“Limited” growth expected in U.S. for VW

Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn said the company expects only “limited” growth until the German automaker can bring new SUV and CUV models to market in the coming years.

In an interview with Reuters, Horn called VW’s ambitious goal of 800,000 annual U.S. sales “a relevant objective” but downplayed its importance in terms of Volkswagen’s long-term strategy in the U.S. market. In the interim, VW will focus on defending its existing market share in the United States.

“[I]f you just focus on one year and one number you would do crazy things, so the most important thing is to have a long-term strategy,” he told the German wire service.

Volkswagen has been widely criticized for failing to anticipate America’s shift back toward larger vehicles in the climate of economic recovery, but new product is in the pipeline. As many as five new CUV/SUV offerings are on the way, and they are expected to give the automaker’s North American arm a much-needed boost.

Scheduled to land next year, the first crossover will be a seven-seater model that will stretch nearly 200 inches long. It will essentially be a toned-down version of the CrossBlue concept that was presented to the public at the 2013 Detroit Motor Show.

A five-seater version of the CrossBlue will follow shortly after. Inspired by the CrossBlue Coupe that was presented in Shanghai two years ago, the crossover will cater to buyers who want a sportier and less utilitarian-looking large crossover. It will ride on Volkswagen’s MQB platform, and it will share the bulk of its engines with its seven-seater counterpart.

Moving down, the next-gen Tiguan will be about ten inches longer than the current model but about a foot shorter than the five-seater CrossBlue. A sportier-looking version of the Tiguan will join the lineup shortly after the regular model bows in 2017, but details are currently vague at best.

At the bottom end of the spectrum, Volkswagen will build a Polo-sized crossover aimed right at the Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V, among others. Whether this tiny CUV will make it to the United States is still a matter of speculation.

The two big crossovers will be built alongside the Passat in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Tiguan will be assembled in Puebla, Mexico. Both facilities are being overhauled to increase capacity.

Volkswagen’s Chattanooga factory expansion could create approximately 9,800 jobs in Tennessee, according to a study forecasting potential direct and indirect economic impacts in the state.

The company will add more than a half million square feet to the existing plant, with major expansion of the assembly, body and paint shops. A new warehouse will also be built on the site. The investment required to complete the expansion will top $1 billion. Construction began in February.

CrossBlue photos by Chris Doane. GTE Cross Coupe photos by Brian Williams.

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