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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Volkswagen’s Next Goals for the U.S.: a Three-Row SUV and a Subcompact

April 21, 2011 at 4:54pm by Justin Berkowitz

2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI

Several years go, Volkswagen’s execs decided it was no longer acceptable to be a bit player in the U.S. market. The new Jetta and Passat, and the Passat’s factory in Tennessee, show how the company is pursuing massive growth here: cheap, boring-as-ice-cubes cars. The new Jetta is coming off of a tremendous sales month, and the Passat is moments away from launch here.

To further expand in the U.S., the company needs SUVs. And its executives know this. We spoke with Jonathan Browning, the head of VW’s U.S. operations, and he was clear that he’d like to see VeeDub selling a crossover—almost definitely with three rows of seats—in the States as soon as the company can. Unlike the Touareg, which serves as a sort of halo product for VW here, the new three-row ute would be targeted at mainstream models like the Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer. It would have to be priced appropriately if it wants to compete with those offerings and others, and VW knows this.

Also a Polo, But Not a Polo

We also asked about VW offering a subcompact car in the U.S. The company’s Polo slots below the Golf around the world, and it’s a well-regarded (though slightly uninspiring), well-built, efficient vehicle. Volkswagen is definitely interested in selling a sub-Golf car on these shores, but made it clear that the current Polo is out of the question, since it wasn’t engineered for the U.S. market. If VW does offer such a car here, our guess is that the model would be more like the company’s American-optimized products like the Jetta and Passat than the Euro ones, like the Golf and CC.

Tags: Volkswagen, Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Jetta, Volkswagen Polo, Volkswagen Touareg |

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