We spoke to Volkswagen Australia product marketing manager Jeff Shafer at the global launch of the new Tiguan this week (review coming soon), who laid out how Volkswagen saw its positioning.
“We want to position our vehicle as premium but for the people,” he said. “If you buy an iPhone you don’t pay the same as a HTC, but people understand the value.”
“We’re not talking about becoming a luxury brand or moving out of reach, but bringing premium attributes to a broader customer base”.
The conversation was held in the context of expected local pricing for the new Tiguan, which arrives in Australia this September. The new second-generation car is larger than before, and notably more sophisticated and tech-laden.
Our optioned-up test vehicles had blind-spot monitoring, autonomous brakes, bird’s-eye cameras, advanced off-road programming, self-parking, heads-up displays, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and Audi-style digital TFT driver’s instruments, to name just some features.
Of course, these features won’t be standard. But Shafer did admit that the Tiguan would cost a little more than before, though we’d still expect an opening price of around $30,000.
Volkswagen Australia already has a few advantages in seeking to be seen as a little upmarket. It has the cache of being European, it offers a wide array of powertrains and sells a disproportionately high number of performance derivatives badged GTI, R or R-Line.
Whether the drive towards ‘accessible premium’ contradicts its previous stated goal of being a top-five volume brand in Australia (it’s currently eighth, and down 1.6 per cent this year after a long period of growth) remains to be seen.
However, we understand that just chasing sales growth isn’t such a priority at present. Conversations with more senior management have made it clear that continuing to work on its aftersales functions, and tweaking its image, are just as, or perhaps more, important.
As we mentioned, Volkswagen sales are slightly down this year, over a period where it has obviously had some high-profile issues with its engines, but more than anything else it appears to reflect the market itself. Volkswagen is not strong in SUVs, and that’s where all the market growth is going. The old Tiguan is in runout ahead of the new one.
Passenger car sales, where Volkswagen is strong (particularly in the Golf's small car segment), are well down. Volkswagen Australia is also getting up to speed with its new Caddy and Transporter van ranges, which in fairness take time to build momentum.
What do you think of this idea of 'accessible premium'? Tell us below.