By on June 7, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack - Image: Volkswagen

You didn’t seriously think there was a tall, be-cladded wagon that could sell like a Subaru Outback, did you?

And you didn’t think — if such a tall, be-cladded wagon did have the potential to sell as well as a Subaru Outback — that it would be a Volkswagen Golf Alltrack?

Of course you didn’t, not in this post-diesel scandal world. But as the all-conquering Subaru Outback continues to enjoy increased U.S. demand, the latest Outback alternative is already suffering a mild case of DTWS.

Not Dancing With The Stars. Don’t read so fast.

Decreased Tall Wagon Sales.

The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack’s May 2017 performance of only 1,312 sales represented a six-month low.

There’s no shortage of Mexico-built Golf Alltracks on U.S. dealer lots. Cars.com shows over 6,500 Alltracks in stock now.

But after steadily climbing to 1,823 sales in December of last year — which still stands as the best month for Alltrack sales to date — the Outbackified Golf averaged fewer than 1,600 monthly sales in the first-third of 2017 before sales dipped even lower in May.

2017 Subaru Outback - Image: Subaru

Again, the expectation wasn’t for Subaru Outback-like sales success. Not in year one of generation one; not for an automaker struggling to restore confidence following 2015’s diesel emissions scandal; not for a car with less space and ground clearance than an Outback but a similar price tag.

Subaru has reported year-over-year Outback sales improvements in the U.S. in each of the last 16 months and in every year since the brand began breaking out the Outback from the Legacy. Outback volume in 2017 is on track to rise above 200,000 sales for the first time, double the total achieved as recently as 2011.

That’s not the Golf Alltrack’s league, no doubt. Since September’s U.S. launch, Volkswagen sold 11,020 copies of the Golf Alltrack.

But why is the Alltrack, so soon after its arrival, already tailing off? Some of the blame belongs to Volkswagen’s Golf SportWagen, the very car that spawned the Alltrack.

2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen, Image: Volkswagen

In May 2017, for example, Volkswagen of America reported 2,213 Golf SportWagen sales, more than twice the number sold in May 2016. Golf SportWagen sales more than doubled in April, as well, when the lower-riding wagon earned 33-percent more sales than the Alltrack.

The base trim Golf SportWagen 1.8T S with 4Motion all-wheel drive is priced at $24,650. The Alltrack 1.8T S, with 4Motion as standard equipment, costs $2,020 more. Besides operating on the losing side of the value ledger, Volkswagen’s Alltrack will more than likely enjoy its greater periods of demand in specific regions when winter weather looms.

The good news? Total SportWagen/Alltrack volume, meanwhile, has more than tripled to 13,689 units so far this year. More than four out of every ten Golfs sold is now a wagon of one sort or another, up from just one in five at this stage of 2016. Total Golf hatchback sales are up 8 percent in early 2017.

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

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47 Comments on “Nobody Backs Out The Outback: Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Sales Momentum Is Slowing Already, But Golf Wagon Totals Are Soaring...”


  • avatar
    Ermel

    Shouldn’t matter much to VW; they probably don’t care whether the Golf wagons they sell are Alltracks or SportWagens.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    If it was Passat-based… It is just too tight inside. Design for few remaining American hippies. Outback on the other side is perfect for well-fed Americans

    • 0 avatar
      Ermel

      European Passat Alltrack is not an uncommon sight over here. Another reason why I consider the US-specific Passat not to have been a good idea.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        That’s just it. This is really more of a competitor to the Crosstrek than the Outback, it’s a size too small. Passat based would have made much more sense.

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        Agreed. VW needs to cut costs, and consolidating the Passat lineup worldwide starting with the next generation would make sense. Actually, the current Euro Passat on the MQB platform would do well in the States too

  • avatar
    Driver8

    And why not? It’s the only affordable wagon and a very good one at that. Base fwd TSIs can be had for low 20s. The MQB platform is ‘good bones’.

    • 0 avatar
      lightbulb

      Good luck finding a base FWD TSI. The local dealerships around here in Boston and I called several, do not have any base models with a manual or auto. They only carried the base 4 motion and All-track.

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        In the mid-Atlantic east coast US there are loads of fwd Sportwagen SE’s, the mid-line model which unfortunately is automatic only. One thing I like in the Alltrack is that they make a midlevel-trim SE model with a 6 speed manual. Again though the top-line SEL which is quite expensive is automatic only, but at least it’s a DSG.

  • avatar
    Rasputin

    I have a 2001 Passat Wagon 1.8 5MT that now has 245,000 miles on it and still runs great. Yeah, things go bad (tie rods last week), but it is less expensive to maintain than the cost of something new. Exterior & interior both look great and I get 31MPG at 75-80MPH on the Interstate.

    What prompted my comment though is how every car model grows over time. From the photos, that Golf wagon looks to be the same size as my 16 year old Passat

    • 0 avatar
      Ermel

      Remember the VW Dasher/Audi Fox? That was the first-generation Passat, 1974-81. Smaller than a current Golf wagon, and weighing closer to half as much as one.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “how every car model grows over time.”

