For #ByeByeBeetle, a 700-hp tribute at SEMA

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A skeleton-head shifter, seven-speed DSG transmission and a matte Army green finish are hardly the features you’d associate with a beloved Volkswagen Beetle. But for Marcel Horn, the founder and president of a Canadian custom auto shop HPA Motorsports, it’s the perfect sinister flavor for his custom Beetle build.

“The Beetle can be a little cheeky, devilish critter,” said Horn, who debuted a custom Beetle at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in 1999. “That Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde, white angel-red devil on your shoulder personality—the Beetle has both qualities, and that’s what we wanted to convey with this tribute build.”

Introduced to America as the Type 1, Volkswagen has sold nearly five million Beetles in the United States, and a worldwide total of approximately 21.5 million cars. After roughly seven decades of production and three generations of designs, the company retired the iconic vehicle this past June.

When Horn and his team heard that the Beetle was coming to the end of its lifecycle, they knew they wanted to say goodbye in the best way they knew how: revealing a custom-built HPA FTX700 Volkswagen Beetle at the 2019 SEMA show.

“The entire essence of the SEMA show is personalization for the look of aesthetics and performance, and the Beetle is by far one of the most personalize-able vehicles on the planet,” said Horn.

Horn’s love for the Beetle dates to his parents: he was brought home from the hospital in a Volkswagen Type 3, and his daily commute to and from elementary school was in a 1976 Rabbit, which later became his first car.

“There isn’t a person we could walk up to in a restaurant or venue who hasn’t had a Beetle touch their life in some way,” said Horn. Instead of a normal college trajectory, Horn got his degree in mechanical engineering and business and took night classes while running HPA fulltime out of his garage. HPA has now been in business for nearly 30 years and prides themselves off their creative takes on classic cars, like the Beetle.

“In a day and age before the internet and smartphones, Volkswagen offered this inherent interchangeability,” Horn said. “The fact that you could change the attitude and styling because of the cross-platform interchangeability”

With a willing customer on deck, over the course of two years, the team worked on almost every part of a 2016 Beetle Dune. Swapping the car’s original engine for a fully built 3.2L 6-cylinder engine, HPA fitted a seven-speed transmission, mated to an all-wheel-drive drivetrain. The combination delivers 700 hp and 800 lb.-ft. of torque to this Beetle Dune’s custom 19” HRE RS105M monoblock wheels.

HPA’s custom-built HPA FTX700 Volkswagen Beetle at the 2019 SEMA show. Disclaimers: Modifying vehicles can adversely affect warranty coverage & compliance with required safety and other standards. Concept vehicle shown. Not available for sale. Specifications may change.

“As you do anything with infatuated circumstances, you take a basic idea, and the complexity and the detail level in front of you grows,” said Horn. “With the exception of the bumpers, there is not a bolt, a nut, a shifted cable, a widget, an electronic control module, a wiring harness, a floorboard panel, tub suspension segment that has not been engineered, designed or built.”

Heading into SEMA this week, Horn is counting on two things to capture attendees’ attention with the vehicle: that those who understand the technicalities of the design will pause and indulge in the details, and that more general SEMA visitors will be lured over to the Beetle by its sinister stance. That combination has already landed this tuned Beetle on the shortlist of cars vying in SEMA’s Battle of the Builders award.

“It feels surreal for me as the owner and someone who has been such a passionate fan of the Beetle to have the opportunity at SEMA,” Horn said. “To be part of this is more than dreams are made of…I just hope we aid in leaving a memorable mark for the Beetle in everyone’s minds that walk through the show.”

A ballpark bucket list: 60 days, 30 baseball stadiums, two friends – and one Jetta

Baseball and road trips are two of America’s favorite summer pastimes. Lyndon Suvanto, 27, and Dusan Krstic, 26, decided to combine the two and make it their summer mission to see every top-tier American baseball team play in their home stadium.

