Not a good day in the office for the China-facing Volkswagen Passat

If you’re from China and you’re in the market for a new four-door sedan, you might want to steer clear of the Volkswagen Passat. The German sedan of Chinese roots was recently subjected to a safety test by China’s C-IASI (that’s the country’s equivalent of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), and to the surprise of many, the Passat recorded one of the worst performances of any car in the crash test.

A video of the C-IASI’s crashworthiness assessment shows the Passat undergoing several crash tests that end in a similar fashion: the sedan gets beaten up pretty badly. The Chinese Passat’s poor performance in the crash tests has bought into question the quality of the model relative to Passat models that aren’t built in China, including Passat models that have received good safety ratings in American crash tests. Is this a case of one Passat being much safer than the other?

How many versions of the Volkswagen Passat are out there?

It is shocking to see a Volkswagen fail so miserably in a crash test. Granted, VWs aren’t exactly impervious to crashes, but you’d expect more from a German car with the Volkswagen badge on it.

Here’s the thing, though. All Volkswagen Passats aren’t created equal because the sedan is one of the few models in the business that’s offered in two variants globally.

There’s the NMS Passat, which was introduced in January 2011 and is currently offered in some of the world’s biggest markets, including North America, South Korea, the Middle East, and, of course, China. Then there’s the European Passat, which is based on a stretched version of VW’s modular MQB platform.

Watch a 2019 Volkswagen Passat Fail Miserably During Chinese Crash Testing
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This version is offered only in Europe, at least until last year when the Chinese-market Passat started using the MQB platform just like the Passat B8 in Europe. Don’t feel too bad if you’re confused by all of this; you’re not the only one.

In any event, the European Passat B8 and the new Chinese Passat have a lot in common, yet they remain completely different models. The Chinese market 2019MY Passat is manufactured in China by SAIC Volkswagen, the German automaker’s automotive partner in the country. This is where you can start getting the idea why the Chinese market Passat failed so horribly in its crash test.

Is the failed test a product of poor build quality?

Watch a 2019 Volkswagen Passat Fail Miserably During Chinese Crash Testing
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From the looks of it, that is one logical assessment. A failed crash test is a reflection of a lot of things, one of which is the build quality of a vehicle. Since the Chinese market Passat is built in a different facility by a different company, there are distinct differences in how the build process works compared to, say, the Passat models that are built in VW’s plant in Tennessee here in the U.S.

Different considerations are taken into account relative to the market so while these models share the same nameplate and largely the same design, the bits and pieces that sit underneath are different.
Watch a 2019 Volkswagen Passat Fail Miserably During Chinese Crash Testing
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It is possible that the Chinese market Passat is not as well-built as the Passat versions in other markets. You can tell by how wrecked the test model was after going through the crash test ringer. The front-side impact test resulted in heavy damage that stretched past the front door of the sedan. The Passat didn’t fare any better in the side crash test, the roof crash test, and the hood crash test.

It is alarming to see a vehicle fair this badly in a crash test, especially since it’s a Volkswagen, a company known for building high-quality models. But the proof is in the video; the Chinese-market Volkswagen Passat that’s being built by SAIC Volkswagen looks like it can’t hold up to real-world crashes. A lot of things have to improve for these cars to become safer on the road, for the buyer’s sake, and that of Volkswagen’s, too.

Watch a 2019 Volkswagen Passat Fail Miserably During Chinese Crash Testing
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Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert -
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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