By on July 26, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Atlas Chattanooga - Image: VolkswagenJune 2017 was only the Volkswagen Atlas’s first full month on sale in the United States, but the Atlas, still ramping up inventory, already accounts for more than half of Volkswagen’s U.S. utility vehicle sales. In fact, the only Volkswagens that sold more often than the Atlas in June were the Jetta, Passat, and (if you count all variants together) the Golf.

2,413 units is not a terribly impressive number, although it’s stronger than what the Mitsubishi Outlander, Ford Flex, Mazda CX-9, and Volkswagen’s two other utility vehicles managed last month. But the rate at which Volkswagen is building the Atlas at the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, assembly plant suggests dealers are only beginning to see just how many copies of the Atlas they’ll soon have to sell.

Will there be buyers?

According to the Automotive News Data Center, Volkswagen’s Tennessee plant built 6,104 Atlases for North American consumption in June, the sixth month of production increases at the Tennessee plant.

Getting the Atlas to dealers and into customer hands has not been a quick process. Having built nearly 24,000 copies of the Atlas by the end of June, Atlas inventory at shows fewer than 1,000 units.

But these are very early days for the Atlas, a vehicle on which half the load of Volkswagen’s U.S. SUV hopes rest. The Volkswagen Tiguan arrives later this year in long-awaited second-gen form, and brings with it a third row that could limit some of the Atlas up-sale potential.

The Volkswagen Touareg, meanwhile, has been dropped from Volkswagen’s lineup.Volkswagen Atlas Chattanooga production - image: VolkswagenYears of apparent Volkswagen non-reaction have passed since the SUV/crossover wave began to grow in America. While the industry generates over 40 percent of its sales from utility vehicles, Volkswagen has been tied to increasingly unpopular, aging passenger cars. As a result, through the first-half of 2017, only 14 percent of the vehicles sold in Volkswagen’s U.S. showrooms were utility vehicles.

The Atlas, however, unlike the overpriced Touareg and undersized Tiguan, sits in the center of the market. Despite its blocky styling — about which even some Volkswagen insiders were decidedly unhappy — the Atlas has a measure of mainstream appeal the Touareg and first Tiguan could never dream of. Given the anti-Volkswagen tide that recently swept across America, the lack of built-in loyalty for an all-new nameplate, and the slow inventory ramp-up, the Atlas’s early numbers bode well.

Now that the Atlas is being built in consequential numbers, we expect to see far more significant U.S. Atlas sales figures, and soon. If not, it’ll be obvious that Volkswagen’s production is not running parallel to demand, and all the more obvious that Volkswagen of America can’t even produce significant volume in one of the United States’ hottest categories.

[Images: Volkswagen]

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

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27 Comments on “It’s Only Getting Going, but the Volkswagen Atlas Is Already One of VW’s Top Sellers...”

  • avatar

    It’s a good looking vehicle. Clean lines. No nonsense styling. Very “Teutonic”.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I saw my first Atlas in the wild last week, in Kingston, Ontario (Canadian registration) of all places, making it a rare bird indeed. It was a blue V6 model.

    Nice lines*, a roomy clean interior, and reasonable pricing make for an attractive package. Plus, it has a good name.

    If I was in the SUV market, the Atlas is *almost* enough to make me return to a VW showroom.

    *The Atlas’ shape reminds me of the ~2001 Acura MDX, whose looks I’ve always admired.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t forget that the Atlas and upcoming Gen2 Tiguan come with 6/72 bumper-to-bumper warranties. That’s a significant step towards instilling buyer confidence IMHO. That’s longer and more miles than the average buyer will keep the thing for, so repair cost worries would be non-existent.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Much like the Phaeton, the Touareg is one of those products that was never appropriate for the U.S. market. The biggest argument currently against it is the Grand Cherokee, which is a similar size, has better brand recognition, and comes very well-equipped (Overland V8 4WD) at about the same price that the Touareg starts.

    Not only that, but this generation of Touareg doesn’t have the exotic engines of its predecessor, nor the two-speed transfer case (although it does have a first gear that’s probably low enough to crawl). And it’s not as nice as the first Touareg, probably in an effort to make the Cayenne look more appealing.

    That said, the Touareg is a proper luxury crossover—even if it’s light on features—and the build quality is excellent. I’ll be sad to see it go.

    • 0 avatar

      I wish it were staying. I test drove one, and tank-like is the word that came to mind. Thumped over road imperfections like a champ.

      I like it b/c you can get it without a ton of luxury baubles, but those great Cayenne bones. Even could get without a sunroof (I hate sunroofs as I am 6’4″ with a long torso and short legs.

      I agree tho, that for 50K+, most are going to want a better logo and a better dealer.

  • avatar

    I saw my first Atlas about a month ago (in blue iirc). Thought it looks quite good in person, the headlight/grille treatment works better in real life than it comes across in pictures.