The Canadian natives and ardent baseball fans hatched their cross-country plan while playing professional handball overseas. They began saving up funds and planning their two-month road trip in late 2018.

“I figured now was the time to make it happen,” says Suvanto. “I wasn’t in a committed relationship or in a career I couldn’t get away from. Also, a lot of my favorite players are approaching retirement.”

To get to all 30 stadiums, the friends would have to be smart and strategic, and put in some very long hours behind the wheel. They purposely chose Krstic’s 2017 Jetta to make the trip because of the car’s fuel-efficiency and highway sureness. “It was amazing for us,” says Suvanto. “We put 35,000 kilometers on it and never had an issue.”

The pair kicked off their patriotic journey in Seattle on July 4 and drove the California coast before hitting the southern states and East Coast. At each location, they would snap a photograph with their homemade sign, which was outfitted with a giant stadium counter that would increase as each game passed.

The sign garnered the pair much attention, leading to screen time on jumbotrons and on television. People, in turn, would often offer to chip in funds for gas money and road trip grub. “I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly, kind and open-minded everyone was along the way,” Suvanto said.

At night, they would take turns sleeping and driving, and often crashed in their royal blue compact sedan — a slight challenge for two men over 6’3” in height. Suvanto would often take up the entire back seat while Krstic would sleep towards the front of the car.

The baseball buffs also added fun, cultural stops along their route, including the Vegas strip, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park. They even built in a break in Scranton, Pa., to pay homage to one of their favorite television sitcoms. They also created social media accounts devoted to the trip, so friends and family members could check-in regularly on their adventures and progress.

Suvanto and Krstic completed their mission on Sept. 1 in Denver. “I think 95% of people believed we were full of [it] or would give up before we even got to the border,” says Suvanto, laughing. “We almost couldn’t believe it ourselves that we had made it and got to our final stop … It felt like we had really accomplished something.”

Preserving a piece of civil rights history: The Jenkins’ Bus

The 1966 Volkswagen Type 2 formerly used by civil rights pioneers Esau and Janie B. Jenkins. Photo: Historic Vehicle Association.

Most vehicles that sit outside unattended for four decades aren’t destined to ever move again. But this 1966 Volkswagen Type 2 Deluxe Station Wagon isn’t just any Bus – it’s a piece of civil-rights history, and a memory of a family that spent decades working to make the country a better place.

Esau and Janie B. Jenkins spent several decades fighting to improve the lives of their neighbors on Johns Island, S.C.  From the 1940s through the early 1970s, the Jenkins family built a network of businesses and schools for underserved African American residents that would eventually become a template for the entire civil rights movement across the South. They painted their motto on the tailgate of their Bus: “Love Is Progress; Hate Is Expensive.”

“Long years ago, I asked myself, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ And the answer I got was, ‘You are,’” Jenkins, who died in 1972, said in an oral history of the area. “I decided to do anything I can to help people in order to help myself.”

Growing up under the racial Jim Crow laws of the era, Esau Jenkins became convinced at an early age that he needed to tackle the discrimination that touched every part of his community’s life. At the start of the 1940s, only a few thousand African American residents across all of South Carolina were allowed to vote, due to racial literacy exams. On Johns Island, most children quit school after eighth grade, as there was no nearby high school, and families could not afford transportation for their children to Charleston.

Jenkins had found his first business in hauling produce to Charleston, and had started taking his own children to schools there with him, a daily trip that began at 4 a.m. In 1945, Jenkins bought his first full-size bus to begin bringing other children from around the community to Charleston; soon after, he began hauling adults who needed work as well.

The 1966 Volkswagen Type 2 formerly used by civil rights pioneers Esau and Janie B. Jenkins. Photo: Historic Vehicle Association.

At the time, South Carolina’s voting literacy test required an applicant to recite and explain a part of the state constitution; only white judges could decide who passed. Jenkins began using the bus trips to teach his passengers what they needed to know to pass the tests; over the years, those rides led to hundreds of new voters from Johns Island.

