By on May 6, 2019

2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, Image: VW Group

If you missed last week’s Volkswagen Golf kerfuffle, here’s a recap: a VW employee at a first drive event let slip that the basic (read: non-GTI, non-R) Golf and its SportWagen counterpart won’t make it to the U.S. after the eighth-generation model appears this fall.

Fake news, said VW.

Well, potentially inaccurate news, really. The automaker explained that, while the next-gen GTI and Golf R are indeed greenlit for the U.S., “other Golf models are under consideration for the North American Region.” While Golf sales figures — which are falling, by the way — are readily available from VW, when contacted for a breakdown in SportWagen sales, a not unsurprising figure emerged.

After moving the SportWagen from the Jetta line to the Golf line for 2015, VV followed it up with the release of a slightly more butch, all-wheel drive variant for 2017: the Alltrack. Boasting body cladding and a 0.6-inch lift, the Allroad is a lightly crossoverized SportWagen, built to capitalize on the allure of all things utility and challenge the likes of Subaru’s wildly popular Crosstrek.

It can’t match the Subie’s 8.7 inches of ground clearance, but the Alltrack does look the part, and its German pedigree might just rub some upscale SUV abstainers/individualists the right way.

According to Mark Gillies, senior manager of product communications for Volkswagen of America, Alltrack sales amounted to 65.4 percent of the brand’s U.S. SportWagen volume last year. That’s nearly two-thirds of a total volume of 14,123 vehicles.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack - Image: Volkswagen

The Alltrack’s appearance led to a spike in overall SportWagen sales, with 2017’s SportWagen total of 26,700 vehicles representing a significant climb over 2016’s 15,559 sales, the previous year’s 16,680 sales (a combination of Golf SportWagens and leftover Jetta versions), and 2014’s 19,519.

Last year’s tally for the three-trim Sportwagen and Allroad represents a 47 percent climbdown from the year before. This year shows an even steeper drop, with the first four months of 2019 reflecting a 51 percent decline in SportWagen family sales (sadly, we don’t know this year’s sales breakdown between the two models.) Any observer would claim that, after initially boosting VW wagon sales, the Alltrack began gobbling up SportWagen buyers. Note that that two-model tally is less than that of the GTI.

Given the volume split, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Alltrack, which starts at $26,895 before destination (versus the SportWagen S’ $21,895 MSRP and S 4Motion’s $24,395 entry price) continue on in the absence of a SportWagen. Still, for either model to have a future, VW needs to build them.

There’s no assurance from Volkswagen that either model will emerge from the next-generation Golf, due for a reveal this October. A report in Autocar suggested VW’s simplified Golf lineup would see all wagon variants scrapped. If that’s the case, then the SportWagen-themed conversations held within the TTAC chatroom were entirely pointless, though it is interesting to see what just a hint of crossover can do for a wagon — at the expense of its more traditional sibling.

[Images: Volkswagen]

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24 Comments on “Wagon vs. The Other Thing: As Volkswagen Prepares Next-generation Golf, Alltrack Consumes SportWagen...”


  • avatar
    Mincz

    Don’t do it, VAG! The GSW is a great little car. I love my ’17

  • avatar
    JRoth

    I’m not at all sure that the low sales numbers for the year to date mean much in terms of demand for either model. Here in Pittsburgh, not a single 2019 was available for purchase prior to March, at any dealer. I’m not sure any dealer has had more than 1 or 2 in stock at any point since then. Last week I went in and told them that I would take an Alltrack SE with a stick in any of 4 (of 7) colors and 2 (of 3) interior colors. The dealer was not able to promise that suck a thing would be possible at any point t in the next 3-4 months.

    A car exactly matching our preferences was supposedly available in central PA, but the dealer checked, and the car’s been sitting in Texas for a couple months, presumably awaiting some sort of repair for damage during transit. This might be BS, of course, but the car was listed by VW as being available at 5 separate dealers, so *something* weird is going on.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “A car exactly matching our preferences was supposedly available in central PA, but the dealer checked, and the car’s been sitting in Texas for a couple months, presumably awaiting some sort of repair for damage during transit. This might be BS, of course, but the car was listed by VW as being available at 5 separate dealers, so *something* weird is going on.”

      Well, yes, sir–but would you like to look at a white Tiguan S over here? Pick one, and we’ll go for a drive!