      Well, depends on the size class. Even something like a G90 or Maybach is shorter and narrower than most full-size vehicles before the 90s.

    • 0 avatar
      northeaster

      It has pretty much the same dimensions but somehow manages to be less spacious than a B5 wagon; I have a 2004 1.8T 5 speed 4Mo that is about to get traded, so have already looked at the Golf.

      I expect the idiotic reliability issues are now confined to more than 5 years out so if it managed the same packaging and real Torsen as my current car, I’d buy again without hesitation.

      Unfortunately, I think Cain is completely right. Shrinking the beast a little too much puts me in the market for something different.

    • 0 avatar
      Mogi67

      My GSW is shorter in length and height than the Subaru Legacy I was driving a month ago. The photos are rather deceiving

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    VW probably does care if they sell Golfs vs. Alltracks… There must be about $1800 in added margin there if they charge over $2k for some plastic trim and half-inch spacers in the suspension.

    I liked the base Sportwagon… the big differentiator for me vs. the Subaru Outback is the (theoretical) availability of a manual transmission.

    Is the promised manual version of the Alltrack available yet?

    • 0 avatar
      Fardoche

      1. The Golf S 4motion comes with cloth seats whereas the Alltrack S comes with leatherette. That’s 2k worth of upgrade for many models/makes.

      2. Yes, it is available with a 6-speed manual.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      Yeah they’ve been out for a while now. I don’t think you can get one unless you order it. Demand has been pretty steep.

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        It’s not a special-order-only available car, but they don’t build many. You can get a 6 speed manual in the low-end (S) and mid-level (SE) packages only, not the top-line SEL unfortunately. The Golf Sportwagen S AWD is also available with a 6 speed manual.

        The only special-order-only option in the Alltrack is a driver assists package on the S and SE models the includes a few safety items like automatic emergency braking that should have been standard equipment (and is on many competitors). A more comprehensive safety tech package with some additional items like adaptive HID headlights, cornering lights, and lane-departure warning is optional on the top-line SEL, but that one can be in stock on dealer lots and doesn’t need to be special ordered.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Perhaps this is why Volvo is making the V90 available for order, but will only have the Cross Country sitting on lots. They know we’re stupid and will pay more for something with cladding and a raised ride height.

      How is it that Americans are such good value hunters in nearly everything but cars and healthcare?

    • 0 avatar
      lightbulb

      Yes but there is a backlog. The local dealership said it could take a few months to get one once it is ordered. VW did not allocate enough for this market, so they have to build it to order.

  • avatar
    phila_DLJ

    I realize they don’t want the Euro Passat wagon here, since it’ll make the NA version look bad. But I concur that VW would have more success if they develop an Alltrak variant of the Chattanooga Passat (rather than the smaller Golf).

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    Encouraging for wagon lovers. Maybe Mazda will reconsider and bring the 6 wagon to the US. At this point for Mazda, why not? “Hit em where the ain’t” as the old saying goes.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    I find the Alltrack mildly interesting, but ~$30k* for a 170hp car turned me off. Put the GTI engine in there and we can talk.

    *you can get them cheaper but not how I’d want it equipped

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Most folks do not need AWD, I had a TDI wagon and snows , no problems in the snow, drove it about 30,000 miles a year in New England and metro NY, no issues , traded mine in with the buyback, the golf wagon is just the right size, plenty of room with the seats up or down, it was really a 4 person car max, but 90% of the time it was just me so no issues there, glad they are still selling wagons, the outback got to CUV for me when they redesigned it and no deals on them at all. I went from a Volvo wagon ( xc 70) to my jetta wagon and did not really miss the extra room, but I did miss the Volvo seats.

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    Alltrack’s sales numbers could be a little better if the lift kit could be a little taller. Think it’s about an inch higher over the Golf Sport wagon which does not give it a great advantage in deeper snow or off road obstacles. Subaru Outback has a higher ground clearance almost towering over the VW Alltrack.

  • avatar
    newenthusiast

    I don’t know where a vehicle stops being a wagon and starts being a CUV, but maybe the Alltrack would sell more if it was taller or lifted more. I saw one on the highway 2 or 3 weeks ago and thought “that’s a wagon”.

    Its probably too wagon-like for those that want a CUV, and wagon lovers clearly seem to be preferring the Golf, probably because they seem to be very similarly sized vehicles but the Golf costs less.

    Lift the Alltrack so that it looks more like an Outback, and tout the standard 4Motion and maybe it would sell more.

    But will VW care enough about the distinction if the Atlas becomes a sales hit?

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    As others have stated it’s too small to compete with Outback which owns the body clad, tall wagon segment.

    I want a wagon but I don’t want either of them. A CTS-V type wagon is what I want but can’t afford. Yes more wagons are here or coming V90, v90CC, XF, Regal Tour X but most will be too expensive or not sporty enough.

    I want a large wagon with over 400hp and a manual as an option.

    I would buy a used CTS-V but they have barely depreciated unless they have over 100k miles on them.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    VW does have a beautiful interior color in the Alltrack…Marrakech brown…with a black exterior it would be amazing.

