Up until now, if you wanted an SUV with seven seats and a Volkswagen badge, you were out of luck — both of the brand’s SUVs, the Touareg and the Tiguan, only seat five. Now, though, VW has finally officially confirmed what it’s teased for months — the addition of a mid-size, seven-seat crossover based on the CrossBlue Concept.
While VW has confirmed production — and that it will be built in Chattanooga, Tenn. — it still hasn’t talked about specifics, probably in a bid to keep interest up. All we know is that it will seat seven and launch by the end of 2016, and it will create about 2,000 jobs at the Chattanooga plant.
What does this mean for both VW and mid-size SUV buyers? Well, for one thing, it offers buyers one more choice in a crowded class that includes the Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, Hyundai Santa Fe, Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, Nissan Pathfinder, and others. Given that both the Tiguan and Touareg are getting old and lack seven seats, it makes sense that VW would jump into a competitive segment.
“It’s a big chunk of the market, but VW doesn’t really play there,” Tom Libby, Manager, Loyalty Solutions and Industry Analysis for industry analysis firm IHS, said. “Having a seven-passenger vehicle will fill a big hole for VW. It will be a big help, and they need that.”
Libby noted that the Touareg and Tiguan are not just dated, but also not particularly competitive.
Volkswagen is undoubtedly late to the game, and it will take almost two more years before the as-yet-unnamed SUV reaches the market. But once it does, Volkswagen will finally have a product available to offer its Passat and Jetta owners when they decide they need/want a larger SUV. Otherwise, VW risks losing those customers to competing brands.
Of course, since it’s arriving to the segment so late, VW might need to do something distinctive to stand out, such as bringing the diesel-electric hybrid powertrain from the concept to production. That’s unlikely, of course, but it would draw attention.
If the SUV market remains hot in two years, and the price, powertrains, and fuel economy are right, VW has a decent chance of catching up. And if the Touareg and Tiguan can get reinvigorated with redesigns along the way, Volkswagen will be much better prepared to accomplish its goal of becoming the world’s largest automaker, although it might not do it by 2018 like it wants to.
Mainstream automakers need to offer strong products in the compact and mid-size SUV segments in order to capture as many buyers as possible. It’s a bit late, but VW appears to have learned that lesson.