  • avatar

    Looks inoffensive but generic.

    But VW’s iffy reliability is part of the DNA whether they like it or not.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      A Ford badge on it would sell 10x the volume.

    • 0 avatar

      It does have a bumper to bumper warranty longer than most…I believe it’s something like 6 years 72K, maybe more…and it’s transferable to the 2nd owner.

    • 0 avatar

      VW products aren’t as reliable as many other brands, but for what it’s worth I’ve learned that they’ve been trying pretty hard to patch common failures with pretty generous extended warranties on the commonly failing parts. For example the infamous TDIs were also prone to turbocharger failure, so VW slapped a 10 year 120K warranty on all those turbos and this was before dieselgate. There’s also a bunch of other random patchwork warranties out for various VW vehicles.

      On these new Atlases they’ve just gone ahead and put a 6 year 72,000 mile warranty on them instead of their usual patchwork warranties. I’m sure that you will visit the dealership more often with an Atlas than a Highlander but if you have a good local VW dealership this is only slightly painful (my dealership offers loaners, though the last one I got was a stripper Passat that shocked me with how much crappier it was than the high end trims)

  • avatar

    Not surprising. Its cheaper than the Touareg was, and has more interior room.

    The Touareg was priced close to it’s cousin, the Q7 when it came out, but offered less seating, and less ‘luxury features’ in terms of the cabin and creature comforts. In its favor, it did have some crazy engine choices (a V10 TDI!) and had a selectable low range and a locking differential for legit off road capability, which the Q7 has never had. But they misjudged the American market as to what people wanted out of an SUV, much less a luxury one. People who off road are in overwhelmingly in Jeeps, 4Runners, and pick ups, not near 50k luxury vehicles.

    The Atlas is right where the market for 7 seaters is: family hauler, long distance trips with people and stuff, and significantly cheaper than the Touareg.

    It’s so weird it took them so long to build this when every non-luxury other manufacturer has one in this class, as far I can tell.

  • avatar

    I don’t like the look, especially in lighter colors. I’m a VAG fan too. We have an 2011 Tiguan, 2011 GTI and had MK V Rabbit/Golf…It is just too boxy and reminds me a little of the previous gen Honda Pilot box on wheels.

    I guess as always in the eye of the beholder…I drive a 2017 Ridgeline and like how it looks, so who am I to judge? It is definitely practical for people and cargo and honestly, VW reliability, at least in my experience has been only slightly less than the other vehicles we’ve owned since 2001 (a couple Acuras, a few Honda, a Toyota Highlander, Infiniti).

    Overall, I still give Honda the most real world ‘bullet proof’ award, however.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, it looks lame in person. Very close to the Ugly Third Gen Grand Cherokee. Im also a VAG fan and GTI driver. So i have been seeing them during my multiple trips to the dealer for repairs. I hope the Tiguan is better in the flesh.

    • 0 avatar

      Honestly the only thing I really hate about this car is that hideous and just plain ridiculous fake wood trim they decided to slather all over the dashboard. It seriously looks like someone scanned in a piece of wood then laser printed a paper copy and bound it into the dash. I dunno wtf they were thinking. The other looks are derivative but I could live with that given that it likely handles better than most of the competition. And of course if they had an emissions compliant diesel it would have helped this vehicle immensely since this thing is going to drink fuel with abandon.

  • avatar

    Haven’t seen a single one on the streets of Los Angeles yet.

    But I did have a Phaeton as an UberX a few months ago (sorry, nobody IRL realizes how random / rare / cool this was to me!)

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I’ve seen a couple here in Houston over the past month. Good looking; I’m vexed though at VW’s model line-up. The Launch edition is very reasonably priced but God forbid you get safety equipment AND a sunroof in the same car without spending $35k.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    How bad does Mazda feel now, with its flagship CX9, which should be hitting its stride, outsold by a brand new VW last month?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Good question. I think Mazda is used to being a bridesmaid.

      Now that you mention it, I kind of like Mazda’s new snout; it reminds me of the old F-86 Sabre fighter jet.

    • 0 avatar

      If Mazda just changed a few very minor things about the CX-9 they’d sell a lot more. It’s supposed to be moving Mazda upmarket to the premium segment and the top of the line trim looks pretty nice inside but the seats need to be significantly upgraded-they need more comfortable seats and to add ventilation at least as an option. Maybe offer a nicer sound system in the top end trim too. I get that their limited budget makes it hard to offer more powertrains but the turbo four being the only option is also probably turning people off.

  • avatar

    At least it has a name you can pronounce.

  • avatar

    The new Tiguan looks good too. Local dealer had 3 of them on the lot on Sunday.

    I don’t think I could buy one because of the fuel economy (or lack thereof) but I think they’ll probably sell okay. The better warranty will help both the Atlas and Tiguan.

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