By on September 5, 2018

2018 Volkswagen Atlas/Tiguan - Image: VW

The diesel emissions scandal that continues swirling around Volkswagen’s German workforce is merely a far-off cloud for the folks at Volkswagen of America. Sunny skies reign, thanks to a decision to go heavy into “Americanized” crossovers.

Sure, the Jetta and Golf families continued their downward trajectory, joined in the descent by VW’s Passat sedan, but those lost sales are more than made up for by two nameplates: Tiguan and Atlas. Break out the iced tea.

Year over year, August’s U.S. sales tally of 32,225 vehicles was a 0.7 percent increase over the same month last year. Over the first eight months of 2018, VW’s U.S. sales rose 7 percent, carried aloft by the strength of the considerably larger, new-for-2018 Tiguan, its older, soon-to-be discontinued Tiguan Limited sibling, and the midsize Atlas.

Insulated from tariff threats, the Chattanooga-built Atlas saw its year-over-year sales grow 44.4 percent in August. Year-to-date volume is pointless, as the model only appeared in May of 2017. Sales of the second-generation Tiguan, which boasts lots of extra space between its axles, grew 189.4 percent. Its predecessor (and brief stablemate) accounted for 1,276 sales — a 27 percent year-over-year increase.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas - Image: Volkswagen

In the automaker’s car segments, there’s plenty of opportunity for doom and gloom. Sales of the Golf family, which encompasses the Golf, GTI, Golf R, and Golf SportWagen, sank 39.7 percent in August, year over year. Over the first eight months of the year, Golf family sales declined 37.7 percent. The Jetta sedan, now all-new, declined by 14.6 percent, year over year, with YTD volume down 36.1 percent. Still, the just-launched newness of the 2019 model means August was the Jetta’s best month so far this year — this factor, as well as the fact that VW slowed production at the beginning of the year, accounts for some of 2018’s lack of Jetta enthusiasm.

Elsewhere in the lineup, endangered Beetle sales — which are hardly a large slice of VW’s product pie — rose 14.3 percent in August, with YTD volume down just 2.2 percent. The car has its niche, I suppose. The U.S.-built Passat, of which some buyers need to be reminded of its existence, saw sales fall 32.2 percent. Since the start of the year, Passat sales declined 34.3 percent.

Total up these lost passenger car sales, and it amounts to a significant number. And no one expects the “cars are yucky” trend to reverse itself anytime soon. However, there’s a solution for that, and it comes in the form of two crossovers: a sportier, two-row version of the Atlas, heralded by this year’s Atlas Cross Sport concept, as well as a small crossover designed, at least initially, for the American market. The first of the two new models enters production in Chattanooga next year, while the second, built in Mexico, arrives in 2020.

There’s also a chance the Atlas-based Tanoak pickup truck might have a future in America, but the powers that be are making damn sure there’s a business case for it before pulling the trigger.

Whatever VW loses on the car side of things, it seems there’s a higher-margin vehicle with a raised ride height to compensate for it.

[Images: Volkswagen]

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31 Comments on “With Rising Sales and Two Crossovers on the Way, Volkswagen of America Can Probably Breathe Easy...”


  • avatar
    threeer

    I look at the Atlas and the forthcoming Subaru Ascent and I swear I can’t tell the difference. Okay, I’m sure there are differences, but my point is that all of these SUVs are starting to run together. But, apparently nobody cares that you could more or less exchange manufacturer badging and not know any better. SUVs for all!

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I’d say the Ascent looks more like a Highlander than anything, especially from the sides. Meanwhile, the Atlas’ chiseled shape sort of resembles a stretched Grand Cherokee. But, your point is valid.

    • 0 avatar
      HahnZahn

      Popular Mechanics had a game a couple months ago that showed a bunch of mid-size SUVs in profile, and the challenge was to guess which was which. Pretty hard little game.

