaned up" I guess), the interior came from Canada, engines (the 16v at least, I can't attest for the others) did actually come from Germany, etc.

      I think it also didn't help at all that the US and German built cars were the polar opposite of fraternal twins: they looked like each other, but they were very different cars under the sheetmetal that hung on them. VW noticed this with the Rabbit, and promised that the Golf II would be close to identical to it's European sibling, except that it wasn't. Many parts were redesigned for ease of local manufacture, and thus created extra quality problems, or confusion among techs who had to learn to fix a completely different car, to even basic equipment being different enough to spoil the cars (the GTI vs. Corolla comparison posted by MEIN-VW highlights this in that they didn't liek the steering or handling very much, which is likely due to the widest tires seen on a VW up to that point being stock).

      Sorry for the ramble... but I find myself sometimes having to come to the defense of the US built cars because the blanket statement is to avoid them like the plague, but really with a little care they can sometimes be made into decent cars i still have yet to own one (beyond a car that i didn't drive but took apart). I just would have loved to transport myself back to the days of 1988, 1989 and just see what the hell was exactly going on back then, drive the cars as new for direct comparisons, etc.


      Modified by VDub2625 at 11:43 AM 8-25-2008

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    20. Get Off My Lawn!!! vwlarry's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 01:05 PM #20
      Very good points; let me expand on a few of them. The "Malibu-ized" (the term coined by someone at Car and Driver IIRC) Rabbits of PA had such utterly different handling and driving characteristics from their German counterparts that people like myself were SHOCKED the first time we drove them in '79, when they first were shipped to VW dealers. These Rabbits were mushballs, to put it kindly. Body lean and roll rivalled a 1950s Renault. The steering was slowed-down by different ratio and became sluggish and numb-ish. They no longer had that "alert" and eager feel of the original, German-built Rabbits. Enthusiasts deserted these cars with extreme prejudice, leaving only Americans seeking fuel-efficiency, anywhere they could find it, to buy these substandard VWs. It was usually the ONLY VW they would ever own, and for good reason.

      Other things, too numerous to mention here, helped destroy VWs reputation for quality back then. Even the door hinges on the American Rabbits were cheapened, as the formerly hefty, heavily built hinges on the D-land cars being replaced by thin, stamped pieces. These resulted in American Rabbits having the unseemly tendency to have their doors sag after only a few years in service. Not pretty stuff.

      As to your point about the re-design of many components for American built VWs, this was indeed the case, and VERY frustrating for anyone who attempted DIY maintenance or modifications of the cars. For example, I wanted to replace the one-piece instrument cluster surround in my GTI, which had always been warped and "wavy" in appearance (it drove me crazy) with the more substantial and MUCH straighter counterpart from the Jetta (which was still being built in Germany at the time). I bought the part (the parts counterguys were of no help at all to me, as it turned out ), and when I disassembled the cluster to replace the part, only then did I discover that the method of fastening it to the surrounding panel was completely different from the otherwise identical-looking American piece. It couldn't even by adapted to fit by homespun methods, either, since the hidden differences were so substantial. I was stuck with an unreturnable, $50 piece of useless plastic. As it turned out, the interchangeability of US-Golf and German Golf/Jetta interior bits was almost nil. Why VWoA invested so much money and time to do such a seemingly counterproductive thing is still beyond me to this day.

      I know it sounds like I hated my GTI. Not the case. I LOVED that car. But you must remember, until just a few short years ago, I was probably the world's foremost Volkswagen nutcase. Back then, VW could do no wrong in my book; I was nearly blind to their shortcomings, and forgave the faults I was willing to see quite readily. Today, I would take a car like that and drive it straight to VWoA's headquarters (where are they this year...Washington DC?) and calmly and deliberately set it afire. Times, and people's attitudes, do change.

      Do you enjoy old cars and long-winded stories about them? If your answer is "yes", then you might enjoy my blogpage. Try it here: http://vwlarry.blogspot.com . Leave a comment, too; I love feedback! Thanx for reading.

      “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” - Aristotle

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      08-25-2008 02:07 PM #21
      Quote, originally posted by JohannWinklehorn »


      .

      .

      Shut up you dumb Polocks you! Below is a quote from a Times Online article from just yesterday and a quality survey from earlier this year that shows VWs having the best quality in a couple of different classes. Consumer Reports also recommends the Golf and Jetta but not the Toyota Tundra or V6 Camry.

      .

      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t...7.ece

      .

      http://www.vwvortex.com/artman...shtml

      Whatever, Meathead

      An example:

      Quote »

      The 2008 Volkswagen Jetta reliability score of 4.0 out of 10 is the Predicted Reliability rating provided by J.D. Power and Associates. This score is based on trending the past three years of historical initial quality and dependability data from J.D. Power's automotive studies, specifically the Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) and the Initial Quality Study (IQS).

      Apparently 4/10 is high quality in the UK. Maybe the people in the survey confused it with their dental care.

