Volkswagen will address a significant hole in its line-up with the addition of a seven-seat family SUV to be built in the United States from the end of 2016 — but whether we will see it emerge in Australia remains unclear.
Today’s announcement comes as small surprise, but confirms the company will at last move towards offering a high-riding soft-roader with three rows of seats, a feature its Touareg lacks.
The seven-seat SUV will be the production version of the CrossBlue concept revealed way back in January 2013 at the Detroit motor show. It will likely be spun-off a stretched version of the versatile MQB ‘toolkit’ architecture that underpins the Golf, and also the next Tiguan and Passat.
The project will see $900 million of investment poured into Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant in Tennessee, which also builds the US market Passat. This factory expansion will create 2000 new jobs, Volkswagen says.
Indeed, the seven-seater is one of a raft of imminent new Volkswagen SUVs on their way to market in coming years to join the second-generation Tiguan (which will offer significantly more cargo space than the current car) and Touareg.
On the agenda for the company beyond the CrossBlue are the Taigun city SUV and the targa-roofed T-Roc sporty urban crossover, which Volkswagen AG board member Heinz-Jakob Neußer recently confirmed to this reporter would enter production in similar guise to the wild concept.
From an Australian perspective, however, the situation is not so clear. Despite having its figurative hand firmly in the air for the car, Volkswagen’s local arm says the car is no sure-thing to enter right-hand-drive production.
As Toyota found when sourcing its new Kluger from the US, convincing a parent company to produce a car in RHD for the relatively small volume it would yield — LHD China and the US will make up the great bulk of sales — is a tough assignment.
Volkswagen Australia general manager of communications Karl Gehling told CarAdvice today that the situation with the 'CrossBlue' was unchanged and that it was “awaiting with interest” — in other words, the company wants it but is not clear on whether it will receive it.
“Obviously we see a position in our line-up for a seven-seat SUV and thats why we’re very keen to take this if available, but at this stage it’s not available, so we have to just continue to express our interest,” Gehling said.
The large SUV segment is a significant one in Australia. One in ten of all new vehicles sold here between January and June (or just shy of 55,000 units total) was a large SUV such as the Jeep Great Cherokee, Ford Territory, Toyota Kluger, Nissan Pathfinder, Holden Captiva 7 and Toyota Prado.