No plans for a VW pickup or return of the Beetle
It does not come as a surprise, but there will be a Jetta GLI, Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of VW North America region, confirmed in a roundtable at the Chicago Auto Show where the automaker unveiled the North American version of the new Arteon midsize hatchback that replaces the CC in the lineup.
It is a natural must for Jetta, Woebcken said. “It fits well to the product and it will happen.”
VW introduced the larger seventh-generation 2019 Jetta last month in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show. It rides on the high-volume MQB platform, is designed to appeal more to families, and is built in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The outgoing A6-generation Jetta soldiered on for seven long model years, largely because of the challenges of launching numerous MQB-based vehicles during the time window when a replacement should have been expected.
Design boss Klaus Bischoff reports that his team is already at work on the next Jetta, which will resume a more normal product cadence. He also noted that the new A7 Jetta neither mimics the current Golf nor does it preview the look of the next Golf. Bischoff assures us the days of a Jetta being a Golf with a trunk are over. This is partially because the two cars have different geographical appeals, with the new sedan selling primarily in China and the Americas, while the hatchback and wagon are tailored to suit European sensibilities.
The regular Jetta has a 1.4-liter turbocharged TSI engine that generates 147 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque and it has an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The expectation is the Volkswagen Jetta GLI would have the automaker’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is in the Jetta GTI but engineered for more output. It could bring back a six-speed manual as well as offer a dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Woebcken said the automaker is looking at different options for performance models across the lineup but there have been no decisions yet and no confirmation of a Jetta R at this point. Should it be approved in the future, it would be a first for the Jetta.
The executive also talked about the new Passat coming in 2019 that will sport a new look, distinct from the outgoing model and the Jetta. It will continue to be built in Chattanooga.
Also among the reported 56 products being prepared for launch globally by 2025 are two more crossovers bound for North America: a compact and a midsize to double down on the success of the Tiguan and Atlas. One will be a five-passenger, two-row version of the Atlas due in the coming year and the other could be a variant of the Tiguan. The Atlas is built in Chattanooga and the Tiguan is made in Puebla, Mexico.
A new Touareg will be shown in April at the Beijing auto show in China, but as we previously reported, that model has been discontinued in the U.S.
There are no plans to add a pickup. The big volume is in full-size trucks and “we don’t have anything in our toolbox to go after it,” said Woebcken. VW has platforms that could be used for a compact pickup but the smaller volumes in this segment do not make a strong business case. “The numbers are small, not convincing. We could do it but it’s not a priority.”
Nor are there plans to bring back the Beetle, an emotional car but not practical with only two doors. If it did come back, it could reinvent itself as a fully electric car.
As it works to transform its lineup and get past the diesel scandal, VW has promised at least two new products a year. In 2017 it was the all-new Atlas and repositioned Tiguan with third-row seating. This year it is the Jetta and Arteon.
Overall, Woebcken thinks the VW portfolio is complete for the short- and mid-term.
VW has said its goal is to be the largest manufacturer of electric vehicles by 2025, and its strategy involves the return of the Microbus on the new MEB platform designed for EVs. Woebcken thinks 10 percent of industry car sales will be electric by 2025. And he says the electric vehicles will make money in their first generation.
Sales are on the rise. While industry sales in the U.S. were down 1.8 percent in 2017, VW sales were up 5.2 percent. Given that sales increases are in the double digits in other parts of the world, Woebcken sees North America as ripe with potential to gain sales and market share.
Even the aftermath of the diesel scandal, which came to light in the fall of 2015 and has cost the automaker about $30 billion USD to date, is ahead of schedule. Woebcken said the target was to fix or buy back 85 percent of affected vehicles by the end of this year and the efforts have already exceeded that. The fixed vehicles are being resold, but are being released slowly so there is not a glut of them on the market which would damage their residual value. Some older models are just being scrapped.
Frank Markus contributed to this post