A few weeks ago, I flew out to Salt Lake City to join VW and Audi for their 2018 Fleet Preview. The theme of this event was "Go Big," and they definitely lived up to it – from the first night at Utah Olympic Park to the "closing ceremonies" at the Grand American Hotel. The event was BIG.

The kickoff event included a tour of the Eccles 2002 Olympic Winter Games Museum. Not only did we get to see a lot of the history made at the park, but we had the most amazing view of Park City and the mountain ranges – the scene for the following day's test drive of Volkswagen and Audi's 2017 and '18 models. I was getting excited!

During the event, we all got to meet the Flying Aces before their "big" performance. I can now say I have watched skiing without the snow – just incredible! I had no idea that was even possible. But I assure you, the Flying Aces made it happen.

OK, enough about the "big" experience. Allow me to move on to the information that will help you run your fleet better. I took some mental notes on the key topics so I could bring the details back to you, the fleet manager.

Here's a bit more about what to expect if you are considering vehicles from Volkswagen for the 2018 model year.

The VW fleet team walked us through the ins and outs of the 2018 model year changes and highlights. So, what are the biggest items to pay attention to? I would say the all-new Atlas and the refreshed Tiguan.

The all-new Atlas is VW's brand new 7-passenger mid-size SUV, engineered specifically for North America. The Atlas has incredible cargo space and easy access to the third row. You can even leave an empty car seat in while sliding the second row forward – a fab feature for this parent of smaller kids. Not to mention the four-wheel drive version has an estimated 20 miles per gallon.

The refreshed Tiguan is VW’s first 3-row compact SUV. It has a wheelbase 10.6 inches longer, engineered specifically for North America. This extended wheelbase gives 58% more cargo capacity and 7-passenger seating. There are so many great features on this one, that it deserves its own full review. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post coming soon…

What's new with Audi in the 2018 model year?

Audi enters the 2018 model year with its staple luxury sedans and SUVs. This year, the have re-designed the all-new Q5 complete with fancy technology. It is a little taller and longer, and even offer a version with the S-badge, the SQ5.

The road ahead

VW and Audi also hosted a special guest speaker, Becky Muller. Becky is the senior research engineer for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). For those of you who need a refresher, this is the organization dedicated to reducing the losses deaths, injuries and property damage from motor vehicle crashes.

During her educational, yet fascinating, presentation on "Vehicle Safety: the road ahead," Becky walked us through the future of crash safety with autonomous vehicles. Here, she confirmed what many of us in the fleet and mobility industries are already experiencing. And that is that our world as we know it is quickly changing, so we all need to get ready for what’s coming.

At that moment, my mind wandered off thinking about all the transformation at LeasePlan and the exciting projects already underway. It's encouraging that our leadership is on board with preparing for what's next – and backing that up with special task forces that are already on top of planning for our future. It was nice to know that manufacturers and organizations like ours are like-minded in this.

Ride, drive and hunt

Once we finished with the educational portion of the day, they turned us loose for a ride and drive, scavenger-hunt style, through the mountains of Utah. What a perfect backdrop for a test drive.

My team was made up of our client and car enthusiast, Jim Petrillo from FUJIFILM Holdings America Corp, and my own co-worker and safety guru, Dan Shive.


We each got to drive different vehicles, including the all-new VW Atlas, and we traded drivers and cars at each stop, but of course let Jim drive the most!

Afterwards I asked Jim about his experience. He said chuckling, "the best part of the adventure was watching Dan Shive’s face as he was navigating the narrow mountain passes at 9,100 feet!"

Priceless. You see, if you don't know Dan, he is LeasePlan USA's vice president of risk. I think it's safe to say Dan's knuckles were white the entire 30 minutes. But thanks to him, he got us over those mountain passes safely.

The show ended big with a prohibition-themed party back at the hotel, which I thought was a creative nod to a land with a history of, shall I say, quirky liquor laws.

All in all, it was a great way to spend a couple of days learning more about the VW and Audi products so we can keep you in-the-know. If you have any specific questions about your vehicle acquisition strategy, let me know. I'd love to help!



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