VW Sees the Future … and It Contains Sedans

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

Plenty of digital ink was invested in Ford’s recent decision to let all their cars rot on the vine exit the small car and sedan market. If the company follows through on its plans, and we have little reason to believe it won’t, we will soon be living in a world absent of Fiestas, Foci, Fusions, and big-brother Taurus.

Other manufacturers *ahem, GM, ahem* will be watching this closely, now that both of its crosstown rivals have largely ditched their cars (recall that FCA deep-sixed the Dart, 200, et al not long ago).

VW is thinking differently, recently introducing a new Jetta and placing a reworked Passat in the pipeline. In an interview with the website Digital Trends, Volkswagen of America boss Hinrich Woebcken explained why.

“The question of whether electric mobility will favor sedans or SUVs hasn’t been answered yet. When you’re talking about electric cars, sedans have more advantages,” said the VW exec during his chat with the site. “The shape and the [drag coefficient] has a high effect on range. Therefore, we’ll maybe see a higher sedan share on full electric cars than with conventional cars.”

Unsurprisingly, the man has a point. A low-slung vehicle will sluice through the air with greater ease than a high(er)-riding crossover. With all manufacturers in the electric game constantly chasing after the Biggest Range crown, simply stuffing the electric powertrain into a heavier crossover might be a hard pill to swallow for engineering teams who work hard for progress in areas such as weight reduction.

VW is surely pushing its electrified agenda, with seemingly every concept and race car it produces these days bearing the I.D. family name. The spellcheck-vexing I.D. Vizzion, a concept the company argues could be a future flagship for the brand, is a sedan. “We are intending to be a full line car manufacturer,” Woebcken elaborated to Digital Trends.

Still, the company does not think the trend to SUVs and crossovers is a temporary shift, as Woebcken elaborated in the interview he believes the shift from sedans to SUVs is a “permanent one” and that, even if gas prices do jump again, customers will stick with their tall wagons. It should be noted that, as of today, regular gasoline is selling north of $6.00/gallon in Vancouver.

Sales of VW sedans are on the wane, with the Jetta selling 115,807 copies in the U.S. last year compared to 177,360 back in 2011. That was a remarkable model year, nearly double the sales of the previous twelve-month period. It’s a similar story for Passat, as that model has dropped to 60,722 sales in 2017 versus 117,023 units in 2012. The calendar year prior to that big result? Barely 20,000 of them were sold. Perhaps we’ll see similar upswings during these redesigns, but it is arguable that a hefty chunk of the new volume was thanks to an aggressive pricing strategy.

Nevertheless, if you want a sedan, a VW will likely be an option for a good long while yet.

[Image: Volkswagen of America]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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  • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on May 01, 2018

    I think the issue is quite simple. It isn't that Ford can't sell cars in the US, they are selling several hundred thousand of them a year. They just aren't making any profit doing it (for whatever reason). So why bother? They can mint money building brodozers and C/SUVs. VW, on the other hand, even though they sell half as many, seems to know how to actually make money on each one they sell. So they have a decent chance of picking up some of those several hundred thousand sales that Ford is abandoning. Not all of them are going to go to CUVs and trucks. Sedans won't go away (though I would not miss them at all as long as I can get a normal ride-hieght hatch or wagon), they will just be a smaller part of the overall model mix.

  • Geozinger Geozinger on May 02, 2018

    These trends have a way of sticking around. We've been dealing with or ignoring the last 25 years of S/CUVs moving up the sales charts and now dominating them. Like the domestic automaker's decontenting maneuver of the 90's to battle Japanese cars and maintain profits (even if only for a while), this is the domestic's answer to the tide of S/CUV domination of the market. You can't give away a minivan these days; I suspect a time will come when you won't be able to give away a sedan, too. Yes, there's a market for minivans, but it's rather small. The popularity they had in the 80's & 90's only serves to highlight their fall from grace. Let's be honest, the US demographic is trending older for a number of reasons, and the older folks have the money and therefore the power to dictate market trends. Many of my cohort (baby boomers and Gen Xers, now) don't want to or can't fit into regular sedans. If this all holds up, I see sedans becoming like station wagons and minivans. A few around, but not the dominant market force they once were. I'm gonna miss them. WRT to VW specifically, they HAVE to go with sedans a bit longer. They don't have enough S/CUVs to go around, yet.

    • Ermel Ermel on May 05, 2018

      Trends do not continue forever. Eventually, the SUV/CUV craze will decline like any craze before it did. To be replaced by what? If I knew that, I'd be rich.

  • Ajla As a single vehicle household with access to an available 120v plug a PHEV works about perfectly. My driving is either under 40 miles or over 275 miles.
  • Ronin Let's see the actuals first, then we can decide using science.What has been the effect of auto pollution levels since the 70s when pollution control devices were first introduced? Since the 80s when they were increased?How much has auto pollution specifically been reduced since the introduction of hybrid vehicles? Of e-vehicles?We should well be able to measure the benefits by now, by category of engine. We shouldn't have to continue to just guess the benefits. And if we can't specifically and in detail measure the benefits by now, it should make a rational person wonder if there really are any real world benefits.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Simply put, I like it.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Ah GM, never stop being you. GM is working hard to make FIAT look good.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Top Gear of the 2000's was a fresh concept and very well done. Sadly to say there isn't a TV show concept that doesn't eventually exhaust fresh ideas and, as a result, begins to rehash and wear out once were fresh ideas. The show eventually becomes a pale imitation of itself, then begins to embarrass itself, it will get to a point where it jumps the shark. Top Gear began to get stale, the Clarkson, Hammond and May left and the formula failed - surprise! the presenters were part of the magic. Fast forward many years and Grand Tower is trying hard to be Top Gear but it's all very obviously scripted (it always was by felt spontaneous in its original form), Clarkson, Hammond and May are much older, tired and have become caricatures of themselves. Guys, just stop. You should have stopped 10 years ago. Now you're just screwing with your reputations and legacies.