In a Green Future, VW Boss Sees Hope for Sedans

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
in a green future vw boss sees hope for sedans

Through the end of October, Volkswagen of America’s efforts to gain a 5 percent share of the country’s new vehicle market (by 2020) continued apace, with sales up 5 percent over the same period a year earlier. This sales bump has two crossovers to thank, not cars.

No, definitely not cars.

Still, VW CEO Herbert Diess, when questioned about the brand’s slowly deflating car lineup, doesn’t believe the future involves a light truck-only landscape. To him, the limitations of existing battery technology means future buyers won’t decrease their horizons just for the sake of cargo space. The sedan, Diess claims, is probably not in danger.

Year to date, VW passenger car sales fell a significant 31 percent, with the brand’s overall volume helped by a 170 percent increase in crossover purchases. The three-row Atlas, which went on sale in May of 2017, climbed 29 percent, year over year, in October, while the enlarged Tiguan posted an 84 percent YoY gain. A departing Tiguan Limited added a handful of sales to the tally.

Meanwhile, the Golf, Jetta, and Passat all trended downwards as the low-volume Beetle (now sentenced to death) stayed flat. The only monthly bright spots for VW cars? That’s reserved for the next-gen 2019 Jetta sedan, which saw a 10 percent year-over-year increase last month, and the Golf R, which rose 365 percent (to 144 vehicles).

Speaking to Automotive News ahead of the release of the larger, semi-luxury Arteon sedan, Diess said he questions the sentiment that sedans have no place in our automotive future.

“Should we give up on sedans? Some say that, but I don’t think so,” Diess said, pointing to China as something of a canary in a coal mine for the segment.

“In China, for instance, they’ve been shifting toward SUVs for the last 10 years, and incredibly fast for the last five years. Their SUV share now is as high as it is in the United States. It’s an incredible shift. But in the past five months, SUVs have stagnated and sedans are coming back.”

Why the shift? Electrification — a trend taking hold far quicker in China and Europe than the U.S. and Canada. While the EV market here doesn’t have the same level support from governments (here, “support” means as much the penalization of internal combustion vehicle purchases as state subsidies for EVs), battery electric vehicles are indeed making headway. Longer-range battery packs will do that. However, those packs are better at moving vehicles with less mass longer distances.

Physics and cost are, for now, on the side of small cars, Diess said, adding, “the big SUVs have a disadvantage because of their relatively high fuel consumption, which would require huge batteries. So to make big SUVs viable in the electric world is complicated. So if you have 50 km or 50 miles more range on a sedan, you might consider a sedan again.”

Wishful thinking?

[Image: Volkswagen]

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4 of 11 comments
  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Nov 12, 2018

    How Europe can be ahead of US if the only EV made are Teslas? Or they secretly make European EVs we are not aware of?

    • See 1 previous
    • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Nov 13, 2018

      @HotPotato Yeah but if you read blogs it looks like US is hopelessly behind in electrification. But I see tons of Teslas driving around, my neighbor just bought one, charging stations at every office, plaza and store, hybrids galore. When I shopped Fusion 5 years ago I could hardly find gas only models in local dealerships - 80% of all Fusions were hybrids or plugins. It reminds me articles in early 2000s about how US is behind of Japan and Europe in cell phone use and how iMode and Nokia are superior to what ever American use. And then suddenly within a year or so iMode and Nokia go out of business and iPhone and Android make all European and Japanese phones obsolete. When I visited Japan several years ago I was shocked to see how many dumb phones are still in use in Japan while in US it was already ancient artifact.

  • Voyager Voyager on Nov 15, 2018

    How's Ollie Schmidt doing? Lingering in jail? In the FBI's witness protection program?

  • Dave M. I think I last listened to AM after 9/11, but the talk radio cesspool took its toll on my mental health. Prior to that I last listened to AM in the '70s....I'm a 20-year XM subscriber; Apple Music also has me in its grip. For traffic conditions I use Waze, which I've found to be highly reliable.
  • Art Vandelay Install shortwave so I can get numbers stations
  • THX1136 Radio World has been talking about this for a few years now. The public perception of AM has done much to malign it. As some have pointed out, there are parts of the country that work well with AM, especially when considering range. Yes indeed, there are options. To me that's what this is more about. The circuitry for AM is probably all on one chip now - or close to it. It cannot be a matter of cost - even at the inflated manufacturer asking price. Making what appears to be an arbitrary decision and reducing choice seems unwise in the area of radio in vehicles.Some have commented that they never listen to AM 'so I'm not missing it'. I'm guessing that many folks don't use ALL the features their many devices offer. Yet, they are still there for those occasions when one wants to avail themselves. Bottom line for me is it should still be an available option for the folks out there that, for whatever reason, want to access AM radio. Side note: Top 40 radio on AM was where all the music I listened to as a youth (55 years ago) came from, there were few (if any) FM stations at that time that carried the format. FM was mostly classical and talk and wasn't ubiquitously available in a portable form - AM was. FYI, the last I knew all stations - AM & FM - still have to have an EAS system as part of their broadcast chain. It's tested by the FCC at least once a year and all stations must be able to pass along the alert messages or face action from the FCC to correct the situation.
  • Robert I don't know why they don't use a knob for the gear shifter on the console like in the Ford Fusion. Takes up a lot less space than a shifter on the console and looks a lot better than a stalk on the steering column.
  • David S. "Stellantis" a woke company showing off evil ICE trucks!?! Bernie Sanders is having a stroke!!