  • avatar
    slap

    Just like convertibles sales slow in winter, “winter car” sales probably slow a bit in late spring/early summer.

    Also, VW had been advertising the heck out of the alltrack a few months ago. I don’t watch much TV, but I’m under the impression that they have cut back on the ads a bit.

  • avatar
    sun_dog

    Coming of a decade old manual Outback, the Alltrack is very similar in size and very tempting to jump over to. But by the time the manuals started showing up, the information about the 2018 Alltracks and 2018 Outbacks came out. No use buying now if I can manage to wait a few months for a decision now that the Outback will have applegoogle baked in and already has the edge on interior space.

  • avatar
    DearS

    Most companies offer good small wagons for $20k now. +$2k for AWD is a good deal, but again Subaru offers that for $20k and with a better reputation and resale value. VW = niche.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      Nope. In the us the sportwagen is the only compact wagon. The outback and the sportwagen are the only two non-premium wagons, and the outback is now bordering on cuv territory with its size. It’s a seriously thin market, even with the obvious demand.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      And both start at 25 and 26 with awd. only about a grand of mfg incentive on each. The fwd sportwagen does start at 21, similar to the crosstrek, although that is a hatch not a wagon.

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    I cross-shopped the Golf Wagon with the mazda 6 and the saab 9-3. The mazda felt chintzy and the golf was just too damned small. The Saab is considerably larger in the boot and the number of times i have barely fit something in it means the Golf would have annoyed me to no end.

    Passat would work better.

  • avatar
    TW5

    VW has become something of a bad joke in the US, but I give the Germans credit for finally realizing that Subaru is vulnerable, and their sales can be stolen by anyone with a decent portfolio of cheap, reliable engines.

    Not sure how VW concluded their engines are cheap and reliable, but someone in Wolfsburg must have indomitable belief in the company.

  • avatar
    Stevo

    We added to the April sales total with my wife’s purchase of a loaded wagon which replaced for her our leased regular Golf. AWD isn’t worth it for perhaps two days of city snow per year on days we should stay off the roads anyway. I do wish it was a little wider and longer but only just. Fitting into city parking garages while offering dog cartage is what makes it so useful.

  • avatar
    tedward

    So I had to buy a new wagon recently due to an accident and I ended up with a sportwagen s 4motion manual. We’re a manual only household so it wasn’t much of a shopping process. That’s the only stick wagon for sale (I wanted the 6 speed not the 5). I did see a couple things that might put these numbers in perspective though.

    First, I don’t even know if vw is making fwd sportwagens right now. The dealer I was at hadn’t seen one in months, only alltracks and 4motions. Same for the golf. While they were receiving new golfs still it was in drips and drops, while gti’s were readily available. So there’s clearly some supply issues at play here.

    Second is the wait times and resale value. Both were a real thing. Manual wagons are order only, even though vw has no issue building manuals for inventory for every other car. Clearly another supply issue. The current resale on the fwd wagons is absurd as well. I wasn’t initially shopping new, but middle miles last gen wagons are in the mid to upper teens so given the option for a better engine, interior, added awd, and zero miles for a few thousand bucks it was a no brainer. The tdi owners must be partly responsible for this, but that doesn’t explain the outbacks climb to the top, which started before the tdi scandal. Clearly there’s a wagon boom. Clearly vw can’t make enough wagons right now, at least not while tooling up for the mild redesign coming soon.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      The Alltrack S and SE models are supposed to be available with a 6 speed manual transmission as well, and not just on special-ordered cars, although they are a rare find. The non-Alltrack wagon also offers a 6 speed manual on AWD S trim or a 5 speed manual on FWD wagons and hatchbacks. The 2015 TDI Golfs could be had with a 6 speed manual on all trim levels and body styles, something I miss more than the diesel engine itself.

  • avatar
    Acd

    My guess is that the spike in Golf Sport Wagen sales are from 2015 TDI’s that dealers could begin selling again.

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    I liked it better when it was called Toyota Venza.

  • avatar
    Mogi67

    I bought a GSW 4Motion S last week over an Alltrack. Why? The plastic cladding makes the vehicle look cheap imo. Paying an extra 2k for an inch of clearance and plastic strips. Alltrack = Outback wannabe appearance package. No thanks, I’m good

  • avatar
    greatpaper

    If the golf wagons came equipped in ‘Wolfsburg’ trim they would be on my short list. Here in Pa a golf ‘Wolfsburg’trim is available for under 20k.(add tax and misc fees of course) Loaded with the safety stuff but no manual ( sniff).i actually believe vw needs to hold some consumer panels so they would have a clue what we want here in the USA.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      The Wolfsburg hatchbacks were supposedly available with a 5 speed manual. From what the dealers told me VW stopped building the Wolsburg model a few months ago and started building the SE and SEL models again. The wagon was never available in Wolfsburg trim.

      VW is obviously clueless about the US market. They’ve really clamped down on available option configurations for 2017 which will hold back sales even more.


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