Volkswagen has started work on a line-up of five new SUVs aimed directly at the US market.
The plans for the SUVs, most of which will end up for sale in global markets, were revealed to Autocar by VW board member and technical chief Heinz-Jakob Neusser at the recent New York show.
Neusser, who is responsible for ‘brand and development’, said VW would build three new mainstream SUVs and at least two “coupé versions” of those same models.
The move comes on the back of another bad year for the VW brand in the US as it tries to make headway in America’s booming new car market. Last year VW sales in the US fell by around 10% to just under 367,000 units, despite the US market being up by 6%.
The company now believes that it has a future product in the pipeline that will appeal to a US market that is shifting rapidly to crossovers and SUVs.
Neusser said he had travelled to meet US dealers last year, bringing a number of future VW production models with him. It was at that meeting that the dealers laid out their request for as many new SUV models as possible.
Work on the production version of the five-metre-long, seven-seat CrossBlue SUV, which will be built at VW’s new factory in Tennessee, is already under way. A sportier version, previewed by the CrossBlue Coupé, is also in development.
Both cars will be built on the longest version of the new MQB platform, making them around 250mm longer than the new Passat Estate and longer even than the new Skoda Superb. The CrossBlue would, however, be positioned below the next-generation Touareg.
The CrossBlue is expected to appear later next year. There is no news yet on whether it will be offered for sale in Europe, although importing it from the US would be entirely feasible. Both Mercedes-Benz and BMW build big SUVs at their southern US plants and export them worldwide.
Indeed, Volkswagen has just been granted permission to significantly extend its Chattanooga factory, adding 130,000sq ft as part of a £600 million investment, according to local press reports.
Next in the new VW SUV range will be a replacement for the Tiguan based on the long-wheelbase Golf platform. Neusser said the new car will be long enough to accommodate three rows of seats and is expected to begin production late next year. Unlike the five-seat Tiguan, however, this larger model is unlikely to be sold in Europe.
A more sportily styled version of the new Tiguan is also planned, with both cars set to be exported from VW’s plant in Puebla, Mexico.
The third SUV model line was described by Neusser as the “Polo SUV”, which indicates that it will be part of the new Polo family due in spring next year. This will be a key model for VW in the European market.
While the likely styling of the new baby SUV was previewed by the Taigun concept, there will be two significant differences. Firstly, the Taigun concept was just 3.86m long, because it was based on the Up city car, and secondly it had a three-door body.
The production Taigun will be a five-door model (the three-door Polo body is being dropped on the next-generation model) and around 4.1m long, making it a direct competitor for the successful Nissan Juke.
Other product actions planned to shore up VW in the US will include a major overhaul for the US-market Passat later this year.
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