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Volkswagen looks to more market ‘niches’

Branch out: The NMC shown in Beijing this week previews a Jetta-sized sports sedan that is expected to hit Volkswagen showrooms.

Concepts such as NMC and T-Roc show VW is thinking of new niches to occupy

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Volkswagen logo24 Apr 2014

VOLKSWAGEN is testing the waters as it looks at ways to produce a sexier and sportier five-seat alternative to its mid-sized Jetta sedan.

The company this week tore the covers from the New Midsize Coupe (NMC) concept car at Auto China in Beijing. As Volkswagen’s biggest market, and one that prefers sedans, China would naturally serve as the epicentre of demand for such a vehicle.

Volkswagen refers to the NMC as a preview of a “sports sedan positioned below the Passat”, meaning it could conceptually serve as a shrunken Passat CC four-door ‘coupe’, even if its production-ready styling eschews that car’s swooping roofline in favour Skoda-esque edginess.

Mercedes-Benz has enjoyed significant sales success with its A-Class based CLA sedan derivative, which is stylistically a shrunken version of its segment-defining CLS sedan/coupe hybrid.

Nominally a concept vehicle created with the aim of stirring debate as public feedback, the NMC nevertheless looks all but production ready.

Assisting any decision to run such a vehicle down its production line – potentially in both China, and also the Mexican plant that produces the Jetta for the US and other western markets – is Volkswagen’s modular vehicle front- and all-wheel-drive architecture known as the ‘MQB’.

Already sitting below the VW Golf, Skoda Octavia and Audi A3, among many others either in production or development, the MQB lies also beneath the NMC.

Reflecting the flexibility of the platform, the NMC is shorter than a Jetta and yet wider than a Passat, lending the car its sporting stance.

Volkswagen says the NMC, as well as previewing a potential sports sedan for the road, also demonstrates how “multifaceted” it can be in spinning off new ‘top hats’ over existing architecture. Basically, it can create more models, especially those in product niches, for less money.

Another example of this is the MQB-based T-Roc sports crossover concept shown last month in Geneva, which senior Volkswagen management confirmed to GoAuto would enter production as a sports-oriented spin-off of the Tiguan compact SUV.

Whether such a vehicle could come to Australia if its reaches production – which, by all indications it will – is a tricky question. As we reported this month, Volkswagen Australia managing director John White has made the decision to trim the car-maker’s local range, removing several niche models.

Considering its status as a mere concept, Volkswagen has been unusually forthcoming with the NMC’s specifications. Under the bonnet sits the VW Golf GTI’s 162kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine matched with a seven-speed DSG transmission.

With this in mind, the NMC could quite easily be envisioned as a VW-badged rival to the Skoda Octavia RS, to which it bears passing resemblance. The same line of thought could make one consider it a ‘Golf GTI with a boot’, a boot with 500-litres of storage no less.

Further emphasising the sporty nature of the NMC are its 20-inch wheels on fat 245 tyres, LED headlights and a long bonnet with very short front overhang.

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