  • avatar
    don1967

    It’s not just the “butch” look that sells crossovers. It’s also the fact that they have functional ground clearance (ie: for snow drifts and speed bumps), something which is disappearing from modern cars at an alarming rate. And the next-gen Golf will surely not escape this trend.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      The extra inch or so of ground clearance isn’t going to make an Alltrack (or any other CUV) into a Magical Snow Conveyance. If you want something that’s going to bang through two foot snowdrifts, you need something like a Wrangler, not a FWD based crossover.

      • 0 avatar
        MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

        Did they say 2 foot drifts? An AWD vehicle with a little extra ground clearance will serve a huge portion of the population (that get snow) just fine. Most people aren’t trying to navigate Moab.

        • 0 avatar
          scott25

          An AWD vehicle with a little extra ground clearance does not need to be a heavily compromised crossover, this and the Crosstrek prove that. Lifted hatchbacks and wagons are still viable in the sea of CUVs.

      • 0 avatar
        don1967

        @ FreedMike,

        I did not state that an extra inch of ground clearance will enable anyone to bang through two-foot snowdrifts. That was a voice in your head.

        My claim is that ground clearance is becoming so bad that many new cars are losing their functionality in the real world. For anyone who seeks an ounce of utility from their car, a “jacked up” version is not a matter of style but rather necessity.

        • 0 avatar
          hubcap

          “For anyone who seeks an ounce of utility from their car, a “jacked up” version is not a matter of style but rather necessity.”

          So if you don’t opt for the “jacked up” version you don’t even get an ounce of utility. Do you think you at least get a couple of teaspoons?

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      My 3 series has AWD and the ground clearance has not been a problem in the snow, nor have speed bumps.

      People vastly overestimate what capabilities they need, while underestimating what their vehicles can do.

  • avatar
    JRoth

    Meanwhile, VW has arranged the options between the Sportwagen and the Alltrack such that the former is all but decontented: you can’t get the stick with the 4Motion, and the panoramic sunroof isn’t available on any trims. I would dearly love not to spend extra money for 0.6″ and black cladding, but VW simply doesn’t make the Sportwagen I would prefer.

    I don’t know if this was the case from the start of the Alltrack era, but it may suggest why it’s cannibalized Sportwagen sales: the Sportwagen is left essentially competing in the starter car market, $21k for a manual wagon with no options, and there just aren’t many Americans left in that market (we’ll see how the Corolla does).

  • avatar
    seth1065

    As a former vw wagon owner I would not buy an all road, no need for AWD and yes I live in the metro NY area where we get snow, never had an issue with the FWD VW wagon w snow tires, I would considered a Golf sportswagon for my next car, it was the right size and drove well for the 6 years I had it, now the emission system ( TDI ) was something else. If my choice is alltrack or nothing I would vote nothing and find another wagon and I admit the choices are few and far between.

  • avatar
    bs3875

    You called it an allroad two times in the article.

  • avatar
    Steve203

    “The Alltrack’s appearance led to a spike in overall SportWagen sales, with 2017’s SportWagen total of 26,700 vehicles representing a significant climb over 2016’s 15,559 sales, ”

    Not surprisingly, I have a theory about that: the buyback of 2.0L TDIs, primarily Jettas and Golfs, started in late 2016. I suspect the bump in all Golf and Jetta sales in 17 was heavily influenced by people buying replacements for their bought back TDIs. Once the several years worth of TDIs had been replaced, sales fell back to their pre-recall trendline.

    The correlation between appearance of the Alltrack and an increase in wagon sales is probably spurious.

    As for jacking a wagon up an inch and pasting on some plastic cladding juicing sales, what is the take rate on the Buick Regal TourX?

    Second, I doubt that, if Golf hatch and wagon, combined, do not generate enough sales to make it worthwhile to federalize the powertrain, 65% of the wagon’s 14K/yr, alone, would be enough to make it worthwhile to federalize the non-GTI powertrain.

    Third: rumor mill reports VW is working on an SUV for the US that is smaller than the Tiguan, which would seem to make the Alltrack redundant.

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      Eh, the traditional VW buyer (aka the classic Volvo, Saab or Subaru customer) would much prefer a lifted wagon to a generic CUV, even with a VW badge. Things like the Tiguan and Atlas are aimed at “normal” people, but the Alltrack world only be bought by that niche customer who wouldn’t be caught dead in any crossover. There’s a massive image difference between the two.

