Now that Volkswagen is making waves is the EV scene, i have decided to make a little mistery shopping to see how VW's sales force handle EV's and their potential buyers.
Deciding on which plug-in to go, while on other brands we have little to choose, here we are spoiled with three options, the electrics e-Up! and e-Golf and the plug-in hybrid Golf GTE.
My first thoughts were:
* e-Up!: "Nice city car...It reminds me of the ol'days when VW was minimalistic and not an aspirational brand...But it's so pornographically expensive!"
* e-Golf: "Meh, too middle of the road for my taste"
* Golf GTE: "Yes, Please!"
After that first trial, the e-Golf was put aside, and now focusing on the other two, with great pains to my inner child, i have decided to go for the more logical e-Up!, as it suited best my needs, so it would fit better for my "potential buyer" profile, and after some calculations, it wasn't so outrageously expensive as previously thought.
That's decided then, e-Up! it is.
I went to a VW dealership located on one of those mega-shopping centers near Lisbon, with several models on exhibition with none of them being of the plug-in variety.
After finding a salesperson, i went to him and this was the dialogue:
Me - Hello, do you have any e-Up! to test drive?
Salesperson - Yes, we have a VW Up! available...
M - No, not the Up!, i wanted to test drive the e-Up!, you know, the electric version...
S - Oh, i see...No, we don't have any of them...We had an e-Golf a couple of weeks ago, but now we have none...
M - (....)
S - Do you want to try the gas version?
M - No, i'm only interested in electrics, because of fuel bills, fiscal advantages and the fact they are better to drive, i have driven a (Renault) Zoe and now i wanted to try the e-Up! so i could compare it with the Zoe...
S - We don't have one, but i will call a friend of mine in another dealership to see if they have.
After a short phone call, the salesperson informed me that the other dealership would have a e-Up! available in the following week, after that he gave the contact which had to call and said goodbye to me.
After a few failed contacts i finally got to arrange a test drive for the e-Up! in the 8th of August, but during the conversation the sales person tried to upgrade the test-drive for the VW e-Golf...
Another postponement, now the test drive was scheduled to August 18th...
(By this time a regular buyer probably would have been discouraged and gone somewhere else to buy an electric car)
I showed up at the scheduled time on the August 18th at the VW dealership, located in one of the nicest parts of Lisbon, and i was quickly referred to the sales person in charge of the test drive.
After a small introduction to the e-Up!, where he checked my knowledge of electric cars, the test drive started and the thoughtful VW person answered to the usual questions ("What is the Range?", "What's this for?", "Does it fast charge?"...) in a friendly but not too excited manner, as if it were just another regular VW test drive.
And regular VW are the key words here, the way the car feels and drives is like any other model from the brand: Efficient, sensible, with no real weak points and a slight upmarket feel, in this case enhanced by the instant torque and absense of noise of the electric engine.
If the Nissan Leaf was designed to stand out and appeal to early adopters the same way the Prius did a few year ago, VW's approach is much more mainstream, this e-Up! (As the e-Golf) is for people who are interested in switching to electric drive but still wish a regular car, with normal design, normal dash, and a regular driving experience, close to what they have known from the past.
This pragmatic approach was visible during the e-Up! test drive, with the only stand-out feature quoted by the salesperson being the "B" drive, that enhaces regenerative braking in the same way a BMW i3 does.
In the end of the test drive i demonstrated my satisfaction to the sales person regarding the car, but i was shocked with its high price.
Unlike what i was expecting (Convince me to switch to a regular Up!), the VW person tried to win me over to a lease deal, saying that they had very good deals there and most electric VW's sold in that dealership were by leases.
I agreed to wait a few days for the lease deal (To be sent by email) and talk back then.
Now, let's wait if he keeps that promise...
A couple of days later than agreed, i received the lease proposal in my email and...It sucks.
I won't be give you the exact numbers, but let's just say it's in the same ballpark of the Nissan Leaf and more expensive than the Renault Zoe, even with the batteries rent added.
Value for money, it loses for both:
- The japanese is a car two classes above, it's faster, has more range and an extended warranty;
- Comparing with the Zoe, the e-Up! is also in difficult position, the french is a car from the segment above, has more range and an extended warranty AND...It's cheaper.
Come on VW, you can do better than this, stop being greedy!