Welcome to 10 Questions with… a recurring series where we speak with members of the automotive community from all across the globe. From industry insiders at OEMs to suppliers, manufacturers, pro racers, drifters, engineers, social influencers, and more—we will be bringing you an exclusive glimpse into their world and their perspective on automotive culture.
Our first installment of 10 Questions With… features Megan Closset, the Volkswagen Golf Product Manager for Volkswagen of America. Megan started her Volkswagen career as a sales consultant in Atlanta before making the jump to Volkswagen Corporate. The Golf R Spektrum program, GTI Rabbit Edition, and the Mk7 Golf SportWagen variants are just a few of the vehicles that she has managed and help bring to market. As an owner of a Mk4 R32 and a card-carrying hardcore enthusiast, she injects her passion into her work and ensures that us American VW fans receive cars that we can be excited about. If you’re a fan of the manual transmission, you pretty much have her as one of the key people to thank for that still being an option on the modern Golf models.
FCP Euro: Your official title is ‘Volkswagen Golf Product Manager.’ Can you take us behind the scenes a little bit and explain what some of the responsibilities and priorities are in your day to day work?
Megan Closset: It’s probably a bit less glamorous than some people imagine, but at the same time, it is my dream job. I always knew that I would be involved with VWoA in some respect, and I aspired to make that possible beginning with my first “real job” as a Volkswagen Sales Consultant. Anyway, I combine my lifelong passion for the VW brand with some years of dealer knowledge and business acumen to work with every area of VWoA, our factories that build the Golf models, and our business partners in Germany. Whether it’s fighting to make business cases for special models or for saving the manual transmission or conducting day-to-day reviews of product lineups, brochures, and PR releases. Or maybe learning of an issue at the factory with a current model or feature while working on products several years in advance, no two days are ever the same.
FCP Euro: You’re pretty well known as being a true Volkswagen enthusiast. You go to shows, own multiple VWs including a Mk4 R32, and anyone on social media in the VW scene has probably seen you posting and regularly commenting in any number of groups on Facebook, or on Instagram. Where did it start for you, what turned you into a VW fan?
Megan Closset: I love that question because there isn’t really one single answer. You could say I was “branded” into the VW early–my aunt had a Super Beetle, and I have a small burn scar from a hot dome light bulb that fell on me. But to be less philosophical, my dad has always been into cars (even if they’re not German–still working on that…), so I was curious about everything automotive. When I was coming of age as a driver, the Mk4 models had just come out, and I was OBSESSED with the Mk4 Jetta, as well as the B5 Passat. As a 17-year-old, I managed to score my dream car – a Jetta VR6 – with a manual transmission to boot. I guess you can say it all really began there. I’ve owned or leased about 27 VWs since then, and I currently own a Mk4 R32 (Deep Blue Pearl/cloth seats), a 2002 Cabrio GLX (manual), and my current company car is a 2019 Golf Alltrack (manual transmission, Great Falls Green Metallic, and those delicious Marrakesh Brown sport seats). What has always sealed the deal for me on the brand can be boiled down to three things: the way they drive, the passionate community, and the safety of our cars.
FCP Euro: How do you feel you approach things differently compared to other product managers, who don’t necessarily share that same passion?
Megan Closset: I think this question could apply to anyone who is truly passionate about what they do, versus someone who shows up and does their work and goes home, regardless of industry. For me, VW is more than a job. It’s definitely my biggest hobby, and I absolutely love going on cruises with other VWAG-driving friends or heading out to various VW events (Wookies in the Woods and SoWo are my favorites). You can find me poring over eBay, Craigslist, etc. looking at a whole bunch of VWs and Audis I can’t currently buy, but would love the means to. I dream of having a garage or a warehouse that I can fill with my favorite models. I truly believe that this passion and lifestyle benefit me in my career, and I feel fortunate that I’m entrusted with doing everything in my power to represent other VW and Golf Family enthusiasts in the US.
FCP Euro: As enthusiasts, we tend to clamor for things that ‘traditionally’ don’t sell well in The States like performance cars with manual transmissions and wagons, or better yet, performance wagons with manual transmissions. What’s the biggest challenge of being a platform Product Manager when it comes to approaching those niche desires? Is it difficult to check the part of your brain that says “this is going to be cool!” and put the more sales-related and budget-conscious considerations first?
Megan Closset: Wow–if I could be a miracle worker to grant our wishes to have a Gen3 Scirocco, a Golf R wagon, or XYZ that we don’t get here, I would bottle that miracle elixir and sell it! There’s definitely a big check-and-balance you have to do among wishes, realities, and business cases. One thing I wish was a little more understandable outside of the corporate walls was how much we do fight for those cars that seem “unobtanium.” Still, there are legitimately a lot of factors beyond our control, whether it’s US regulations, governmental certification, business cases, etc. But I can promise you there are a LOT of individuals at VWoA who not only are enthusiasts like you and me, but also who want these sweet rides! I’m super proud of how fleshed-out our portfolio has been lately with a balance between performance cars like the GLI, GTI, and Golf R, but also cool SUVs. As much as we want the niche cars, the American public shows the industry how much they also want SUVs. I’m proud that VW caters to both types of customers.
FCP Euro: What are you most proud of in your career thus far at VW?
