VW Plans Double Assault On American SUV Market

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The big news stemming from North American International Auto Show in Detroit was the fact that Volkswagen now plans to introduce a long-wheelbase version of its Tiguan mid-sized SUV in 2017 and that it will be built in North America, as announced by Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn. It will be the second prong of what Winterkorn promised would be “the biggest SUV offensive in the company’s history.”

The first prong is the new seven-seat SUV model that VW already has said it will begin building at its plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, next year. A “forerunner” of that model, the Cross Coupe GTE (see above), was on display at the Detroit show.

Volkswagen Group U.S. chief Michael Horn pointed out that VW is on the rise again in the U.S. market. For one thing, the American-market launch of the seventh-generation version of the Volkswagen Golf and sporty GTI subcompacts last year have become a rousing success, with Golf gaining lots of superlative third-party endorsements and being named the North American Car of the Year at the Detroit show.

What’s more, the popularity of Golf helped raise the overall trend in Volkswagen’s U.S. sales toward the end of the year. Thanks also to the appeal of a facelifted new Jetta compact sedan, Volkswagen sales rose by 15 percent in the last three months of 2014 compared with a year earlier.

Horn also predicted that the launch this year of a new Golf R version, as well as overhauls of the Touareg SUV and Sportwagen model, would further boost U. S. sales, as well as a “very much refreshed version of the Passat mid-size sedan in the fourth quarter. Passat is the VW made in Tennessee.

Over the somewhat longer term, Horn expressed optimism that Volkswagen in the United States also would be boosted by the company’s decision “to reduce the life cycle of our cars from seven years to five years.”