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VW's first competitive EVs looming

4 min read
Editor’s note: This story is part of the annual Automotive News “Future Product Pipeline” series.

After years of waiting, Volkswagen’s first competitive battery-electric vehicle, the Tiguan-size ID4 compact crossover, will make its way to U.S. showrooms beginning late this year and spreading across the dealer network in the first half of 2021.

The ID4 will be followed by other battery-electrics eventually, but other than the ID Buzz microbus, just what shape those electric vehicles will take for U.S. consumers remains undetermined, as Volkswagen continues to distance itself from its diesel emissions scandal.

Elsewhere in its lineup, the German mass-market brand will expand its subcompact crossover offerings this fall with a vehicle that will slot beneath the Tiguan in price. Meanwhile, its legacy lineup of sedans and hatchbacks is likely to shrink further as the brand focuses its resources on the Jetta and Arteon, and only certain performance flavors of the next-generation Golf.

Volkswagen dealers’ desires for a pickup don’t look likely to be satiated soon, unless the brand can convince Germany that an EV-powered subcompact pickup could fill a niche.

GTI/Golf R: The eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf arrives in the U.S. in the second half of 2021, but only in two versions: the GTI and the high-performance Golf R. The redesigned GTI will sport a mildly retuned version of the current car’s turbocharged 2.0-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine. The motor is now rated at 241 hp, up 13 hp over the 2020 GTI. Two transmissions will be available: a six-speed manual and an optional seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic.

Jetta: A freshened Jetta compact sedan is set to arrive in U.S. dealerships in the second half of 2021. It will then be due for a redesign in 2024, based on Volkswagen’s traditional product cadence.

Passat: Freshened in 2019, the Passat is likely to be discontinued in the U.S. as sedan sales continue to plunge. When that will be depends largely on when its current production capacity in Chattanooga is needed.

Arteon: A freshened Arteon sedan will begin showing up in U.S. showrooms in late 2020. VW redesigned the Arteon’s cockpit, improved driver-assistance content, upgraded cabin materials and enhanced the infotainment offering — including a new audio partnership with Harman Kardon. Trim levels in the U.S. have been simplified and reduced to three: SE, SEL R-Line, and SEL Premium R-Line.

Subcompact crossover: Likely to be called the Taos, Volkswagen’s new subcompact crossover will arrive in showrooms in the U.S. in the first half of 2021. Based on the Tarek, a subcompact pickup VW plans to sell in South America, the Taos is to be built in Puebla, Mexico. It would be due for a freshening in 2024, based on Volkswagen’s traditional product cadence in the U.S.

Tiguan: A freshened Tiguan, the Volkswagen’s top-selling model in the U.S., will arrive in the U.S. in 2021 with styling updates and an improved infotainment system. The following year, the Tiguan will be reengineered to receive a new 1.5-liter I-4 engine for improved fuel efficiency and power. The Tiguan is to be redesigned in 2024, based on Volkswagen’s traditional product schedule.

Atlas/Atlas Cross Sport: Fresh off the introduction this year of the two-row Atlas Cross Sport and the midcycle freshening of the three-row Atlas, Volkswagen’s larger-crossover family is due to receive a freshening, including an all new interior, in 2023.

ID4: The first Volkswagen ID4 compact crossover battery-electric will arrive in the United States at the end of 2020, and should be in most VW dealerships in the first half of 2021. Built on the modular MEB electric platform, and assembled initially in Germany, the ID4 will have a range of up to 311 miles on a single charge, based on the larger 82 kWh batteries in the first versions. Local production of the ID4 is slated to begin in 2022 in Tennessee, and is likely to bring a price cut and a smaller battery.

ID Buzz: The retro-styled homage to the venerated Volkswagen Microbus of yore is finally due to arrive in the U.S. in 2023, some five years after the concept was shown. The Buzz concept remains popular, and Volkswagen recently announced plans to overhaul its plant in Hamburg, Germany, to begin producing it.

U.S. EV: Volkswagen has promised its dealers a third MEB-based battery-electric to go along with the ID4 and the Buzz in 2024, but what top hat that vehicle will ultimately wear remains undetermined. It could end up as a midsize pickup, or it could be the Golf-size ID3 hatchback from Europe, which would be due for a product freshening at that point and could be homologated for sale in the U.S.

Midsize pickup: While Volkswagen of America executives and dealers would love to bring a compact or midsize pickup to new-vehicle lots, there are few choices within the Volkswagen global product portfolio to do so, especially now that Ford and VW have signed an agreement to use the global Ranger platform to replace the VW Amarok outside North America. That leaves only a car-based unibody pickup or an EV pickup as the alternative to accomplish that quest, with an MEB-based EV as the leading favorite right now to make it to dealership lots by 2024.

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