Megan Closset: Hmm, another good question! From my first years at VWoA, when I worked in our dealer training department, I was really proud to have had the opportunity to interact with dealer employees daily and impart upon them some hopefully useful nuggets of VW product knowledge and customer experience! In my current role, I am pretty proud that I got to interact with each Spektrum Golf R customer in the form of a hand-written note that welcomed them to the VW Spektrum family, and informed them of how limited their car was. I also am pretty happy that I was able to have some influence on offering a manual transmission for every single trim of Mk7 GTI and Alltrack (along with most SportWagen and Golf TSI models, too…and of course, Golf R).
FCP Euro: You are also responsible for the 2019 GTI Rabbit Edition, which came in cool limited colors and with unique options. (I also happen to own one so thanks for making it happen - NB) How difficult is it to bring something like that or the Golf R Spektrum program to the USA market?
Megan Closset: Business case, business case, business case. But also working to convince various departments that this or that special model or special color is going to be a smart investment or something that dealers will accept. Walking the fine line between “safe choice” and “new adventure” is one of the fun challenges a Product Planner gets to face. With Rabbit Edition, we wanted to celebrate the 35th birthday of the GTI in the US. Although I acknowledge we were a year late, I’m happy we were able to bring back the American-market heritage and emotion of the Rabbit, together with the at-home chrome badge and Rabbit decal for customers. With Spektrum VW, Canada was actually the litmus test for this option, beginning with the 2018 model year. Seeing their success, together with the similarities in our Golf R customers, gave me some of the impetus I needed to work on piloting this program for the US Golf R.
FCP Euro: Volkswagen of America was originally going to drop the base model Golf here in the states and only bring in the GTI and R models for the Mk8. Is that still the case?
Megan Closset: I can tell you that the Mk8 GTI and Golf R are confirmed for the US, and they’re going to be amazing in terms of performance, features, transmissions, and more. I love that they’re going “back home” to Wolfsburg because the idea of a more homogenized GTI/Golf R platform across markets can help with future “content sharing.” We still have a super awesome and value-packed Mk7 GTI in the US, and I’m definitely working to make the final GTI have a few special touches.
FCP Euro: The Mk7 GTI and Golf R have been really well received here in the USA, and it’s an undeniably great car, so the Mk8 has a lot to live up to. What can fans of the Mk7 look forward to in the new Mk8 GTI? When can we drive one? :)
Megan Closset: I would tend to agree that the Mk7 has been pretty blockbuster. We saw our greatest sales ever in the US for GTI and Golf R during this generation, we had a true “facelift” for the 2018 model year, and we built an even stronger legion of fans. I am totally confident that the next generation of our performance hatches will take this recipe for success and augment it. From performance to standard and available features, to GTI/Golf R-specific content, and more – the 8th-generation is really going to be awesome. And yes, both a manual and a DSG will be available for both the GTI and the Golf R.
FCP Euro: What do you think enthusiasts here in the states will be most excited to see on the new Mk8 GTI and Golf R? Any chance for a Mk8 GTI Clubsport model with those awesome factory Recaro seats? (please??)
Megan Closset: I wish I had a crystal ball that could predict the future! The outlook for upcoming years is ever-evolving and changing, but one element that will never waver is the undiluted “GTI-ness” or “Golf R-ness” of these cars. While I respect the various other competitive vehicles coming on-line in the market, our hatches have a certain combination of fun, quality, practicality, features, value, and “Fahvergnügen” that I don’t think can be matched. The new cars are going to take that DNA and better it. While I can’t say for sure (because I don’t know) what will come for the entirety of the 8th generation, I’m listening to my heart and to the voices of my fellow enthusiasts to get us the best Golf models possible in the US! I will say the Mk8 Golf R has not yet been fully revealed or shown without some camo, I can tell you that for a fact. Even the “caught testing at the Nürbürgring” photos have some camo…
FCP Euro: As enthusiasts, what will we need to embrace in the coming years? Is it going to be electric vehicles, or do you see something else on the horizon?
Megan Closset: As enthusiasts, I would say we should always try to get behind our favorite brand and speak up for what we want, but also support the past, present, and future. Maybe that’s my overly-biased and “bleeding blue” VW blood speaking, but that’s my belief. Celebrate the heritage of our innovative and special Mk1 GTIs, while driving a current VW and telling your friends and family to do the same. And as the electric vehicle portfolio expands and begins to become more a part of our everyday parlance, I’m confident that EVs can become more equated with everyday performance on the track as well as on the highway (I’m sure my Legal team would tell me to say “always obey posted speed limits” and “modifying vehicles can have an adverse effect on warranty, safety, and reliability”).
FCP Euro: Awesome, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us today. We’re really excited to see what the future holds for the Golf lineup in the USA, but more importantly, thanks for fighting the good fight for all the passionate GTI and R fans out there.
Have a suggestion for who we should interview next? Drop it in the comments below!
FCP Euro's Event Director by day, writer and contributor by night, and wanna-be race car driver on the weekends. Nathan has been working in the VW and Audi performance aftermarket for nearly two decades, and dabbled with Porsche and BMW. He also used to write under the pen-name of Alex Rogan for magazines like Eurotuner, Performance VW, Total 911, and European Car. He has a Cornflower Blue Rabbit Edition GTI daily driver which is surprisingly still mostly stock, and a Mk5 GTI track car which is mostly not. ••• Instagram: @njbrown55