Volkswagen Australia admits its coverage of the booming SUV market lags behind key rivals, but is planning to make up lost ground in a hurry.
SUV sales are quite literally driving the Australian vehicle market to record growth, up 13.8 per cent and comprising 38 per cent of the market in 2016 — almost the same percentage as passenger vehicles, which are down 8 per cent.
But Volkswagen, Australia’s number eight brand by sales, is a little thin in the crossover and SUV department. Alongside the soon-to-be-replaced Tiguan, it has the upmarket Touareg, plus the Golf and Passat Alltrack crossovers.
However, the company is being quite open about its “SUV product offensive”, starting with the larger and more upmarket second-generation Tiguan that we drove in Berlin last week ahead of its Australian launch in September. Volkswagen is predicting much stronger sales, though not the 1500-plus per month of the Mazda CX-5 and Nissan X-Trail.
Beyond this, Volkswagen will make a stretched seven-seat Tiguan derivative (confirmed for Australian launch, likely in 2017) and a sporty crossover ‘coupe’ style version in the style of the T-Roc concept, plus a smaller baby SUV to rival the Mazda CX-3, based on the next Polo’s MQB and previewed by the T-Cross Breeze concept (pictured top of story).
Volkswagen has also confirmed it will make a next-generation Touareg, though whether this uses the ubiquitous MQB platform used on the Tiguan and Passat, or Audi’s MLB in a more upmarket move, is unclear. VW will also make a full-size family SUV, previewed by the CrossBlue concept, for the US market (and unlikely for Australia).
We spoke this week with Volkswagen Australia managing director Michael Bartsch, who acknowledged the company’s local arm fell short in the SUV race against the likes of Mazda.
“In terms of coverage we are lagging some key competition… we have ground to over,” he said, but added that the company’s goal at this point was to get it right rather than rush it. Expect the majority of these models bar the US full-size offering to arrive here over the next 2-3 years.
Australian new vehicle sales numbers demonstrate the way Volkswagen falls short in SUV sales. The company only has 2 per cent share of the SUV market in 2016, compared to 13.4 per cent for Toyota, 10.3 per cent for Mazda and 9.9 per cent for Nissan. Even Audi has a higher market share (2.4 per cent).
By contrast, it has a 7.8 per cent share of the passenger car market thanks to the Polo, Golf and Passat, placing it fifth overall. It also owns 5.7 per cent of the light commercial market this year courtesy of the Amarok, Caddy and Transporter.