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Next Volkswagen Atlas may head to Aus

Global Atlas: Volkswagen could offer the next-gen version of the Atlas in Australia, if a business case stacks up, but for now the current model (left) is off the table.

Australia must wait until about 2023 for the next-gen Volkswagen Atlas SUV

9 Aug 2018

VOLKSWAGEN’S largest family SUV, the Atlas, has been ruled out for Australia in its current guise, but the second-generation version that is likely to be launched before the middle of the next decade has already been earmarked as a global proposition.
The full-sized, three-row SUV was only developed for the left-hand-drive markets such as North America – where sales have been promising, with more than 28,000 units shifted in the first six months of this year – after it was rejected in the development phase by the United Kingdom, Africa and Japan as being either too big or not suitable due to the lack of a diesel engine.
However, according to Volkswagen Group Australia managing director Michael Bartsch, this is all likely to change when the second-gen Atlas comes on stream sometime in about 2022 or 2023, with a more global focus.
“Yes, we’re looking at the next generation of Atlas,” he told GoAuto at the launch of the Tiguan Allspace in Melbourne last week.
“The Altas is being reconsidered but here’s the challenge with Atlas: there has to be a business case for right-hand drive. Speaking initially (with the existing model) … Africa didn’t want it because they didn’t make it in diesel; UK didn’t want it because it’s too big; and the same goes with Japan. We always wanted it. We always put our hand up for that car.
“When that car first came out it fell flat. Now everybody’s reconsidering it. England is now reconsidering it, SA is reconsidering it … so we’re going through a reappraisal of that car. Does that mean we are going to get it next year? No. Is it back on the agenda that’s possible in three years time? It comes down to critical mass – and that is always a challenge.”
Mr Bartsch has also revealed that members of his Australian dealer network recently sampled the Atlas in the United States, with the positive response boosting the Toyota Kluger rival’s chances of eventually making it to this market.
“We’ve had the dealers drive the car,” he said. “We had an event in Hawaii recently, and we did a quick evaluation to get a response from the dealers, and it was thumbs up across the board. But now it’s a case of the business model.”
That response, combined with its initial flush of success in North America as well as renewed interest from other right-hand-drive markets, means that the next-gen Atlas is already shaping up as a global vehicle.
“Things change over time because as the left-hand-drive initial development costs are amortised,” Mr Bartsch explained. “Then you start getting a different perspective on the business cases as the car goes through its lifecycle in left-hand drive, seeing how it performs, you know what costs have been amortised and so on.
“It’s the normal course of business – there are a lot of things in life one would like, but ultimately it has to make business sense, otherwise there’s no point doing it.”
Based on a stretched version of the MQB platform that underpins most Volkswagen Group vehicles from the latest Polo up to the Passat, the Atlas is currently available in 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol and 3.6-litre V6 petrol powertrains. 
It is made in Chattanooga in Tennessee as well as China, where – as the Teramont – the latter also supplies some Middle Eastern and Russian markets.

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