2019 Volkswagen Touareg: The SUV That's Too Exclusive for America

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
2019 volkswagen touareg the suv that s too exclusive for america

Ahead of its premiere at the Beijing auto show this spring, the next-generation Volkswagen Touareg has appeared in an official teaser video wearing next to nothing, as far as camo goes.

Crisp lines and upmarket styling cues set this VW utility vehicle apart from, say, the three-row Atlas, which is all we’ll ever see of a midsize vee-dub ute on this side of the ocean. That’s because the all-new 2019 Touareg is just not suited for life in America. Many would say its predecessor wasn’t, either.

Positioned as a two-row luxury SUV, the Touareg, which remains on sale in the U.S. despite being discontinued for the 2018 model year, broke the four-digit sales mark only four times after the second-generation model bowed for 2010. Those months can be found in 2011 and 2012. The model’s high water mark came much earlier, in 2004 — the Touareg’s first full year on the market.

When news the model’s discontinuation came last summer, Volkswagen of America was loathe to speak of its future. Rather, the newly enlarged Tiguan and new, midsize Atlas consumed all of the oxygen in the room. Both of those models were tailor-made for U.S. buyers, racking up considerable sales since their debut. With the old Tiguan (now Tiguan Limited) chugging alongside its newer sibling, that model’s sales have never been higher. In contrast, the Touareg was always a niche vehicle.

The 2019 Touareg sits upon VW Group’s MLB Evo platform, a premium bit of architecture you’ll find residing underneath the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga, and the upcoming Lamborghini Urus. It’s a pricey platform for pricey vehicles. Even the 2017 Touareg tops the Atlas’ MSRP by nearly $19,000, while offering less space.

The key market for the new model, which is expected to appear with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain (along with conventionally powered variants), is China. That country’s thirst for premium models, especially SUVs, apparently knows no bounds. Greater sales are more likely to be found there than here.

Speaking to Forbes, one senior VW engineer admitted, sadly, that it “broke my heart knowing the Touareg won’t go to the U.S.”

Sad for the engineer, perhaps, but not for Volkswagen of America. The company’s U.S. product strategy is all about sales, not exclusivity. Every utility model coming to these shores is geared towards volume, which explains why the T-Roc small crossover, already available overseas, won’t appear at any VW dealers on Main Street, Anytown, USA. That model just didn’t seem a good fit for U.S. buyers, so VW is planning a separate small model just for us.

One pricey, lower-volume model we will see is the Arteon, an attractive sedan arriving this year. Despite its reliance on utility vehicles to fuel its U.S. comeback (and fund its electrification efforts) it seems Volkswagen needs a bare minimum of prestige to spice up its lineup.

[Images: Volkswagen/ YouTube]

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3 of 12 comments
  • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Mar 01, 2018

    In the US, premium models from non-premium brands really are lot poison. Unless they're pickup trucks, and then somehow they're the thing to have. But the problem for the Touareg is a bit different. It's too small to play in the "I have real money but I don't want to be ostentatious about it" SUV space in the US. The vehicles that have succeeded in that space are big three-row trucks: Tahoburbukon, Expedition, and (not in sales but definitely in reputation) Land Cruiser.

    • La834 La834 on Mar 02, 2018

      I've noted that anomaly with pickup trucks too and wonder why it's the case only with pickups and not with cars, crossovers, or even truck-based SUVs. They tried Cadillac and Lincoln pickups, but buyers would evidently rather have a Ford F-150 Titanium Platinum Limited than a Lincoln Mark LT.

  • Spike_in_Brisbane Spike_in_Brisbane on Mar 02, 2018

    Weird. I'd have one if I needed an SUV. It's basically a Porsche Cayenne without the bling at half the price. They did great in the Dakar Rally a few years back before the much modified Peugeots came to dominate.

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