Volkswagen's Plan: Lure 'em in With Sporty Plug-ins, Sell Them on EV Tech

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
volkswagens plan lure em in with sporty plug ins sell them on ev tech

If you’re a greenie who loves hauling your compostable tote to the grocery store in search of climate-conscious vegan food, Volkswagen’s U.S. lineup likely leaves a lot to be desired. For now, anyway. The automaker’s domestic offerings are pretty heavily skewed in favor of larger, gas-powered utility vehicles, with the promised lineup of electrics has yet to materialize.

Overseas, VW product news would have this hypothetical buyer up at night, unable to sleep due to all of the cortisol rushing through their bloodstream. Knowing the jump to EVs might be too wide a gap for some, the automaker is readying a range of performance plug-in hybrids to placate the nervous and sell them on the idea of electricity.

European buyers have access to a Golf GTE plug-in hybrid with 242 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque drawn from a turbocharged 1.4-liter/electric motor combo. That same powertrain is expected to find its way into the Tiguan GTE and Arteon GTE, both announced by VW earlier this month. In that market, VW also has a Passat GTE on offer, with a second-generation Tiguan R plug-in for those who like spending money. That model pairs a 2.9-liter V6 with its electric hardware.

“This is one means of making electrified cars attractive: they can combine pure electric driving capability with high performance if the driver wants to use it,” said Kia Philipp, VW’s electric powertrain manger, in an interview with Autocar. “With a plug-in hybrid system, that performance comes with no compromise in terms of torque or power, so we wanted to use the two components to make the car as attractive as possible.”

With a hotter version of the Arteon nixed for the U.S. market and importation of anything but the hottest (Mk. 8) Golf family members expected for the coming year, a plug-in product surge in the U.S. looks unlikely. Here, VW has a two sides-style strategy in mind: conventional gas-powered vehicles, and all-electric. That said, it’s not inconceivable that the company would introduce a PHEV in a popular segment where the expected take rate would make the operation worthwhile.

If one were to come, the Tiguan seems the most likely candidate. Look at its increasingly electrified compact CUV rivals for a reason why.

While plug-in hybrids remain a tough sell on this side of the pond, Volkswagen sees brighter days ahead for the powertrain type. “It’s my personal view that the peak for plug-in hybrid cars is still ahead of us and will come in the next 8-10 years,” Philipp said. “But it’s strongly dependent on the market success of pure electric cars.”

[Image: Corey Lewis/TTAC]

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  • Jkross22 Jkross22 on Apr 09, 2020

    EVs are fine, but out of town travel for most requires way too much compromise due to charging station locations and time. What Honda and Toyota have done with their hydrogen cars seems like a smart way to address this - offer up 2 weeks of lux rental car time per year with each lease of the Clarity/Mirai. No reason EVs can't come with a similar feature.

    • See 9 previous
    • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Apr 14, 2020

      @mcs Imagine if maybe EVs (with the expanded charging infra that's already on the way) are well-suited for families on road trips who have to stop for potty and snack breaks, and not as well suited for road warriors doing 1500 miles at a stretch! It's almost as though different products could serve different markets. There is a spot on my last 2000-mile road trip where there are not currently any fast chargers, but fix that one spot, and I think we could do the trip in the Bolt almost as fast as we did it in the Highlander. Small kids, not range, are usually the limiting factor.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Apr 09, 2020

    • Volkswagen’s Plan: Lure ’em in With Sporty Plug-ins, Sell Them on EV Tech • Toyota's Plan: More Grille • Hyundai's Plan: Keep Improving, Sell Vehicles • GM's Plan: Announce Plans for Future 'Green' Offerings, Then Cancel Those Plans and Sell Fullsize SUV's • Ford's Plan: Rainbow, Unicorn, Mach-E, Put Difficult Launches Behind Us • Nissan's Plan: Find the Audio-Equipment Case • Honda's Plan: What is a "Plan"? • FCA's Plan: Refer to PSA's Plan • Renault's Plan: Unavailable for comment (in a meeting with the government of France) • PSA's Plan: Push to Pass

  • Lou_BC "They are the worst kind of partisan - the kind that loves their team more than they want to know the truth."Ummm...yeah....Kinda like birtherism, 2020 election stolen, vast voter fraud, he can have top secret documents at Mar-lago, he's a savvy business man, and hundreds more.
  • FreedMike This article fails to mention that Toyota is also investing heavily in solid state battery tech - which would solve a lot of inherent EV problems - and plans to deploy it soon. course, Toyota being Toyota, it will use the tech in hybrids first, which is smart - that will give them the chance to iron out the wrinkles, so to speak. But having said that, I’m with Toyota here - I’m not sold on an all EV future happening anytime soon. But clearly the market share for these vehicles has nowhere to go but up; how far up depends mainly on charging availability. And whether Toyota’s competitors are all in is debatable. Plenty of bet-hedging is going on among makers in the North American market.
  • Jeff S I am not against EVs but I completely understand Toyota's position. As for Greenpeace putting Toyota at the bottom of their environmental list is more drama. A good hybrid uses less gas, is cleaner than most other ICE, and is more affordable than most EVs. Prius has proven longevity and low maintenance cost. Having had a hybrid Maverick since April and averaging 40 to 50 mpg in city driving it has been smooth driving and very economical. Ford also has very good hybrids and some of the earlier Escapes are still going strong at 300k miles. The only thing I would have liked in my hybrid Maverick would be a plug in but it didn't come with it. If Toyota made a plug in hybrid compact pickup like the Maverick it would sell well. I would consider an EV in the future but price, battery technology, and infrastructure has to advance and improve. I don't buy a vehicle based on the recommendation of Greenpeace, as a status symbol, or peer pressure. I buy a vehicle on what best needs my needs and that I actually like.
  • Mobes Kind of a weird thing that probably only bothers me, but when you see someone driving a car with ball joints clearly about to fail. I really don't want to be around a car with massive negative camber that's not intentional.
  • Jeff S How reliable are Audi? Seems the Mazda, CRV, and Rav4 in the higher trim would not only be a better value but would be more reliable in the long term. Interior wise and the overall package the Mazda would be the best choice.