The Volkswagen Scirocco and Volkswagen Beetle have both been axed from the brand’s line-up, with special edition models of each to see those cars out.
But does this signal a move away from niche models from the German maker? The fact it is killing off two gap-fillers that fall outside of the conventional model lines suggest as much.
But Volkswagen Australia managing director Michael Bartsch said it’s just part of the cycle of new models – and that niche models may not be done with forever.
“Product ranges are always being recalibrated. Volkswagen is going through a recalibration phase right now for all the obvious reasons,” he said in reference to the emissions issues the brand has been embroiled in, and the company’s resulting push for more hybrid and electric cars.
“But niche vehicles are always going to be important in terms of managing life-cycles, positioning the brand – and I think just because we’re pulling the Beetle and Scirocco out of the market now, don’t take that as a bellwether that the future won’t hold niche models,” Bartsch said.
“They’re an important part of brand positioning, and I’m pretty certain that Volkswagen will always have niche models in one form or another,” he said.
What about those hybrids and EVs, though? Will Australian buyers get a chance to buy one of the plug-in hybrid GTE sporty models that are available in Europe, or perhaps even a pure electric model?
Pictured: Volkswagen Passat GTE
“Not soon,” according to Bartsch. “Volkswagen at the moment is working on a plan that takes them out to 2025. And I think you’ll find that we will really get that ramp up in electric vehicles from probably around 2019-2020.
“You’ve got to understand that the development phase of a model, particularly when you have such large amounts of new technology – as you will have in the next-generation of electric vehicles – it takes some time to bring it to market,” he said. “So I think you’ll see that really big change starting to come in 2020.
“That doesn’t mean that we won’t have variants of electric hybrids or something like that. But at the moment – and I can talk very clear in the next 18 months, we won’t be bringing anything in,” he said.
The brand will, though, push its SUV cause in the next two-and-a-half years, confirming two new small SUVs plus a larger SUV to sit above the recently launched Tiguan.