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Volkswagen makes the Rabbit name disappear

Consumer Reports News: March 31, 2009 05:03 PM

Taking a page from Ford's marketing playbook, Volkswagen has announced that the next generation of its Rabbit hatchback will once again be called the Golf. This news comes when the Easter Bunny is due for his annual appearance.

(In 2006, we highlighted the return of the Rabbit nameplate. And just last year, we were explaining how the Golf became the Rabbit?!)

Like Ford did when it rolled out the new Five Hundred sedan in 2005, VW reached into its own past to come up with the Rabbit moniker in 2006. And like Ford, VW has apparently determined that resurrecting a name that’s a few decades old won’t necessarily deliver a spike in sales.

That’s not altogether surprising. The Rabbit name may resonate with some buyers, but probably not the youthful ones VW was hoping for. Baby boomers may have memories of a Rabbit from the 1970s, but most boomers aren’t buying entry-level hatchbacks anymore. And even their Rabbit memories may be less of the warm and fuzzy kind, and have more to do with spotty reliability and premature rust. Younger buyers probably couldn’t care less. 

Maybe, if VW’s marketing types can’t make up their minds, they should combine the old and new and call it the Grabbit. That has a nice ring to it and might even impart a sense of urgency with buyers to run out and get one before they're all gone. Or they could try Rolf. Lots of people like to personalize their cars with a name anyway, and Rolf has kind of a friendly, yet Germanic sort of feel.

Carmakers keep dredging up names and even entire cars from their glory days, with varying degrees of success. Maybe a better idea would be to just concentrate on good, safe, reliable products. For some of us, fun to drive is also a plus.

The outgoing Rabbit delivers on all those points, and now that reliability has improved, it’s a recommended model and a far better car than the original. Let’s hope the new Golf, due to be introduced at the New York auto show next week, delivers as well.

Jim Travers

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