How pitcher Daniel Norris lives a Volkswagen #vanlife every offseason

Professional baseball pitcher Daniel Norris says music inspired him to live on the road. Growing up in Johnson City, Tenn., Norris was captivated by singer Jack Johnson’s songs about quirky camping adventures in a VW bus. The music left such a strong impression that Norris, at 18 years old, purchased his own 1978 VW Westfalia microbus with money earned from his first professional baseball signing bonus. “One of [Johnson’s] songs talks about him and his wife in London, and they had an old VW,” said Norris, now 26. “That inspired me at an early age to form my own rendition of that lifestyle.” Even after years of steady employment in professional baseball—first with the Toronto Blue Jays, and moving to the Detroit Tigers in 2015—Norris swears by van life. The pitcher still makes time outside of his busy baseball schedule to camp out of his van, nicknamed “Shaggy,” for weeks or even months at a time in the offseason. “I really just enjoy the solitude of it,” he said. “It replenishes me before a big season.” For Norris, it’s a ritual of his own; the athlete grabs his surfboard, the bare essentials, and hits the road. He’ll sleep on beaches, in Walmart parking lots or deep in the wilderness. The minimalist lifestyle might clash with affluent stereotypes about professional athletes, but Norris says his trips keep him centered while juggling a lucrative career and major league stardom. “I wanted to hone in on staying true to who I was,” he explained. “Now that I have more, I want to have less.” Norris first met Shaggy by connecting with an owner two hours from his home. The car was not originally for sale, though Norris couldn’t help but try to buy it anyway. He loved its soft cream-colored coat and was particularly impressed by its drive-ready condition with minimal rust. “Everything was original, which I really dug about it,” he recalled. “It was a no-brainer.” Norris made a persuasive offer and renovated his new car into the travel-ready home he dreamed of. From Tennessee, he drove Shaggy to Florida for spring training. Instead of taking a hotel room with the rest of his teammates, he’d find suitable accommodations around town—that is, those that tolerated his scrappy lifestyle. “I would get kicked off the beach quite a few times,” he said. “One time, I decided to park at the Blue Jays’ complex. Probably, at like 11:30 or 12:00 that night, I get a knock on the window, and it’s the cops.” Luckily, the encounter ended amicably. “There were five cops, and they all started laughing when they realized who I was. Asking me questions like, ‘Why do you do this?’” he said. “It was kind of funny.” Some of the typical options for VW Campers over the decades. For years, Norris and Shaggy were nearly inseparable in the offseason. To the amusement of his teammates, Norris insisted on driving Shaggy down for his seasonal Florida trips. But even though the decades-old car endured year after year of cross-country marathon drives, Norris knew Shaggy would soon reach its limits. Shaggy broke down three times during a 2015 trip from Tennessee to Oregon. The second time, Norris blew the third cylinder in Kansas. He found a mechanic in Denver who could fix it, but to get there Norris had to drive his beloved car for eight hours at 35 mph. Shaggy lasted one more day before it failed again. “It was pretty gnarly,” he remembered fondly. “I’m very fortunate for those experiences. I think they’ve helped mold me as a person.” As he’s tacked on more miles, Norris has gotten handier, too. He handles quick fixes with duct tape and zip ties while learning more about Shaggy’s long-term upkeep. “I like the idea of fixing it myself,” he said. “My dad’s the hardest worker I’ve ever met, so he’s inspired me to relish those opportunities.” Now in his eighth year with Shaggy, and fifth season with the Tigers, Norris takes his Westfalia to the shores of South Carolina, a five- to six-hour drive from Tennessee. He’s got the system down—he downsizes more than he used to, and knows to perform maintenance checks before each major drive. Trips have shortened in recent years, though Norris doesn’t plan on abandoning van life anytime soon. “I plan on having it my whole life,” he said. “It helped me find myself in many ways. It means a lot to me.”

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

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.”  

