Go where the growth is – that’s the clear objective for Volkswagen Australia, with the brand confirming it will offer a range of new SUVs in the coming years as high-riding models reach new heights in terms of popularity.
The SUV segment is up 13.8 per cent so far in 2015, and so far this year SUVs have accounted for 34.5 per cent of all vehicles sold in Australia. It’s clear from the numbers, though, that Volkswagen hasn’t been enjoying as much success in that segment of the market as it could be if it had more models available.
The German brand has only two proper SUVs in its ranks – the Tiguan and the much larger Touareg – and while the bigger model has seen solid sales growth on the back of a recent upgrade (1346 sales, up 56.0 per cent; pictured below), the smaller Tiguan is down 4.2 per cent in a part of the market that is up a staggering 23.3 per cent (3526 sales YTD).
That segment is officially known as Small SUVs according to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries' data, and while the Tiguan blurs the lines between small and medium, there are newcomers that are kicking plenty of goals in the city-friendly crossover class, such as the Honda HR-V (5191 sales since February) and Mazda CX-3 (4281 sales since March).
With an all-new Tiguan expected to be revealed later this year before going on sale in Australia in 2016, Volkswagen should be able to boost its SUV sales significantly – particularly given the new model will be offered in both five- and seven-seat body styles. It’s more likely to sit in the Medium SUV segment, though - you can see why by checking out the image below of a prototype model spotted testing this year.
Volkswagen Group Australia managing director John White told CarAdvice at the launch of the new Skoda Fabia this week that the brand looks forward to offering buyers more choice.
“Tiguan will have what we call a normal wheelbase, which is longer than the current generation of Tiguan, and it will have a longer wheelbase optional seven-seat, similar to what [will happen with] Skoda,” White said.
According to White, there’s another SUV that will sit below the new-generation Tiguan and will likely compete with the current crop of small SUVs such as the aforementioned HR-V and CX-3, along with the Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur, and the soon-to-arrive Suzuki Vitara, Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade.
“Under [Tiguan] we’re looking at something,” White said, going as far as to suggest that it's unavoidable for a major manufacturer to not have an offering in that segment. “[The new small SUV] hasn’t been announced yet, but obviously we need to come down to a smaller size, different segment.”
But White also suggested there’s a gap to be filled above the Tiguan but below the Touareg, albeit by a model that will appeal more to certain buyers after something stylish rather than highly functional.
“Then we’ll have that Cross Coupe, which we showed I think in Shanghai two years ago. That’s going to be the more luxury derivative,” he said, but he didn’t offer any suggestion on when we may see such a car in Aussie showrooms.
The Cross Coupe model has been presaged by a number of showcars over the past few years. It was first seen in concept guise as the CrossCoupe in 2011, then as the CrossBlue Coupe in 2013 (twice!), then again at the Detroit show in 2015 as the Cross Coupe GTE (that model is pictured above and below)
White suggested that while the more purpose-built SUVs are still a way off, the brand’s wagon-based rugged models will fill some gaps.
As for the Cross models in Europe such as the CrossPolo and CrossGolf which are essentially the production hatchback with some flared guards, body cladding, a marginally higher ride height and chunkier tyres –White made no comment on offering those sorts of vehicles locally.
In the past, the Australian arm of the brand has put a cross through any such models, and it seems that's likely to remain the case.
One Alltrack-like model that White has ruled out for Australia categorically – if it’s built – is the Beetle Dune, a high-riding, rough-and-tumble wannabe off-road version of the German brand’s iconic Bug.
When asked if the brand would consider offering the Dune, which was shown in concept guise at the Detroit motor show in 2014, White said: “Not on my watch”.