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    22. 08-25-2008 02:10 PM #22
      Quote, originally posted by VDub2625 »
      Interesting to get some firsthand experience with a brandy-new Westy-built VW. The idea that US-built Mk2s (I can't attest for the Mk1s since I don't hang out there) being of very sub=par quality has been a rumor in the forum for quite some time, without any substantiation. Interesting to hear this

      My parents bought a brand new German built Jetta and a brand new Westmoreland built Golf in 1985. The quality of construction, materials, and reliability for both was EQUAL. The Jetta had a nicer interior because it was a GL model while the Golf was only offered as a base model back then, but comparing Golf base to Jetta base, the Golf actually had higher quality materials inside. For example, nearly every early Mk2 base model Jetta I've seen has the upholstery coming unglued from the door panels. I've NEVER seen that happen on a U.S. built Golf. Even by the 1989 model year when the very last U.S. built Golfs were being sold, the base Golf still had better quality upholstery than the German built base Jetta.
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    23. Member
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      08-25-2008 02:22 PM #23
      Quote, originally posted by MEIN_VW »

      I've got a long-term road test of the Rabbit diesel in the archive that I should post up. Makes the MkIV look like a Honda in terms of reliability and quality.

      Are you kidding me?!?! We owned two diesel Rabbits (1981 & 1984), along with two 1985 Westmoreland Diesel Golfs. They were the most reliable cars we have ever owned. Got 200K trouble-free miles out od the 1981, 275K trouble-free miles out of the 1984, 270K trouble free miles out of the one 1985 and well over 125k miles out of the other 1985. The only VW diesel that was problematic, was the 1991 German Built Eco Diesel Jetta... that thing was a joke. Then again, it showed signs of abuse / neglect from the previous owner and we had reason to belive the ODO was rolled back.

      Mind you, all of these cars were bought used and were sold in running condition.


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      08-25-2008 02:28 PM #24
      Quote, originally posted by Geesixty »

      Are you kidding me?!?! We owned two diesel Rabbits (1981 & 1984), along with two 1985 Westmoreland Diesel Golfs.

      IIRC, the Rabbit used in the long-term test was either a 1978 or 1979 model. Maybe earlier models had more problems because this one was rife with issues the least of which was a constant and recurring problem with water leaking into the cabin.


    25. Get Off My Lawn!!! vwlarry's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 02:32 PM #25
      You confirm my earlier observation that the leap in quality of both materials and in care of assembly was great from the Rabbit to the Golf. But, there were lapses. Sometimes tiny and essentially meaningless to any but the devotees (my dashboard adventure for example) to more generally annoying and un-ignorable (sunroof rattling was endemic to the Golfs built in PA). Again, I probably sound like someone condemning both the PA Rabbit and Golf, but this isn't true. But I wasn't able to ignore the car's (Golf) obvious shortcomings, especially since I was like anyone else back then, virtually surrounded by an ever-growing army of Asian imports that blew-away VW's quality levels on almost any count. The PA Rabbit was a shoddily built car by anyone's standards; the subsequent Golf was a "close but no cigar" quantum-leap, by VW's in-house standards, but by the world's measuring stick, it just didn't make the grade. Sad, but true.

      BTW, as an empirical aside, I owned a German-built '85 Jetta GL for several years in the mid-late nineties as my daily driver. Being pretty intimately acquainted with the Golf/Jetta II cars over the years, I was always amazed at the HUGE superiority of that car's assembly quality over my GTI, as well as all the other PA cars that I had close contact with over the years. Don't take this the wrong way; I would LOVE to own ANY Golf or Jetta II today, no matter what the country of origin; they're among the best Volkswagens ever built, IMO. But the differences in quality were there. It's healthy to set the record straight. I made nothing up here.

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      08-25-2008 03:13 PM #26
      I think the US market Rabbits built in PA are a large part of the reason why I despise Mk1's. The US versions not only got saddled with ugly bumpers but they also had that faux wood trim on the interior along with seat and door material that looked like Naugahyde. Then there was the horrible color choices - baby blue, orange, light tan. My memories of those cars when they were new was that that were just such horrible and cheap-looking cars. And they always seemed to begin to rust after only a couple of years on the road.

      And then there was the name "Rabbit". To this day I hate that name and cannot think of a worse possible name for a car. Oh wait, I can - "Dasher".

      Granted, at the time, small Japanese cars fared no better - they were equally cheap-looking and prone to rust. Perhaps I just expected better of the Germans.

      Perfect example. Bad paint, rust, nasty wheels. Horrible. Just horrible.

      *dives into fireproof underground lair*


      Modified by MEIN_VW at 2:17 PM 8-25-2008


    27. Member Cubster's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 03:47 PM #27
      Marking this thread to contribute to it later...

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      08-25-2008 04:02 PM #28
      My father owned three westy rabbits and had nothing but great things to say about them. One was before I came into exsistance (not sure of year). Another one was an 81 diesel bought for $150 dollars (needed glow plugs) in 1998. Solid well built no mechanical issues. the other one was an 1981 gas model purchased in 2001 for $500. I will say the same thing about it as well. This was one became my car after he put about 100k on it. It had 225k when I started driving it. about 250k when I stopped driving it and got the fox from my father. Over all I think they were good cars but I also didnt buy them new I got them after they had been completely worn out.
      The W123 Mercedes, most notably the 240D, is an excellent model of automotive perfection!

