There's About To Be A New 2017 Volkswagen Polo, But America's Shrinking Subcompact Market Surely Won't Have Room For It

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

It’s a Volkswagen Golf, only slightly smaller and with a more affordable price tag.

Isn’t this what you’ve always wanted?

Maybe not.

The 2017 Volkswagen Polo is a close relation to the Mk7 Golf Americans can get their hands on, and shares the MQB platform that underpins just about everything at the Volkswagen Group except the factories themselves. But in a U.S. market that’s increasingly willing to pay just a bit more for a larger car with essentially no degradation in real-world fuel economy, would the sixth-generation Polo stand a chance?

Probably not, especially given the speed at which subcompact cars are losing sales.

There’s certainly been no shortage of speculation in the past regarding the Polo’s possible U.S. future. Some five years ago, AutoGuide reported that Volkswagen was “prepared if they wanted to get a product [Polo] out to market very fast.”

Three years before that, Car And Driver said hatchback versions of the Polo wouldn’t make their way to America, but a four-door sedan “is considered a strong candidate for American sales.”

In 2008, the New York Times quoted a Volkswagen of America spokesperson who said, “We have no plans to import the current version of the Polo. Maybe for the future, as we are always considering what is appropriate for the market.”

After U.S. sales of core subcompact cars fell 9 percent in 2015 and 3 percent in 2016, sales are down 17 percent through the first five months of 2017. Only the Toyota Yaris, boosted in part by the inclusion of the increasingly popular Yaris iA (which operated previously as a Scion and is actually a Mazda) has seen sales increase this year.

Combined sales of the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Nissan Versa, and Toyota Prius C are down 21 percent, a loss of 37,000 sales over a span of just five months.

Moreover, most of the automakers that compete in the category are distant afterthoughts. Nissan owns 30 percent of the market.

Compact cars, with help from a greater number of nameplates, to be fair, are more than five times stronger and aren’t declining at anywhere near the pace of subcompacts. Kelley Blue Book says the average transaction price for a subcompact car in May was over $16,000, too high a price for many consumers to swallow when a compact car (averaging $20,595 in May) is typically more powerful, more refined, and more spacious.

America’s subcompact market has already lost the Mazda 2. The Ford Fiesta’s future is clearly in doubt. Remaining automakers are struggling to locate buyers.

Of course the sixth-generation 2017 Volkswagen Polo, which will follow the Polo’s historic strategy of looking entirely like its predecessor, isn’t making its way across the Atlantic. You may find it enticing. But most Americans do not.

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

Timothy Cain
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  • Darex Darex on Jun 12, 2017

    Hell will freeze over before VAG brings it over. In fact, in the oast, they announced it, only to cancel it later. They're such a tease!

  • AG4 AG4 on Jun 13, 2017

    The Mazda 2 is not completely gone from America, the current 2 sedan is sold by Toyota as the Yaris iA.

  • 3-On-The-Tree Lou_BCsame here I grew up on 2-stroke dirt bikes had a 1985 Yamaha IT200 2-strokes then a 1977 Suzuki GT750 2-stroke 750 streetike fast forward to 2002 as a young flight school Lieutenant I bought a 2002 suzuki Hayabusa 1300 up in Huntsville Alabama. Still have that bike.
  • Milton Rented one for about a month. Very solid EV. Not as fun as my Polestar, but for a go to family car, solid. Practical EV ownership is only made possible with a home charger.
  • J Love mine, but the steering wheel blocks dashboard a bit, can't see turn signals nor headlights icons. They could use the upper corners of the screen for the turn signals. Mileage is much lower than shown too, disappointing
  • Aja8888 NO!
  • OrpheusSail I once did. My first four cars were American made, and through an odd set of circumstances surrounding a divorce, I wound up with a '95 Nissan Maxima which was fourteen years old and had about 150,000 miles on it.It was drove better, had an amazing engine, and was more reliable than any of my American cars. This included a new '95 GMC pickup that went through five alternators in under two years while the dealership insisted that there was no underlying electrical problem while they tried to run the clock on the warranty.That was the end of 'buy American'. I've bought from Honda and VW since, and I'll consider just about anything except American now.