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

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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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

  • Teddyc73 As I asked earlier under another article, when did "segment" or "class" become "space"? Does using that term make one feel more sophisticated? If GM's products in other segments...I mean "space" is more profitable then sedans then why shouldn't they discontinue it.
  • Robert Absolutely!!! I hate SUV's , I like the better gas milage and better ride and better handling!! Can't take a SUV 55mph into a highway exit ramp! I can in my Malibu and there's more than enough room for 5 and trunk is plenty big enough for me!
  • Teddyc73 Since when did automakers or car companies become "OEM". Probably about the same time "segment" or "class" became "space". I wish there were more sedans. I would like an American sedan. However, as others have stated, if they don't sell in large enough quantities to be profitable the automakers...I mean, "OEMs" aren't going to build them. It's simple business.
  • Varezhka I have still yet to see a Malibu on the road that didn't have a rental sticker. So yeah, GM probably lost money on every one they sold but kept it to boost their CAFE numbers.I'm personally happy that I no longer have to dread being "upgraded" to a Maxima or a Malibu anymore. And thankfully Altima is also on its way out.
  • Tassos Under incompetent, affirmative action hire Mary Barra, GM has been shooting itself in the foot on a daily basis.Whether the Malibu cancellation has been one of these shootings is NOT obvious at all.GM should be run as a PROFITABLE BUSINESS and NOT as an outfit that satisfies everybody and his mother in law's pet preferences.IF the Malibu was UNPROFITABLE, it SHOULD be canceled.More generally, if its SEGMENT is Unprofitable, and HALF the makers cancel their midsize sedans, not only will it lead to the SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST ones, but the survivors will obviously be more profitable if the LOSERS were kept being produced and the SMALL PIE of midsize sedans would yield slim pickings for every participant.SO NO, I APPROVE of the demise of the unprofitable Malibu, and hope Nissan does the same to the Altima, Hyundai with the SOnata, Mazda with the Mazda 6, and as many others as it takes to make the REMAINING players, like the Excellent, sporty Accord and the Bulletproof Reliable, cheap to maintain CAMRY, more profitable and affordable.