The current US Toyota Camry

The current US Toyota Camry

It's official - just in case you were wondering (we were), the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta rolled out in style in the Big Apple this week is not the new, larger 'medium size' sedan destined for a brand-new assembly line in Chattanoga, Tennessee next year.

The Man from VW told us today that the Jetta is 465cm long and the upcoming ChooChooville model 490cm, effectively a class above.

Expanding a sedan or making a separate larger one mainly for the US is not an unusual trick, though this is, we think, the first time VW has done it. Back in the early 1990s, Toyota widened the Camry beyond a Japanese domestic market tax threshold of 170cm and sold the 'wide body' variant in markets where some passengers were, er, generously proportioned, and/or where vehicle width didn't matter too much, building it locally in markets including the US and Australia.

Meanwhile, a 'narrow body' version was developed specially for Japan. Honda did likewise with the Accord, and still does, what we here in Europe know as an Accord is an Acura in the US while the wide version Americans know and love is also made in Thailand and sold throughout Asia and Australasia.

Mazda, too, did something similar with the pre-6 626 sold in North America. It shared little with similarly badged models sold in other export markets and home in Japan.

Even further back, when Mitsubishi was manufacturing in Australia, it took the mid-80s Galant Sigma, slit it down the centre, added 10cm to accommodate wide-bodied Australians and called it the Magna (not to be confused with a certain, much-expanded tooling shop founded in Ontario). And developed a wagon spin-off for good measure. Some were exported, mostly to New Zealand. The next generation was even wider and widely shipped, including to the US (as the Diamante) and Europe.

Tricks like that endeared the Japanese to foreign buyers delighted to find a car tailored to their market needs.

Clearly, VW, no slouch in the US itself, watched and learned.

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