      The fact VW is developing a separate CUV for us rather than just selling the T-Roc and T-Cross here is just silly anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        “The fact VW is developing a separate CUV for us rather than just selling the T-Roc and T-Cross here is just silly anyway.”

        The present Tiguan outsells the Golf wagon 10 to 1.

        The rumor mill has it that the smaller CUV we will get will not be the T-Roc or T-Cross, but a version of the Chinese market Tharu, essentially the short wheelbase version of the Tiguan.

        “the Alltrack world only be bought by that niche customer who wouldn’t be caught dead in any crossover.”

        VW has targeted the US as one of the few remaining markets where they have room for growth, as they are already the market leader in most major markets in the world. To grow in the US, they have to offer what people in the US buy in quantity, not niche products. I really like my Jetta wagon, but I would be OK with a Tiguan. The only thing about the present Tig that gives me pause is it is even longer than my wagon. The Tharu is 5″ shorter than my wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        It probably has more to do with profit. They might only make money off the GTI and such, and possibly lose money on the lower trims.

        I know it may seem weird to a lot of people that a non-American manufacturer would do such a thing for such a reason, but it is a possibility.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      > I doubt that, if Golf hatch and wagon, combined, do not generate enough sales to make it worthwhile to federalize the powertrain, 65% of the wagon’s 14K/yr, alone, would be enough to make it worthwhile to federalize the non-GTI powertrain.

      This is an interesting situation, because the base Golf is hugely popular in Canada which has similar automotive regs as the U.S., so if VW wants to keep up their Canadian sales they will essentially *have* to “federalize” the base Golf powertrain. Note also that there are two such powertrains – four when you consider a manual transmission is available on all models. FWD Golfs and SportWagens get a 1.4T, and AWD Sportwagens and Alltracks get a 1.8T. It wouldn’t surprise me if VW consolidates on the newer 1.4T. I do hope they keep the base models available in the U.S., though they’ve already cropped the lineup compared to what Canadians are offered (a Golf SEL is still available with either auto or manual trans up north). A manual Golf SEL will be my next new car if they offer it in the States; I like the GTI but could do without the extra cost, lower fuel economy, stiffer ride, lower ride height, and extra noise compared to the standard Golf whose performance I find more than adequate.

    • 0 avatar
      bradfa

      > As for jacking a wagon up an inch and pasting on some plastic cladding juicing sales, what is the take rate on the Buick Regal TourX?

      The take rate is horrible. There’s still plenty of 2018 Essence trim (top trim) sitting on dealer lots. Online advertised pricing generally is about $10k below sticker and buick.com shows current offers being $6394 discount. It’s not a bad time to buy one if you fancy a cladded-wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        Wow, you are right on that. My local dealer has two 2018 Essence models for exactly $10k under MSRP. Maybe in a couple of years…my C-Max still has lots of life in it. But the TourX definitely fits my criteria for a rare oddball car.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          My local Buick Dealer has a 2018 Preferred for about $10K off and based on experience I could probably get KBB “Excellent” for my trade in that is decidedly not “Excellent” (Good probably).

          My only issue with the Preferred is lack of leather and heated seats/wheel.

      • 0 avatar
        JRoth

        Test drove one. It was fine, but it felt huge, and, sure enough, it’s something like 12″ longer and 6″ wider than the Golf (which, it turns out, is identical in almost every dimension but length to my ’04 Passat wagon). I’m a city driver; that extra size is nothing but liability to me.

        It’s a shame; I was eying that car from the day it was announced, and I think it looks great.

    • 0 avatar
      palincss

      I have a 2017 Alltrack. VW’s buyback of my 2014 TDI was indeed the event that precipitated the purchase, but it was the feature set and the way options were packaged that made me choose the Alltrack. To begin with, I wanted DSG and 4Motion, which eliminated the FWD GSW. Also, I wanted the better audio system, Park Pilot and the panoramic sunroof: in other words, the SE trim level w/Driver Assistance Package. The GSW 4Motion isn’t available with the SE trim level, leaving the Alltrack as the only choice. Had the Golf R Variant been available, I would have bought that in a heartbeat.


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