    29. Geriatric Member VDub2625's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 04:08 PM #29
      Quote, originally posted by 89fuchswagen »
      fox

      Another, ahem, interesting car from VW. i've heard the same thing about the Rabbit here applied to the Fox- it was either stellar or a heap, depending on whom you talk to. And the Quantum. Not a bad car, but, who bought it?

      I guess VW wasn't doing as decently in the 80s as they might have you expect... the jetta really WAS the volume seller...

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      08-25-2008 04:14 PM #30
      The Quantum was the kind of car that, when you mentioned you drove one at a party, everyone within earshot would wrinkle their brows, put down their drinks, and say; "A what?"

      Do you enjoy old cars and long-winded stories about them? If your answer is "yes", then you might enjoy my blogpage. Try it here: http://vwlarry.blogspot.com . Leave a comment, too; I love feedback! Thanx for reading.

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    31. 08-25-2008 04:16 PM #31
      Quote, originally posted by VDub2625 »
      I guess VW wasn't doing as decently in the 80s as they might have you expect... the jetta really WAS the volume seller...

      And that was the big mistake for VWoA: they bet all of Westmoreland on the Golf, when they should've been making Mk2 Jettas there since day one. By the time they started making Jettas there as well, it was too little, too late. Indeed, even many VW enthusiasts have no clue that Jettas were ever built at Westmoreland.
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    32. Get Off My Lawn!!! vwlarry's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 04:30 PM #32
      That's exactly the puzzlement that I felt about the Westmoreland plant back then. Why in the HELL could they not also assemble what, in all honesty, was nothing more than a Golf with a 12-inch trunk extension (Jetta) too? I would read regular stories about under-utilization of the PA plant's capacity, but at the same time VWoA persisted in importing ALL Jettas from D-land (later to move them to Mexico), all this during a time when the Jetta was mushrooming in popularity in the States, and the Golf stumbled along at the bottom of sales charts.

      ...and people wonder why people like me come down hard on VWoA?

      Do you enjoy old cars and long-winded stories about them? If your answer is "yes", then you might enjoy my blogpage. Try it here: http://vwlarry.blogspot.com . Leave a comment, too; I love feedback! Thanx for reading.

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    33. Geriatric Member VDub2625's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 04:45 PM #33
      Quote, originally posted by vwlarry »
      That's exactly the puzzlement that I felt about the Westmoreland plant back then. Why in the HELL could they not also assemble what, in all honesty, was nothing more than a Golf with a 12-inch trunk extension (Jetta) too? I would read regular stories about under-utilization of the PA plant's capacity, but at the same time VWoA persisted in importing ALL Jettas from D-land (later to move them to Mexico), all this during a time when the Jetta was mushrooming in popularity in the States, and the Golf stumbled along at the bottom of sales charts.

      ...and people wonder why people like me come down hard on VWoA?

      Well, another piece of the puzzle might be in that they built Jettas in the USA exactly like they did in Germany- no weird dashes, or electrical systems, or anything. I guess they imported all the parts from DE directly (I've never actually seen a US-built Jetta up close, so I have no idea where the metal or parts came from, but an educated guess would be Wolfsburg). I bet importing the parts here for final assembly wasn't too cheap either.

      And there's also the fact that they only built the 4 door GL here. It was the big seller, but still... it must have made everything look expensive by comparison.

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    34. Get Off My Lawn!!! vwlarry's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 04:57 PM #34
      PA Volkswagens consisted of sheetmetal stampings that were US-sourced. The bodies were built at Westmoreland. As someone mentioned earlier, many subsystems, fasteners, trim pieces, etc were sourced from NA vendors in Canada, the US, and Mexico. The whole rationale behind establishing North American assembly was to circumvent as much as possible the then-horrible dollar-deutschmark exchange situation, thus the push to source as much of the cars as possible in NA, as well as assemble them here. The engines/powertrains, brakes, suspension, etc were German-sourced, IIRC. I invite corrections to this where due.


      Modified by vwlarry at 3:59 PM 8-25-2008
      Do you enjoy old cars and long-winded stories about them? If your answer is "yes", then you might enjoy my blogpage. Try it here: http://vwlarry.blogspot.com . Leave a comment, too; I love feedback! Thanx for reading.

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    35. Geriatric Member VDub2625's Avatar
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      08-25-2008 05:02 PM #35
      Actually that was me that said that

      I do know body panels 9at least for the Mk2s) came from Mexico... my 88 GTI 16v had "Hecho em Mexico" prominently stamped all over it, in obvious places like the hatch gutters. That's what you wanna see when you go into the trunk.

      I do know the Golf/GTI parts were sourced from NA... but the jetta parts? I thought the whole point of redesigning the Golf was to save costs on building all the German stuff here... did they give up and start building it all in the USA for the Jetta? (since it was identical to the German cars, dash, fuse box, etc)

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