In 1948, Esau and Janie helped found The Progressive Club on Johns Island, a co-op that provided programs such as legal and financial assistance, child and adult education, and community workshops. The building held a grocery store, gas station and community center. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the two worked tirelessly to help offset the economic disadvantages of Jim Crow, opening several businesses, such as a credit union to provide loans for other small businesses.

In the 1950s, the couple partnered with other Johns Island residents to open the first citizenship school – a more focused form of the talks Esau used to give on his bus rides, helping residents overcome illiteracy and learn their civil rights. The methods they developed were later adopted by civil rights leaders who launched similar schools across the South in the 1960s.

Shortly thereafter, the 1966 Volkswagen Type 2 Bus Esau and Janie had last used was parked on Johns Island, next to the original Progressive Club. Four decades of salt air and the occasional hurricane would eat at the Bus and wear down the “Citizens Committee” lettering they had painted on.

Last year, relatives of Esau and Janie Jenkins asked the Historic Vehicle Association for help in preserving a memory of their work. The HVA documents and helps preserve cars with important historical and cultural meaning, and oversees the National Historic Vehicle Register in partnership with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Heritage Documentation Programs and The Library of Congress.

The 1966 Volkswagen Type 2 formerly used by civil rights pioneers Esau and Janie B. Jenkins. It took five hours to move the bus from its resting place in South Carolina. Photo: Historic Vehicle Association.

In March of this year, the HVA and the NB Center for American Automotive Heritage teams spent five hours delicately moving the Bus from its resting place, carefully reinforcing key points to help keep the entire frame from collapsing. From there, the Bus was documented, stabilized with a new substructure and had initial preservation work done by experts at BR Howard.

Last week, the Bus went on display on the National Mall; it’s now undergoing additional preservation with help from Volkswagen of America. Diane Parker, vice president of the HVA, says the goal isn’t to restore the Bus, but to preserve its condition as much as possible to reflect the history it’s been a part of.

“We want to make sure future generations can experience this Bus and the work that the Jenkins family did for civil rights,” she said.

The 1966 Volkswagen Type 2 formerly used by civil rights pioneers Esau and Janie B. Jenkins. Photo: Historic Vehicle Association.

The Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport adds some American-made style to SUVs

For most households, buying a new car may be the second biggest purchase they ever make behind a house itself. And if you’re going to spend that money, shouldn’t your family vehicle look not just good, but great?

That’s the idea behind the newest Volkswagen in America, the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport,1 revealed today in Chattanooga. Meant for those drivers who need five seats in an SUV instead of seven, the Atlas arrives with a strong sense of design that reflects what buyers most want in this type of vehicle.

“Building off the success of the Atlas seven-seater midsize SUV, we see an opportunity for a five-seater model that offers even more style and almost as much interior space,” said Scott Keogh, CEO, Volkswagen Group of America. “We look forward to entering this growing segment with the Atlas Cross Sport, which offers outstanding Volkswagen technology, driver assistance features, style, and value.”

Part of an estimated $340 million investment by Volkswagen at its Tennessee factory, the Atlas Cross Sport was developed by Volkswagen’s North American Region specifically for U.S. buyers.  It joins the Atlas and the Passat as Volkswagen’s models assembled in America – with more to come, as Volkswagen plans to assemble electric vehicles there in the future.

It’s not just that the Atlas Cross Sport carries a more aggressively sloped rear pillar and hatch that gives it a racing-inspired profile. Most of its design elements have been updated from the Atlas, in the spirit of the concept from the 2018 New York auto show, from a new grille with a full-width light signature to sculpted bumpers front and rear, along with a variety of wheel options, with dramatic looks up to 21 inches on the R-Line trim.

Inside, the Atlas Cross Sport also takes design in a new direction. A next-generation Volkswagen steering wheel makes its debut with more intuitive controls. The seats can be specified with color-contrasting inserts and matching door panels, along with stitching accents.

