Chas Hallett blog: VW bids to conquer America
Unlike Jettas in the US, which get simpler rear suspension set-ups than the European versions, the new American Passat has a multi-link rear suspension that’s similar to the models sold in the UK. Every body panel has been changed, though, and the dashboard, door trims and major switchgear is all new.
The decision to localise production at a facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, should allow VW to trim several thousand dollars off the starter price. The firm estimates that entry-level variants will cost from $20,000 (£12,850).
Browning is also considering the possibility of selling smaller cars, such as the Polo. “A Polo for the USA is a possibility for the future, but it’s not in current plans. Though it does depend on gas prices and US economy regulations, I would like to extend the range down and up,” he said.
Any future US VW is likely to be made in America to offset currency fluctuations. Company insiders believe that a larger SUV could be built at the same Tennessee factory as the Passat. The plant currently has a capacity to build 150,000 cars per year, but with extensions that could be pushed to 500,000, according to plant boss Frank Fischer.
Read Autocar's first drive of the new European VW Passat
Three engines will be offered in the US Passat. The base unit is a 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol motor producing 168bhp at 5700rpm. With a manual transmission it can take the Passat to 60mph in 8.2sec; the more likely choice for US buyers, a six-speed auto, does the same in 8.7sec.
The other petrol motor is a 3.6-litre six-cylinder unit with 276bhp at 6200rpm and 258lb ft of torque. It gets a DSG dual-clutch gearbox as standard and can reach 60mph in 6.5sec.
The oil-burner option is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder common-rail turbodiesel producing 138bhp. VW claims it can go from 0-60mph in 9.3sec, return 43mpg and travel for around 800 miles on a single tank.
Read more a hybrid version of the new VW saloon
Although the regular Passat saloon has been adapted specifically for American buyers, the CC ‘coupé’ version is considered a success in the US, so it will continue to be sold in its current form.
Expansions for VW in America will not include introducing European brands such as Skoda and Seat. Browning has ruled out either being transferred, on grounds on cost and viability. It's also unlikely that any US-made VW will make its way to Europe, although the new Passat or SUV could be sold in other markets.
John McIlroy and Chas Hallett
See all the latest VW Passat reviews, news and video