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How soccer and poetry give kids a new way to compete with America SCORES

America SCORES players. Twenty five years ago, an elementary school teacher in Washington, D.C. saw that many of her fifth-graders had nothing to do in the hours after school. She invited them to stay after school and play soccer – and when the weather turned cold, to explore poetry and spoken word performances to keep the group intact. That combination – along with community service – form the pillars of a fast-growing non-profit now known as America SCORES that serves more than 13,000 students a year, at 311 schools, in twelve cities. Approximately 85% of participants are living at or below the poverty line. In the fall and spring, students practice and play soccer in leagues, along with exploring creative writing and composing their own poetry that they eventually perform in competitive poetry slams. In the spring season, America SCORES teams also research and perform community service projects. This week, America SCORES will be introduced in many American homes during the FIFA Women’s World Cup, with some help from Volkswagen. Using its own advertising time, Volkswagen, working alongside with America SCORES, created a 30-second spot for America SCORES that will air during the FIFA Women’s World Cup, alongside Volkswagen’s own “Drive Bigger” campaign. “We’ve known of the good work America SCORES does for some time,” says Jim Zabel, vice president of marketing for Volkswagen of America. “They have a fantastic story to tell, and by producing this ad, Volkswagen hopes to demonstrate how all of us can drive something bigger than ourselves in our own communities.” A performance by Charity Blackwell, the director of creative arts and education at DC SCORES.   In Washington, the founding chapter, of America SCORES, works with 3,000 low-income boys and girls across the city every year. The DC SCORES program – the only consistent, grade-school public soccer league in the district – has proven so popular that dozens of schools are on a wait list for new sites. “It’s a mind-body-soul education for the kids,” said Michael Holstein, director of marketing and communications for DC SCORES. “It gives them athletic confidence and helps them speak and write well. They also benefit the community with a year-round effort that transcends all those elements on their own.” Charity Blackwell, the director of creative arts and education at DC SCORES, says most children come to the program for the soccer, something many couldn’t afford to play otherwise. “But when they get into writing and communicating with each other is when the light bulbs come on,” she says. “Here’s a unique place where they can work together, take their emotions and express themselves in a safe space in the classroom.” Blackwell also notes that the competition around poetry can be as challenging as the competition on a soccer field. Once they get the basics of poetry, the DC SCORES players receive coaching and feedback from spoken-word artists and compete to reach a city-wide poetry slam where their best efforts will be judged. “It’s all about mixing public speaking and theater, with their poetry,” says Blackwell. “They’re judged on their written work, their presentation, their hand gestures, and voice projection. Some may start out thinking poetry’s not a sport, but it can get pretty tough.” “We’ll see kids who are great athletes but shy in public, who will get up on stage and just come alive, or kids who aren’t great at soccer excel in spoken word,” adds Holstein. “It’s a cool experience to see kids be more than they thought they were.” America SCORES players.

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U.S. soccer star Mia Hamm teams up with Volkswagen to inspire young women

Mia Hamm with the team. Mia Hamm – one of the most important and influential female athletes of all time — dropped in and surprised a girls’ soccer team in Palo Alto, Calif. The five-time U.S. Soccer Player of the year, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and Soccer Hall of Famer was invited by Volkswagen of America to crash the girls’ practice, train with the squad and offer advice to the next generation of young female soccer players. Hamm, who retired in 2004 as the leading goal scorer – male or female – in the world, played an integral role in popularizing the sport and changing the status of the women’s athletics back in the late-1990s. Her role in the record-setting 1999 Women’s World Cup paved the way for today’s powerhouse team. For weeks, Volkswagen of America – who is the presenting sponsor of U.S. Soccer – and Palo Alto Soccer Club worked behind the scenes to make the event possible, coordinating with coaches and parents to keep the surprise under wraps for the players. “We wanted the girls to have the best experience possible,” says the team’s main coach, David Madrigal. And it worked. The 18 starry-eyed, pony-tailed players exploded in fits of laughter and screams of delight when the soccer legend crashed their team huddle. Among the crowd was eighth grader Finley Craig. The 14-year-old fan says she was empowered by Hamm’s comments on self-determination, teamwork and goal setting. “She’s one of my role models and not just in soccer, but in life,” says Craig. “She told me ‘don’t let anyone tell you that boys are better than girls’ and to ‘follow my dreams without interruption.’” Her mom, Jodie Craig, who was standing on the sidelines during the reveal, was also star struck. “Mia was so kind and down to Earth. She’s a great inspiration for these young girls coming up as young women and as young women athletes,” Craig says. Hamm ran drills with the girls before they headed to a U.S. women’s soccer match against South Africa at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Hamm stuck around the field for several hours, running drills, snapping pictures and signing soccer balls for the group before they headed to a U.S. women’s soccer match against South Africa at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. The team was even able to head down to the field and watch the national team perform warm up exercises before the game started. “It was a surreal moment for all of us,” says Madrigal. “I think it sunk in for all of us then that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Weeks later, Madrigal still says the magic of meeting Hamm still hasn’t worn off his players. “I see a fire, an energy, a boost of confidence, really, instilled in them that I haven’t seen before,” says Madrigal. “When somebody like Mia tells you can achieve it, you believe in it.” Hamm with several of the players in a Volkswagen Atlas.