      Agree with another commenter that the Ascent looks a lot like a Highlander. There are a couple new ones in my neighborhood. My wife and I will likely sell my Impreza and get the Ascent after our baby is born. Our big, stupid dog will be banished to the third row, and our Subaru stereotyping will be complete.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “Sales of the Golf family, which encompasses the Golf, GTI, Golf R, and Golf SportWagen, sank 39.7 percent in August, year over year. ”

    Good – better GTI deals are forthcoming.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    See, VW? The American vehicle market wasn’t such a hard nut to crack. All that wasted effort trying to foster interest in expensive-feeling cheap cars then cheap-feeling cheap cars when all you needed was your badge on some big dumb bricks with AWD.

    • 0 avatar
      iddqd

      german market isn`t much of a difference these days…
      without the fleet leases of sedans like Passat et al, you are left with guess what…
      SUV`s.
      (even though europeans tend to buy smaller sized dumb bricks, preferably without AWD..)

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    VW also said a two-row version of the Tiguan would be coming, but based on the long-wheelbase of the current model available in the US. I saw several of the short wheel base Tiguans in the UK recently. It’s a good looking vehicle. I’m surprised it’s not on sale here.

    • 0 avatar
      darex

      It’s because VW never misses an opportunity to make a stupid decision in North America, to wit, no short wheelbase Tiguan, no T-roc, no Q2, no Polo, etc…, etc… but that stupid electric microbus, that’s a “go”!

  • avatar
    stingray65

    I think it is time for a Thing/Kubelwagen rival. If VW really wants to make a big splash in the SUV/CUV market they might also make the Schwimmwagen variant.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I may consider the Atlas for my wife in the next year or two. Not a lot of reviews out there of the 2.0t, but sure seems like that is the engine to have, to the point where there is almost a question of why they offer that garbage V6 at all. I would guess to appeal to American tastes, but I wouldn’t buy the V6. For a vehicle that is surprisingly large, the 2.0t seems to do a pretty efficient job of moving it about, fair to good fuel economy and average power for the class. The interior looks a bit down market, but I will definitely check it out when shopping.

    They should really offer AWD with the 2.0t if you are listening VW.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      What’s so bad about the VW V6?

      • 0 avatar
        thegamper

        If you read the reviews, the 2.0 is faster, considerably more efficient. I guess the V6 is not bad per se, but the 2.0 is better and it is a base engine not available across all trims and not available with AWD (Not to mention V6 costs more). Look at the hp, torque, and MPG on the two engines in that vehicle. It doesn’t make sense to buy V6 if you ask me. I think every review I read of the 2.0 thinks its the better powerplant for a variety of reasons. Sort of like VW selling the 2.5 4cyl about a decade past its prime. Just not as competitive as it maybe once was.

        • 0 avatar
          Carrera

          All the reviews I’ve seen said that the 2.0 turbo is ok with one person, may be 2 on board. Add 5, plus luggage and this thing is struggling. I would not get the 2.0 if this is a big family vehicle. The 3.6 VR6 is tried and true and yes very long in the tooth. That’s a good thing for a VW.

        • 0 avatar
          tekdemon

          The turbo is efficient when used in the FWD setup that’s more efficient to begin with. VW purposely didn’t put it in the AWD because it’d put the turbo motor under too much stress trying to drag around the heavier body and with the less efficient AWD drivetrain. You’d end up under boost all the time and get even worse fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Why do you class the VR6 as “garbage”?

      • 0 avatar
        thegamper

        All I can say is read the reviews. The 2.0t seems like it should be the available on more trims, even perhaps with AWD. How it would perform under heavier load, who knows. Under full throttle, it performs better from a numbers standpoint. How it would do with drivetrain losses from AWD and the added weight? Who knows, but what are we talking about? Few hundred pounds? I don’t thing either additional passengers or AWD would kill the 2.0t, but yeah, Im sure it would ding the performance somewhat, so would a car full of passengers in the V6. Personally, I would take FWD and the 2.0 with mid 20’s for MPG over the V6 with mid teens for MPG. Especially if it is a bit faster to boot and a few grand cheaper. I am not filling my car with a bunch of fatties. Whether they want to admit it or not, AWD is hardly a requirement for most of the country where it either doesn’t snow, or your municipality owns a few plows.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Curse them for not giving us the new Touareg. It’s really, really nice.

