A worldwide production shortfall has forced Volkswagen Australia to take the chic little T-Roc crossover — its premium-positioned Mazda CX-3 and Toyota C-HR rival — off the agenda for the time being, though it will revisit the business case in 12 months time.
It had been pencilled in for a local launch either late in 2018 or early 2019, though supply issues always made its situation for our market tenuous.
This update comes from Volkswagen Australia’s managing director Michael Bartsch, who spoke with us today at the launch of the new Arteon luxury car in Tasmania. It’s something of a setback for VW as it seeks to increase its share-of-voice in the dominant SUV sector here.
“I think we have to take T-Roc off the agenda at this stage,” he said, remaining diplomatic despite VW’s evident need for a crossover to slot in below the Tiguan, which is itself being dramatically supply-restricted due to European demand.
“It’ll be reviewed again probably in the next 12 months, but again they’re [Volkswagen Global] looking at a global rollout and the priorities will be from the Northern Hemisphere first,” he added.
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, slots into the Volkswagen Europe range below the 250mm-longer Tiguan.
Bartsch’s update follows what we gleaned out of Frankfurt earlier this year, where we went to attend the world’s largest motor show. There, Volkswagen AG’s member of the board of management for sales and marketing Jürgen Stackmann admitted to us the company had even then already decided to triple T-Roc production to 200,000 units annually.
Yet it won’t be enough for us, for now.
“Eventually we’ll get it but at this stage it’s best we take it off the agenda for 12 months,” Bartsch added. “The production situation won’t allow us to get the car in quantities that will make it viable [for now].”
Irrespective of what VW management says, it’s obvious the company’s global planners drastically underestimated the worldwide demand for T-Roc, to be built in Portugal alongside the Volkswagen Sharan and Seat Alhambra people-movers.
Countries all over the world are growing ever hungrier for small SUVs. In Australia this segment now has almost 10 per cent share of the overall market, while the Mazda CX-3, Nissan Qashqai, Mitsubishi ASX and Honda HR-V all average 1000 or more sales every month apiece. Laggards Toyota and Hyundai just joined in, with the C-HR and Kona.
By missing out on this market, Volkswagen Australia is losing 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 25:75. The company’s overall market share is 4.8 per cent, but its share of the SUV market is just 2.9 per cent.
Volkswagen T-Roc details:
- The car has what VW calls “pioneering lines, coupe-style roof, strikingly wide front end and concise proportions”. You can also order one with the roof painted various contrasting colours to the body.
- Front Assist with autonomous emergency assist, and lane assist are all standard. Level Two Autonomous traffic jam assist is optional.
- The cabin can be had with smartphone-style glass touchscreens up to 9.2 inches, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus the 11.7-inch Active Info Display digital instrument cluster.
- The cabin comes with various colourful plastic inserts that you can swap out whenever, though we noticed hard plastics everywhere too.
- There are six engines (petrol and diesel) headlined by a 85kW/200Nm 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol and a 140kW four-pot. There are six-speed manual and DSG auto gearbox options, plus front-wheel drive or 4Motion all-wheel drive.
- Boot space is 445L/1290L, which is more than a Mazda CX-5 or Ford Escape – both much bigger SUVs. The HR-V has 437L/1462L.
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