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Watch the Volkswagen ID. R drive the fastest all-electric lap around the Nurburgring

Thirty-six years ago, one of the world’s fastest race cars – a Porsche 956 – tore around the 12.9 miles of the Nürburgring Nordschelife race track in a scant 6 minutes, 11.13 seconds. That record stood for more than three decades as an ultimate testament to power, engineering and skill, only falling to an experimental Porsche last year that was custom-built for the task. Last Monday, that record was surpassed for the second time – by an all-electric car. The Volkswagen ID. R electric race car that set a record for climbing Pikes Peak last year now owns the record for fastest electric car around the Nürburgring. Driver Romain Dumas made the lap in 6:05.336 minutes beating the previous EV record set in 2017 by 40.564 seconds – and in the process, surpassing every fossil-fuel powered record at the track save one. “To be a record-holder on the Nordschleife makes me unbelievably proud,” says Dumas. “For me, this is the best and most difficult race track in the world. The ID. R was perfectly prepared for the Nordschleife and it was so much fun to experience the blistering acceleration and rapid cornering speeds.” With a redesigned aerodynamic package meant to maximize the 670-hp ID.R’s top speed, Dumas averaged 127.36 mph around the course. As you can see from the video below, at that speed the Green Hell becomes a frightening blur of hills and curves. The ID. R is more than just a fast car. From quick-battery charging and cooling to electrical shielding in high-voltage environments, the technology gleaned from the ID. R may have everyday applications for Volkswagen’s upcoming wave of electric vehicles, such as the ID. CROZZ and ID. BUZZ.

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From “Think Small” to “Drive Bigger,” Volkswagen embraces a new purpose

In the 1960s, Volkswagen came to America’s attention through ads like the “Think Small” campaign that dared to be different than other automakers. They emphasized the connection owners make with their vehicles. And they spoke to a cultural moment, resonating with drivers who were less conspicuous in their consumption. Today, Volkswagen launches a new direction for itself in America with an advertising campaign that breaks with convention again. “Drive Bigger” isn’t just a slogan – it’s the definition of Volkswagen’s calling to work towards a larger purpose, including its pledge to goal of global carbon neutrality across  our fleet, production and administration by 2050. “Drive Bigger” rekindles the spirit of this brand and highlights the special responsibility we have as one of the world’s largest automakers,” said Scott Keogh, president and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America. “Our goal is to become a benchmark of environmental responsibility in our industry, an automaker that inspires people; not just through our vehicles, but by how we go about our business. It’s time to make VW stand for something again.” The first television ad of the new campaign, “Hello Light,” unveils the creative work from New York-based Johannes Leonardo, Volkswagen of America’s new lead brand agency. Volkswagen has been transforming since 2015, working to atone for its mistakes. Before Volkswagen could credibly lay out a new direction, it had to take a moment to properly address what led to it; “Hello Light” acknowledges Volkswagen’s recent troubles, but also symbolizes a rebirth and sets the stage for the brand’s future – represented by the upcoming ID. BUZZ electric microbus. Within the next few days, the “Drive Bigger” campaign will begin. In form, tone and copy, it marks a return to the fun and engaging Volkswagen ads that first caught America’s attention in the 1950s and ’60s. The ads will run in print media, as well as on digital and social platforms. Beyond the ads, Volkswagen will bring “Drive Bigger” to life across its business. The most substantial commitment comes in the embrace of electric vehicles and a goal to make the entire Volkswagen Group – in products,  production and administration – carbon-neutral by 2050. Globally, the Volkswagen Group expects to spend about $50 billion over the next four years developing EVs; the Volkswagen brand alone plans to invest $10 billion. “Drive Bigger” will involve every touchpoint of the brand – whether that’s supporting dealers in their community events, or engaging new Volkswagen owners with ways to benefit causes they support. “This campaign is for all of those we disappointed, all of those who stayed with us, those who worked like crazy to keep us moving forward and for all of those who stopped caring,” said Keogh.  “We have a responsibility to do better, to be greater and we intend to shoulder that responsibility.”