While the Atlas Cross Sport is 5.3 inches shorter than the seven-seat Atlas, the two share the same wheelbase (117.3 inches). That allows the Atlas Cross Sport to offer a cavernous interior for a five-seat SUV, with 111.8 cubic feet of passenger space and 40.4 inches of rear-seat legroom. For those who need to haul goods, there’s 40.3 cu. ft. of luggage space behind the second row, and 77.8 cu. ft. with the second row folded.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

Along with the new design comes a long list of new technology, especially advanced driver assistance features. Two new features include Traffic Jam Assist, which helps keep the Atlas Cross Sport moving in stop-and-go traffic up to 37 mph, and Dynamic Road Sign Display, which works with the factory navigation system to display key road data like speed limits. The base S model has standard Forward Collision Warning with Autonomous Braking (Front Assist), Blind Spot Monitoring, and Rear Traffic Alert. Further up the trim walk, features such as Adaptive Cruise Control with a Stop and Go feature and Park Distance Control become standard.

And the new Car-Net® 2.0 with available Wi-Fi hotspot is standard, with a long list of no-charge services for five years, and new subscription options.

The Atlas Cross Sport offers the same engine options as the seven-seat Atlas: the 276-horsepower VR6 (late availability) and a four-cylinder turbocharged engine. Both engines pair with an eight-speed automatic transmission and can come with Volkswagen’s 4Motion® all-wheel-drive system. The V6 is rated at 5,000 pounds for towing, when equipped with the V6 Towing package.

Whatever you haul, the Atlas Cross Sport will offer a more stylish way to do it when it arrives on the roads early next year.

The next generation of connected cars arrives with Volkswagen Car-Net for model year 2020

For model year 2020, Volkswagen’s Car-Net®1 relaunches with new technology and a new approach. Many Car-Net features now come standard with the purchase of most 2020 model year vehicles for the first five years of ownership. A new Internet-of-Things architecture can allow future upgrades, like voice commands and package delivery. And via Car-Net, most 2020 Volkswagen models will offer available Wi-Fi capability.

“Next generation Car-Net creates the ability for the car to become part of our customers’ digital lifestyle” said Shelly Desmet, Digital Marketing Manager, Connected Services.

Car-Net’s Remote Access package will be available at no additional charge for the first five years of ownership, and includes more than a dozen key features, such as:

  • Remote start/stop (if vehicle is equipped), lock/unlock, honk/light flash and vehicle status.
  • An automated vehicle health report and service reminders.
  • Family Guardian alerts that can monitor speeds, a boundary area or even a curfew time, notifying you if a driver uses the vehicle improperly. There’s also a valet alert – a service that flags if the car travels more than 0.2 miles from a drop-off.

One new feature this year is DriveViewTM, which can provide feedback on how they’re driving with respect to certain driving behaviors such as hard braking, excess speed or night driving. Car-Net combines these factors into an overall driving score, which drivers can agree to share with car insurance companies for potential discounts. Drivers can also get personalized tips on what they can do to help improve their driving score.

Next generation Car-Net includes an in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot for passenger use with  a one month/1GB trial subscription that can provide a 4G LTE-enabled Wi-Fi hotspot for up to four devices. At launch, existing Verizon Wireless customers with an eligible mobile data plan can add their Volkswagen vehicle as a new item to their existing data plan; non-Verizon customers can set up a prepaid data plan for $20/month before taxes and fees.

In the months ahead, it is anticipated that new Volkswagen owners will be able to subscribe their vehicles to other major U.S. cellular providers. That means buyers will be able to tie into their existing provider, and when they sell their car, a new owner will have the same option.


For $99 a year, Car-Net’s Safe and Secure package offers a suite of services such as Emergency Assistance in case of a crash. Anti-Theft Alert sends a push notification to the user if the vehicle’s anti-theft alarm is triggered, and Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance uses Car-Net to assist law enforcement with locating the vehicle in the event that it is stolen.

