Junkyard Find: 2009 Volkswagen Routan

junkyard find 2009 volkswagen routan

Badge engineering! Always near the top of my search list when poking through car graveyards, obscure examples of marketing-inspired rebadgitude will jump right out from the ho-hum ranks of Elantras and LaCrosses in any yard. I haven’t managed to find a discarded Suzuki Equator yet, sad to say, but I have documented such rarities as a Mitsubishi-badged Hyundai Excel, an Isuzu-badged Chevy Colorado, and a Dodge-badged Renault 25. Today we’ll visit one of the most puzzling examples of badge-engineering history in the North American automotive marketplace: the Volkswagen Routan.

VW stopped selling the EuroVan here in 2003, which meant that Volkswagen of America had nothing van-like to offer shoppers while competitors raked in cash from their minivan sales. Just as Honda had been forced to turn to Isuzu in order to provide a luxury SUV in North America (even as Isuzu sold Honda minivans here), Volkswagen turned to another manufacturer in order to avoid spending billions developing a minivan from scratch. Yes, Canadian-built Chrysler minivans were given some minor modifications and sold as Routans… for way more money than a same-year Grand Caravan or Town & Country.

Minivan shoppers figured out the vehicle-per-buck disparity between the Routan and its Chrysler/Dodge siblings and so very few of them signed on the line which is dotted for the Routan. Total sales of Routans barely cracked 60,000 units, from the introduction in the 2009 model year through the Routan’s demise in 2014.

I’ve found a few Routans in wrecking yards in recent years, and most have been crash victims picked over hard by shoppers looking for running gear for members of the Chrysler minivan family. Just about any running minivan less than 15 years old can find someone willing to keep it on the street because these are useful machines, so I don’t expect to see clean/unwrecked Routans in U-Wrench-It yards for another couple of years.

Volkswagen did their best to add interior touches that reminded Routan owners of the old air-cooled Transporters, but the addition of a faux-metal dash covering didn’t compensate for the lack of the helpful Stow-n-Go seats found in Grand Caravans and Town & Countries.

Was it worth paying thousands more for a Grand Caravan with Volkswagen badging? Not many buyers thought so.

Just the van to have when you’re carrying live frogs on a family road trip.

They should have hired Sean Penn to do the Transporter’s voice in this ad.

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  • Polka King Polka King on Jun 29, 2021

    I wonder whether I can get my Hyundai lifted. You know, to make it easier to get in and out? Oh, Bronco? It's probably easy to get in and out.

  • Taxman100 Taxman100 on Jul 02, 2021

    We bought a 2011 brand new. There was a Volkswagen dealership in NE Ohio that was selling them for $7.500 off of list price - An SE trim MSRP around $34,500 for $27,000. I knew it was a Chrysler, but I bought it because it has leatherette seating, 17 inch wheels, and a dual DVD video player, all which required buying a much more expensive Chrysler to avoid cloth seats and 16 inch wheels. It's had the typical issues of a 2011 Chrysler minivan - eats brakes, oddball starting issues from a transmission safety switch issue (if it doesn't start, move the shifter to neutral and start), etc. First year for the 3.6.

  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.
  • FreedMike It's not that consumers wouldn't want this tech in theory - I think they would. Honestly, the idea of a car that can take over the truly tedious driving stuff that drives me bonkers - like sitting in traffic - appeals to me. But there's no way I'd put my property and my life in the hands of tech that's clearly not ready for prime time, and neither would the majority of other drivers. If they want this tech to sell, they need to get it right.
  • TitaniumZ Of course they are starting to "sour" on the idea. That's what happens when cars start to drive better than people. Humanpilots mostly suck and make bad decisions.
  • Inside Looking Out Why not buy Bronco and call it Defender? Who will notice?