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How a $7,000 car became a ‘Million Dollar’ Volkswagen Scirocco

Jason Whipple’s 1980 Volkswagen Scirocco S is an instant head turner. Splashed in a rainbow motif, blurred lettering and wild graphics, there’s no surprise why the hand-painted hatchback has people buzzing in and outside the automotive community. Blurring the lines between race car and art car, the sporty coupe beckons viewers to stop and stare a bit longer. Whipple has devoted nearly a decade to retrofitting his weekend beater into a decked out circuit racer. What began as a simple side hustle for the Volkswagen enthusiast snowballed into a complex rebuild as his laundry list of desired modifications grew longer and more ambitious. “I took a perfectly good car, pulled it apart and changed everything about it,” says Whipple, co-founder of the California-based wheel company Rotiform Wheels. “I call it the ‘Million Dollar Scirocco’ because it seemed, at the time, I was spending a million dollars on it.” His alterations include a hand-built motor, transmission swap, custom wheels and a new engine management system. The car’s 2.0-liter naturally aspirated 8-valve engine can reach 200 horsepower. “Everything under the hood is 100% custom,” Whipple says. 1 Whipple has been a Volkswagen enthusiast since he was a teenager. The first car he purchased on his own was a 1986 Jetta GLI 8v. Now in his forties, he’s expanded his collection to include a Volkswagen Golf R in the new Spektrum Irish Green color and three Sciroccos. “They are the quintessential, affordable sports car. They are right and nimble and, because of that, move with grace and balance. It’s hard to find that in a modern car today,” Whipple explains. “It’s the joy of simplicity when I drive it.” Whipple’s ‘Million Dollar’ Scirocco (Photo courtesy of Rotiform). Disclaimer: Modifying vehicles can adversely affect warranty coverage & compliance with required safety & other standards. More than 500,000 of the Mark 1 Scirocco were sold between 1974 and 1981, although the car was not as popular in the United States as it was in Europe. Designed by legendary automotive designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Scirocco was more a style statement and sharp handler for its price than a top-speed machine. The vehicle’s sharp lines, low roofline, wide rear fenders and angular windows have kept their impact over time; today, an intact Mk1 Scirocco is a true collector’s car. “It’s a fantastic little car and I’m shocked at how many people don’t know what it is,” Whipple says. Last fall, Whipple crossed paths with fellow Volkswagen head and British graphic artist Nicolai Sclater. Connected through the automotive business Race Service, he originally wanted to team up with Sclater on a skateboard deck design. However, when Sclater heard about Whipple’s souped-up Scirocco, the project went in a different direction. “My instant reaction was obviously ‘I want to paint that car,’” says Sclater. “It reminds me of the height of my glory years. You know, that really good rebellious period of life.” Whipple granted Sclater free reign of the design of the then all-white vehicle and gave him several weeks to hand-paint it. “I was both terrified and thrilled at the same time,” says Jason. Whipple’s ‘Million Dollar’ Scirocco (Photo courtesy of Rotiform). Disclaimer: Modifying vehicles can adversely affect warranty coverage & compliance with required safety & other standards. Sclater incorporated some progressive ideas into his design, including phrases like ‘the future is our fault’ and ‘things won’t change until we do.’ “It stemmed from two different ideas. The first was the blurry lettering. I was getting frustrated at how insignificant art is becoming on Instagram and that’s generally where most people are obtaining their art on a daily basis. They are not looking at books or going to museums,” says Sclater. “I wanted to do a little of a practical joke with the audience, so they had to pause and actually engage with the picture.” The second part was a call-to-action for onlookers to take stock of their actions and be more considerate of people and the environment. “It’s all about working together rather than approaching the world as one massive competition,” says Sclater. He believes the Scirocco was the perfect vehicle for this directive. “I think a message like this needs to be carried out in a light-hearted way,” Sclater explains. The crew unveiled the coupe in November at the 2018 SEMA Auto Show in Las Vegas. Buzz traveled quickly, much like the strong hurricane wind which the car is named for, and the car has since appeared on the cover of Performance VW Magazine and several automotive enthusiast events. And, while not everybody may have understood it’s messaging or what a rainbow motif was doing on a race car, it certainly captured people’s attention and got them talking. “It certainly sparks conversation,” says Whipple. “I have no regrets.” His next project: a ‘2 Million Dollar’ Scirocco. Already painted the traditional Volkswagen Mars Red, Whipple plans to build a second colorful Scirocco to cart his two young children to and from school. Whipple’s ‘Million Dollar’ Scirocco (Photo courtesy of Rotiform). Disclaimer: Modifying vehicles can adversely affect warranty coverage & compliance with required safety & other standards.  

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