    Then again, it was never a big seller, probably because it cost a lot more than similar vehicles.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I’d like to see an MQBized GLI soon.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB2

    As a CAR guy I can’t really see anything positive in the sales numbers of the Golf going down while the VW SUVs carry the load. I really just can’t understand this interest in large, heavy, cumbersome vehicles. One of these years I’m just going to have to forego my usual habit of buying a new car every three years simply because there will be no CARS available.

    But, as FreedMike noted above, there is a silver lining in this for some of us: my plan is to buy a Golf R next year, probably late summer, so there may be some deals available.

    I read elsewhere that the Golf Wagon and Alltrack are going the way of the dinosaur with the 2020 redesign. Christ… I thought those sold reasonably well.

  • avatar
    jdiaz34

    I’m planning to order a 2019 Golf Sportwagen SE with a 1.4T and six-speed manual this fall to replace our beloved 13-year old Passat wagon. It will be our 3rd MQB Golf…..love these little cars.

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    Does anyone really care about “the scandal”? People buy (or don’t buy) cars because they like the car not because of scandals. Maybe I’m naive on this, but I just don’t buy into the average car buyer giving much thought about any of it.

    • 0 avatar
      Rocket

      If you were burned by it you might care about it. I’m glad VW isn’t offering the new Touareg here. I don’t want to be tempted to return to the brand. I just want to savor the hatred.

      • 0 avatar
        I_like_stuff

        Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t all the “victims” get some money from VW? And what did it really hurt you? You polluted more than you thought. Meh. I mean come on, it’s about as First World Problem as it gets.

        • 0 avatar
          Rocket

          Yeah, I got some money. Then I got a fix that was anything but. The car drove nothing like the Touareg I bought and loved. Laggy throttle, wacky shift logic and an intermittent sputter that I was told was “normal”. And then there’s the massive drop in efficiency. I couldn’t live with it so I ditched it a few weeks after the modifications were made. I’d give the money back if I could have the car I purchased that was as clean as it was advertised to be. That car doesn’t exist. Never did.

        • 0 avatar
          9Exponent

          spoken like a true ignoramous.

          Are you also in denial over the health consequences of cigarette smoke?

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        VW paid existing customers so much money very few people would feel burned. Most TDI owners had the 2.0 and the buyback amount can be almost double what the cars are worth.

        I see you had a Touareg where there aren’t a buyback available, but the majority of people didn’t own Touaregs.

        • 0 avatar
          Rocket

          Many of the TDI owners purchased the cars based on the “Clean Diesel” marketing. Those just looking for low operating costs cared a whole lot less. Tree hugger types, on the other hand, largely feel cheated and betrayed, as they should. VW lost some of their most loyal customers as a result. Hence, even with brand new crossovers in the lineup, they’re barely moving the numbers.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    I like the new Tiguan but everything I read about the engine is giving me pause. Very weak and very slow. I would take it to APR and chip it the second day and add another 20-30 HP and some torque.

  • avatar
    ernest

    What I got from the article was VW was essentially turning into Acura in the US- two SUV models that sell, and the rest of the lineup looking for a purpose to be on the showroom.

  • avatar
    bkrell

    I bought an Atlas SEL-Premium 4Motion for my wife a week ago. Her Yukon XL went belly up at 118,000 miles (transmission) and I wanted her to downsize a tad. It’s an interesting car in top line trim. The VR6 is a smooth engine. I was really surprised. It reaches out and tickles at some Audi amenities but with random reminders that you opted for VW instead, such as some hard plastic bits in places that you’d expect a soft touch. But infotainment and the digital dash are great. Second row space feels just as big or bigger than the big Yuk’ and third row space isn’t bad, either. Fuel economy isn’t terrible but the fuel tank is slightly smaller than a Honda Pilot’s or Toyota Highlander’s with slightly worse mpg so fill-ups are fairly frequent.

    I also agree w/ the Jeep comments. From the side, it looks like a swollen Grand Cherokee.

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