Atlas, Part 2: Volkswagen Announces Five-passenger SUV for Chattanooga
We’ve known for some time that Volkswagen plans to capitalize on the success of the three-row Atlas SUV by building a slightly less commodious variant, and now it’s official. On Monday, the automaker announced the second all-new vehicle to roll out of its Chattanooga assembly plant, promising a concept version of the five-passenger midsize SUV at this month’s New York Auto Show.
The fact that VW is bothering to create a concept, even as it calls the model a “variant” of the Atlas, has us wondering just how different the vehicle can be in outward appearance. Then there’s the issue of a name.
“The Atlas has built strong momentum for Volkswagen in the SUV segment, and we are excited to grow our SUV portfolio with this new, Chattanooga-assembled five-passenger SUV,” said Hinrich Woebcken, Volkswagen of America’s CEO, in a statement.
Like the promised two-row version of the upsized Tiguan, this two-row Atlas is tailor-made for the U.S. market and shares the same MQB architecture. However, unlike the two-row Tiguan — not to be confused with the older Tiguan Limited — the five-passenger Atlas will don a new skin. Woebken said as much last year.
“We decided the Atlas will get a slightly lower-positioned five-seater, with nice, coupe-ish styling, [but the] same dimensions,” he said in a December interview with Automotive News.
Given that crossovers form the backbone of the brand’s U.S. sales strategy, chopping passengers from both the Atlas and Tiguan allows VW to move the nameplates downmarket and cast a wider sales net. This assumes both models will carry the same name, which might be difficult. “XL,” or something like that, is usually the go-to add-on for automakers who stretch a model. Rarely do they rip out seats and make one less filling.
As we see from this teaser image (and the fact that there is a teaser image), VW seems to be following through on Woebcken’s claim that the model will look different than its three-row sibling. Without the need for rear seat room, VW can give the model rakish rear glass. The Atlas’ conservative front end, if we’re to believe what we see, stands to gain an edgier appearance, with a taller grille, revamped headlamps, and aggressive side vents. Atlas Sport, perhaps?
The price tag for building the new vehicle stands at $340 million, so it’s definitely not a chop job. While VW hasn’t mentioned a launch date, Woebcken said last year that 2019 would be a big year for SUVs. Expect an introduction next year.
[Image: Volkswagen of America]
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