Volkswagen of America Inc. stands by the selection of Routan as the name of the auto maker’s new minivan, despite some dealers’ reservations over the moniker.

It’s “very natural when you have 600 dealers (to have) different points of view,” a VW spokesman says.

While most dealers contacted by Ward’s say they are just happy to have a new product to drive traffic into their showrooms, some are bewildered over VW’s naming strategy.

“The names (are) consistently insane,” says a U.S. dealer, who asks to remain anonymous. “First we get Touareg, which is crazy, and now Routan, which is equally crazy,” he says, adding dealers thought the auto maker was veering away from unusual monikers when they renamed the Golf small car the Rabbit in 2006. “We thought they were getting back on the road to sanity.”

Introducing a new name always stirs controversy, the VW spokesman says, noting when the Passat and Jetta were introduced dealers had a similar reaction.

VW says the name Routan is derived from the word “route” and the suffix “-an,” which is in line with the naming strategy used for VW’s European vans, the Touran and Sharan, that are not available in the U.S.

“The main thing for us is the first part is ‘route,’ which connotes what’s most important,” the spokesman says.

The Routan will be built at Chrysler LLC’s plant in Windsor, ON, Canada, home to the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan. The Chrysler minivans, reengineered for ’08, will share underpinnings with the VW model by virtue of a 2006 agreement between the two auto makers.

Naming aside, the spokesman says the Routan represents a “great opportunity in a segment with (sales of) 900,000 (units) a year.”

It’s a “white space on our product map, and (it will) bring more people into the showroom,” he says. “In some ways, the naming is secondary.”

The Routan officially will be unveiled at next month’s Chicago auto show and is slated to hit dealerships later this year.

bpope@wardsauto.com