Volkswagen’s Australian division desperately needs a small crossover to rival the Mazda CX-3 and Nissan Qashqai, and it has the perfect new model waiting in the wings – potentially.
The chic little Volkswagen T-Roc made its official premiere this week at the Frankfurt motor show ahead of a rollout across Europe beginning from November.
The oddly-named high-riding hatch, based on a similar version of the stretchable MQB architecture as the new 2018 Polo hatch and Audi Q2, will slot into the Volkswagen range below the 250mm-longer Tiguan.
However, there’s a slight problem – there’s no clear timing on its Australian premiere.
Volkswagen’s local team have admitted there’s no guarantee it’ll show up before the end of 2018, though its product planning team is understood to be pushing its German HQ hard on the issue. This is a real problem, because it needs the car yesterday.
“At this stage we can’t give you an update on when it’s coming,” a senior Volkswagen Australia executive told us this week.
Reading between the lines, Volkswagen’s global management drastically underestimated the worldwide demand for the little crossover, to be built in Portugal alongside the Volkswagen Sharan and Seat Alhambra people-movers.
Countries all over the world – aside, in large part, for the US – are growing ever hungrier for small SUVs. In Australia this segment now has 9.5 per cent share of the overall market, and the Mazda CX-3, Nissan Qashqai, Mitsubishi ASX and Honda HR-V all average 1000 or more sales every month apiece.
By missing out on this market, Volkswagen Australia is losing potential sales.
To put it another way, while the Australian market excluding commercial vehicles is now divided into roughly 50 per cent SUVs and 50 per cent passenger cars by sales, Volkswagen’s ratio is more like 28:72. The company’s overall market share is 4.8 per cent, but its share of the SUV market is just 2.9 per cent.
However, there’s light at the end of the tunnel for the local arm. Volkswagen’s member of the board of management for sales and marketing Jürgen Stackmann admitted to us this week that the company had already decided to triple T-Roc production before the factory line even began, to 200,000 units annually.
There’s no doubt this will help Australia’s cause.
Stackmann also conceded that Volkswagen has been lamentably slow to join the worldwide SUV boom, though said this was being rectified with the T-Roc, Tiguan Allspace seven-seater derivative (due on sale in March here), Atlas/Teramont full-size SUVs, plus the new T-Cross baby crossover and next-generation Touareg both due in 2018.
There’s also the just-previewed I.D Crozz pure electric crossover SUV that’ll go on sale in 2020 priced similarly to a top-end Tiguan (pictured below).
Volkswagen T-Roc details