The niche car is important to the brand’s image
The 2019 Volkswagen Arteon is a sedan, says its designer. It’s a four-door coupe, says the CEO for North America. It’s a hatchback, says Motor Trend. The hinge is above the windshield.
However you refer to it, the Arteon is a niche vehicle that Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of the NA region, says is a “global pinnacle” positioned above the Passat. He sees it as a styling flagship that will help shape the brand. It’s also a global vehicle that is already on sale in Europe. VW used the Chicago Auto Show to debut the North American version that goes on sale this fall.
The R-Line will be at the New York auto show with a more aggressive and pronounced front end.
The Arteon is the “virtual successor to the CC,” Woebcken says, given that the CC was a four-passenger vehicle and the Arteon is substantially longer—the wheelbase grew by more than five inches—as well as wider with short overhangs. The new dimensions provide the interior room for the Arteon to be a five-passenger vehicle.
VW can afford to do the low-volume vehicle because it uses the high-volume MQB architecture that provides savings through economies of scale.
Pricing has not been released but Woebcken says it will be an affordable premium vehicle and compete with a fully loaded midsize sedan. It will be available in three trim levels: SE, SEL, and SEL Premium.
The result is a strange dichotomy of premium and cost savings. The Arteon has heated, ventilated, and massaging seats. But it also has a lot of hard-looking black plastic on the dash, doors, and center console.
For North America there is one engine: the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder TSI unit that generates 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. “This one engine is more than enough,” says Woebcken. All-wheel drive is optional.
There are no plans to electrify the Arteon for the time being, said the CEO.
Klaus Bischoff, head of VW design, likes the Arteon’s unique face with the front headlights integrated into the grille and the wraparound hood that used to be something only for show cars but can now be put into production. The hatchback also has an understated rear spoiler.
Asked about the liberal use of hard-looking plastics in the interior, Bischoff said the need to be affordable premium required cost savings and soft plastics are double the cost.
The Arteon is built in Emden, Germany.
Woebcken said the creation of the Arteon shows VW’s commitment to playing in different segments of the market. And while VW is consciously branching out into more crossovers, it believes it still needs passenger cars to be a volume automaker. But in a truck-buying world, VW is at a disadvantage with 25 percent of its sales in SUVs and 75 percent in cars. “We think soon we will have 50-50.”