The technology behind the next generation of Car-Net also provides room for new services, potentially including such things as using your car for package drop-offs and pick-ups or activating Remote Access services via voice-connection devices.

You can find the latest on Car-Net at vw.com/carnet.

This Hummus Shop’s Secret Sauce is in Their Roots — and a 1978 VW Bus

When Chefs Nick Wiseman and Ronen Tenne opened their hummus shop Little Sesame in Washington, D.C. in 2015, they wanted their restaurant’s foundation to have a very different philosophy than some of the New York City kitchens they’d cooked in over the years. They wanted to create a place that felt more grounded, that would enable them to build connections, explore new flavors and responsibly source their food, so they built one key ingredient into their business philosophy: travel.

Tenne grew up in Tivon, a small town in Israel outside the port city of Haifa, while Wiseman is a native of D.C. The concept for Little Sesame was a tribute to both their heritages, inviting a city that never stops moving to slow down and experience the vibrant, authentic flavors of Israeli hummus shops. And, when they’re not busy serving crafted hummus bowls, pita wraps and seasonal salatim and mezze, the two frequently venture from D.C. in their robin’s egg blue 1978 Volkswagen Bus to find inspiration for fresh, bold and new flavors across the U.S.

“The road trip concept [for Little Sesame] came when we found out the old pop-up we had was going to close and we had a couple of months before our new shop would open,” said Tenne. “Our concept was to go on the road and trying to do as much collaboration with people who cook in our same style and have the same attitude [towards] food that we have.”

Little Sesame is a plant-centric restaurant, so this summer’s road trip was a journey out West to see where the plants that fuel their business are sourced.

Little Sesame’s 1978 Volkswagen Bus

“We wanted to see where the food we serve is grown, who’s making it and how it’s being made,” Wiseman said. “We wanted to meet [the food], [get] our hands dirty in the soil and learn what it is [like] to farm and bring that produce directly to the city.”

Tenne and Wiseman’s first stop was Clear Lake Organic Farms in Fort Benton, Montana. Run by longtime friend and organic farmer Casey Bailey, this 5,000-acre, sustainability-focused family farm supplies the chickpeas that fuel Little Sesame’s creamy hummus.

“My connection to hummus is mostly eating it for most of my life,” Tenne said. “But always as a chef I think there is a big thing with being able to see the food circle of the product you’re using and understanding that what we use as our main ingredient, is what [Bailey] uses to fix the soil between his crops. Adding this element gives me a new perspective on the beauty of the chickpeas.”

After passing through Portland and Tillamook, Oregon, to host a collaborative dinner with Tusk—a Portland-based restaurant—one of Wiseman and Tenne’s last stops was to spend a day with Life Lab, a nonprofit in Santa Cruz, Calif. For the last 52 years, Life Lab has provided a rich, influential program that uses gardens as classrooms to connect kids with where food comes from and how it enriches our bodies and teaches children tools for developing healthy eating habits at an early age.

Little Sesame’s 1978 Volkswagen Bus

“To land here in this tranquil oasis of a space with the kids was so grounding for us,” said Wiseman. “It brought us back to why we do what we do, which is about connecting people to good food, and creating this community of people who really care about good food.”

In total, Wiseman, Tenne and their bright blue VW bus traversed the Great Plains, Badlands, Redwoods and Big Sur on their expedition. They charted more than 4,000 miles through 14 states, hosted six dinners, built two pop-up kitchens, swam in one ocean, five rivers and one lake, and made countless new friends along the way.

“We want future generations to have access to the same thrill of discovery with food that we’ve been so lucky to chase on our own travels,” Wiseman said. “By traveling, we live our mission of creating a community of eaters savoring authentic flavors, craving memorable experiences and working to leave the world a better place.”

What becoming ‘carbon neutral’ means to Volkswagen – and why it’s the only way forward

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It’s clear the world is getting warmer. It’s time to stop avoiding the question of what to do about it.

