Thanks to the recession, Volkswagen's corporate lips have stopped muttering outrageous sales goals, but a product offensive to significantly boost North American sales is under way. The strategy is simple: Americans love big, inexpensive cars, and our painfully slow highway speeds mean that most of us don't need cutting-edge suspension technology. To that end, we'll see two slightly watered-down sedans specific to North America and a stretched-wheelbase Tiguan. Should small cars continue to grow in popularity, a Polo sedan will slot in beneath the Jetta.
The Next Jetta
When: Fall 2010
Heading Backward: And not in a bad way: the Mark 6 Jetta harks back to the 1999-2005 fourth-generation edition--both in its torsion-beam rear suspension and its gotta-have-it styling.
Europeans much prefer the hatchback Golf, but the Jetta has been VW's money-maker in the U.S. since its introduction. And this time around, VW is finally giving our market a careful look. All previous Jettas have been a Golf with a trunk, but the 2011 Jetta takes a slightly different direction than the hatchback. Moving interior space and low cost up on the priorities list, the Jetta returns to the torsion-beam rear suspension used by the first four generations. This change saves some money, helping to bring the Jetta's price down from the top of its class. Engines will remain the same--a 2.5-liter five-cylinder as the base engine and a 2.0-liter turbo-diesel as the frugal choice. A hybrid version will follow shortly thereafter, and if you cross your fingers, possibly a sporty GLI, using the GTI's 2.0-liter turbo.
Shown here in concept form, the Bluesport previews a mid-engine sports car shared with Audi and Porsche.
New New Beetle
What: A far less bubbly replacement for the aging New Beetle.
What: Late 2011
No More Daisies: As the corporate machine tried to decide between front-, mid-, and rear-engine layouts, the current New Beetle slowly slipped into retirement. The decision is now in, and the Mexico-built Beetle -- based on the same basic front-engine chassis -- returns for the 2012 model year. Gone are the flowery curves, replaced with more macho looks to appeal to a more masculine audience. Or at least a less feminine one.
What: A Passat replacement sized for, priced to, and built by Americans.
What's The Big Deal? Its big size, and the fact that it'll also be priced significantly lower than the current Passat. Built in Tennessee specifically for the U.S. mid-size market, the NMS (a code name) takes direct aim at the most successful and well-established players from around the world -- and it will finally be able to compete on price. That leaves the current Passat extinct, except for the low-roofed CC, which carries the torch as the VW brand's halo sedan. At least for now.
China's Geely is clearly in the honeymoon phase with its newly acquired Swedish bride. The company has lofty goals of growth centered on its home market, including a Beijing factory capable of turning out 300,000 Volvos annually. The March purchase, though, shouldn't have any effect on the autumn 2010 arrival of the S60 sedan. That car features a 300-hp, turbo in-line six and a pedestrian-detection system that can slow or stop the car before a collision. There's an upcoming wagon variant called the V60, but Volvo has no plans to sell it in the U.S. as buyers favor the XC60, XC70, and XC90 crossovers.