By on May 1, 2018

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]

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26 Comments on “VW Sees the Future … and It Contains Sedans...”

  • avatar

    Man, that first-gen Jetta is really pretty! Would probably rather have that one than the one in the background.

    • 0 avatar
      Hellenic Vanagon

      VW, (and others), after their green diesels, their direct injection, (and many others), are ready for their next major failure, for the SUVS or for the sedans or for whatever.

      No the electric cars is not the solution, as you can see here:

      NASA may confirm: The Plasma Energy is the long term solution.
      (By hydrocarbons, water, or, just, air).

      The Syncro Heresy

    • 0 avatar

      I had one for about a year. Great little car. Needed something a little bigger and traded it for a ’77 Dasher with fewer miles. Got 130k out of that last one and replaced it with a first gen GTI in ’84. Imagine a first gen GTI driveline/interior in a first gen Jetta….GLI? not quite.

      • 0 avatar

        Euro Jettas (and Ventos and Boras, which was what the 3rd and 4th generations were sold as respectively) always were available with all the engine options that their Golf counterparts offered, the 1.8 G60 being the sole exception that I know of. They were, however, quite rare even here, because the Jetta was always seen as the “old folks’ car” and hence rarely ordered with the top engine. I once saw a Mk2 Jetta GLI 16V at the workshop, whose owner claimed it was one of only six hundred made.

    • 0 avatar

      I had that one, in GLI form, and it was a truly fantastic car. My ride through most of college and grad school late 80’s to mid 90s.

      The new one is a better car in every possible way, of course, but it won’t be as fun.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve got a one year old Golf Sportwagen – completely different car than the Gen I Jetta — hardly comparable. This new thing is civilized, comfortable, and good on gas. Electronically complicated. The Gen I was simple, spartan, easy to work on, good on gas and sporty.
        What would have been great would have been a wagen version of the Gen I Jetta. I’d gladly have one of those in preference to my current Golf/jetta (that’s not a knock on the current version, it’s just the old one was more fun).

  • avatar

    What is the Euro vs US sales break down for VW? Are they basically making cars for the Euro market that can be flipped easily here in the states? IE: the Golf which is a typical Euro hatch but still has a strong following on this side of the pond. I imagine that Ford is flopped the other way with their focus on a SUV heavy US market.

    • 0 avatar

      Ford could easily do the same thing – every one of their sedans, except for the American-market Taurus (versus the Chinese one), is sold verbatim in any number of other countries.

    • 0 avatar

      There is no Euro Jetta anymore, and the European Passat is a completely different car to the US market rental fleet special.

      A shame they dropped their plans to offer Skoda to the US, they have a couple of nice fastback ‘sedans’.

    • 0 avatar

      Only the Golf, Beetle, Arteon, Touran (I think), and Tiguan are the same on either side of the pond. No Jetta and Atlas for us, no Up, Polo, T-Roc, Caddy, Sharan, Caravelle or Touareg for you, and different Passats for either.

  • avatar

    Great copy and paste from Motor Trend.
    VW knows how to build fun sedans for people under the age of 50. Majority of Big three brands lot there way and build sedans for over the age of 50.

  • avatar

    There are voices on auto enthusiast’s sites clamoring for a station wagon revival. The practicality of a crossover and the driving dynamics of a sedan, to some, is inviting.
    With the demise or cutback of sedan manufacturing, it could open up a market for the station wagon. The Subaru Outback, Volvo, and more recently the VW Sportwagon are all finding success in this little used market segment.
    There will come a time when consumers just can’t stand “another SUV” and will be looking elsewhere.

    • 0 avatar

      100% agree- Wagons have utility and MPG, the pendulum will swing eventually.

    • 0 avatar

      There are actually a bunch of wagons on the market right now. No more complaining about it. A non comprehensive list:

      VW Sporttrack
      Audi Allroad
      BMW 330
      Volvo V90/V90 XC
      Subaru Outback
      Subaru Impreza (plus the XV)
      Mercedes E-class
      Volvo V60
      Buick Regal Tour X
      Jaguar XF Sportback
      Porsche Panamera Wagon (or whatever they call it)

      • 0 avatar

        1/3rd+ of that list are jacked-up CUV wannabes. Though VW does offer a proper wagon in the Golf SportWagen alongside the AllTrak, their “Outbacked” version. The Impreza is just a hatchback.

        I have zero use for a sedan, but I also have zero use for added height, weight, and ruined handling/handling. Wagons are the perfect compromise for me, though hatches are fine too. Which is why I own three of them, two proper wagons and a Golf GTI.

        • 0 avatar

          1″ of extra ground clearance a bit of plastic cladding doesn’t turn these into a crossover. But hey, feel free to continue to lament that wagons, which you love and are available, aren’t 100% perfect.

    • 0 avatar

      If any of you guys happen to be married I suggest that ask your wife what she thinks of station wagons. Most women that I know rank wagons as slightly less desirable than minivans, and they wouldn’t be caught dead in a minivan. Women have a majority voice in family car purchases, and they ain’t voting for wagons.

      • 0 avatar

        I won’t count the Volvo XCs or Outback or Crosstek as “wagons” because almost 100% of the fairer sex will look at them and think they’re CUVs.

        The Regal TourX on the other hand, I’m convinced that the only reason that it has “flares” or “cladding” is so that Husbands can convince their Wives that “no sweetie that’s not a wagon – look at the fender flares.” (Just don’t let your wives see the manufacturers website.)

        • 0 avatar

          Exactly. When I bought an ’02 Sable wagon to replace my wife’s Tempo she made it clear that the Sable, despite having lots of airbags, tech and leather, was going to be my car. She’s not at all interested in a wagon, doesn’t even like to drive the Sable. Just last year we needed to get her a new car and we wound up with a Forester, which is nothing more than a jacked up compact wagon (the jacking up was a big selling point, getting in and out of cars was becoming a challenge). It replaced a Malibu Maxx, which was just a wagon with a notch out of the back roofline. I know better than to make the case that both the Maxx and the Forester are really 2 box wagons.

  • avatar

    Which is why VW and Toyota vie for the title of world’s biggest automaker and Ford never will. North American automakers are becoming increasingly irrelevant, going the way of their British counterparts in the Seventies.

    • 0 avatar


      The automakers that sill survive in a heavy capex industry such as the automotive one are a) huge ones that leverage scale and produces full range of vehicles and compete in most big, global markets, and b) unique, specialized ones that produce truly bespoke, differentiated vehicles that command extreme prices and margins.

  • avatar

    Makes sense. With CUVs becoming the default vehicle for most people, cars will be sought after by those who want better driving dynamics or economy. VW does pretty well in both areas.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      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.

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