Under its “Drive Bigger” brand direction, Volkswagen of America plans to embrace this challenge as our calling for the years ahead. By building a future designed to help tackle the problem, we plan to drive a big change in American transportation, just as we did with the original Beetle.

As one of the world’s largest automakers, the Volkswagen Group has a global responsibility – one it plans to  embrace by committing to making its vehicles and production carbon-neutral by 2050. That includes Volkswagen vehicles sold in the United States and the factory in Chattanooga, powered by a planned Group-wide investment in electric vehicles worldwide – more than $50 billion over the next four years, with approximately $10 billion from the Volkswagen brand alone.

“We have an obligation to get electrification right,” says Scott Keogh, President and Chief Executive Officer of Volkswagen Group of America. “It is critical for the planet, it is required of our industry and it is the right thing for our company. Volkswagen is uniquely positioned to deliver electric vehicles for millions.”

Earlier this year, the Volkswagen Group committed itself to the goals of the Paris Agreement, the 200-nation agreement that aims to limit global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. That’s not an easy task, since most studies show the Earth has already warmed by half that amount over the past several decades. Meeting that target will require a widespread adoption of zero-tailpipe emission electric vehicles, ones that are in reach of not just wealthy buyers.

Reinhard Fischer, Senior Vice President at Volkswagen Group of America and Volkswagen North American Region Strategy, will be in charge of making Volkswagen’s sustainability goals  in America a reality. By 2050, Fischer says Volkswagen’s operations and vehicles in the United States expect to be carbon neutral.

The commitment to carbon neutrality has three key parts. First, reducing carbon dioxide emitted from vehicles and factories. Second, adopting renewable energy sources, whether at the plant level for Volkswagen and its suppliers, or encouraging their use for individual Volkswagen owners. And finally, using carbon offsets to tackle those remaining carbon emissions that can’t be further reduced.

Or as Fischer says: “Our goal is to avoid CO2. If we can’t avoid it, we’ll reduce it, and if that’s not possible, find a way to offset it.”

The Modular Electric Drive chassis (MEB)

The key to affordable electric vehicles is the same as the key to affordable everyday vehicles – using basic architectures that can be shared among millions of vehicles. Much as the Volkswagen MQB platform underpins models from the Golf to the Atlas, the upcoming MEB all-electric chassis is designed with similar flexibility in size and uses. It is expected to go into production in Europe late this year, and come to America first with the ID. CROZZ SUV1 in 2020 and the ID. BUZZ thereafter, with more to follow.

By 2028, the Volkswagen Group expects to have sold approximately 22 million EVs worldwide across all its brands, with about 70 different models available. Some 15 million of those will use the MEB platform.

While there are concerns today about whether building electric vehicles creates more carbon-dioxide emissions than gas or hybrid cars, outside research such as a report from the European Environment Agency suggests that over the lifespan of a vehicle, a battery-electric car typically has the lowest CO2 per mile driven compared to gas or diesel powered counterparts. That’s based on today’s mix of fuel sources for electricity, often a blend of natural gas, coal, nuclear and renewables such as solar and hydropower.

“As the power grid shifts towards CO2-free renewables,” says Fischer, “we believe the benefits of EVs will grow even further.”

Volkswagen of Chattanooga’s solar park

While EVs are a major piece of the Volkswagen plan, they are not the only part. Fischer’s team will be tasked with reducing carbon output from the production process, at both Volkswagen and its suppliers. Volkswagen of America already has a step in that direction with the Chattanooga plant, home to one of the largest industrial solar fields of a U.S. automaker, which provides roughly 10 percent of the plant’s electricity – more than 12 million kilowatt-hours of energy a year.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen also plans to reduce the carbon output of its traditional gas vehicles, through greater efficiency gains or hybridization.

“Electrification with zero-tailpipe emissions is an important part of our goal, but the other one is not to stand still on the traditional car,” says Fischer. “By 2040, we hope that  about 60 percent of the vehicles we sell in America would be EVs, and that another 10 to 25 percent would be hybrids of some kind.”