Volkswagen of America president and CEO Michael Horn expects that the forthcoming Golf SportWagen (replacing the Jetta SportWagen and pictured above as a concept) will outsell the regular Golf hatchback, despite the U.S. market’s general distaste for station wagons. That’s due in part to the fact that the new wagon will offer all-wheel drive when it goes on sale here.
Horn told AUTOMOBILE at the 2014 Los Angeles auto show that the Jetta SportWagen has an extremely loyal fan base, and that he thinks adding all-wheel-drive to the new Golf SportWagen (based on the seventh-generation, 2015 Volkswagen Golf hatchback) will give the SportWagen a unique appeal. He thinks many crossover buyers could be swayed to tried a Volkswagen wagon instead, because there are few all-wheel-drive wagons in the car’s price range (Horn dismisses Subaru when we note the Japanese brand sells all-wheel-drive wagons here). It was previously unclear whether the earlier Golf SportWagen’s 4Motion would actually reach production in the U.S.; Volkswagen plans to add 4Motion capabilities at its Puebla, Mexico, plant before the SportWagen launches.
Currently, 50 percent of all Golf family sales in the U.S. are of the All-Stars-winning 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI, the gas-powered Golf TSI accounts for 20 percent of all sales, and the Golf TDI is at a 30-percent take rate. But once the SportWagen launches, Volkswagen officials expect it to outsell all versions of the Golf hatchback combined.
Horn, along with Volkswagen board member for development Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neusser, also revealed some timing details on other future Volkswagen models. By 2017 or 2018, the Volkswagen Jetta and Passat sedans will both have switched to the new MQB architecture used for the 2015 Golf (as well as the Audi A3 and others). The next-gen Volkswagen Beetle will also switch to MQB construction, but Neusser hints the car’s days are numbered: “It will be one of the final ones.”
For the U.S. market, Horn and Neussuer say Volkswagen still plans to start production of its new three-row midsize crossover at the Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant by the end of 2016 so the car will go on sale by Q1 2017. A new version of the Tiguan compact crossover (also based on the aforementioned MQB platform) is under development and will launch in 2017 as a 2017.5 model.
“The Tiguan for the U.S. is a little bit larger than the one for Europe,” Neusser says, but he won’t be drawn on whether there are any other differences between the two versions. “If we tell you know exactly everything, then we have nothing to tell when we bring the new car to market.”
Having already shot down rumors that the Volkswagen Golf R Variant will be sold in the U.S., officials had a more optimistic tone about the wild, 395-hp Golf R 400 concept shown earlier this year in China. Though there is no official confirmation, Volkswagen could one day put the car into production — at least in Europe.
“We first need to make the final decision to produce it, and when we will produce it, I think each market will be interested to have it,” Neusser says. “There is really a broad fan base in the customers worldwide that wants to have the most powerful Golf which we can produce. Since the emotional factor in such a car has an image improvement, we are also interested to have it in each market.”
There’s also no firm answer as to whether the next iteration of the high-end Volkswagen Phaeton luxury sedan will return to America.
“We would love to have the car and we’re working on it,” says Horn, but the, “Final decision hasn’t been made.”
“[The Phaeton] is not so interesting from the sales number side, but it’s important and interesting from the image side, because the Phaeton is the highest image and highest quality car which we have in the brand,” Neusser adds. “For that also it’s important to look for the U.S. market.”