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Detroit show: Future unknown for VW seven-seat SUV

Blue mood: Volkswagen’s CrossBlue concept points to the styling and size of the unnamed seven-seat SUV that will launch in the US in 2016.

Volkswagen’s seven-seat SUV could be US-only, RHD production still not confirmed

Volkswagen logo15 Jan 2014

By TIM NICHOLSON

VOLKSWAGEN’S highly anticipated seven-seat SUV may not end up in Australian showrooms after all, with the German car-making giant confirming it will be an American market only vehicle, for the time being at least.

Discussing the company’s future growth strategy at the Detroit motor show this week, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn emphatically confirmed the family hauler was headed to the United States in 2016.

“I’m delighted to confirm what so many have been waiting so long to hear: Volkswagen’s midsize SUV for America is on its way.” GoAuto reported in October last year that Volkswagen’s Australian arm was waiting to hear whether the new SUV would be built in right-hand drive.

It appears the German company’s local outfit will have to wait a little longer, with Volkswagen North America CEO Michael Horn telling reporters at the show this week that the future SUV will be “purely for the North American market”.

Likely to be based on the CrossBlue concept that debuted at last year’s Detroit motor show, the as-yet unnamed seven-seat SUV is set to arrive in the US at some point in 2016, slotting in between the compact Tiguan and larger Touareg models.

Overseas reports have suggested that the design of the production version will be very close to that of the concept.

It will be built on the Group’s MQB scaleable platform which forms the basis of a number of models including the current-generation Golf and Audi A3 and is expected to underpin the next-generation Audi TT and Volkswagen Passat that are both due in 2015.

Volkswagen Group Australia general manager of communications Karl Gehling said the German parent company is aware of the demand for mid-size seven-seat SUVs in Australia and that they would push for right-hook production.

“We have obviously indicated our interest in a vehicle if it were to be produced in right-hand drive,” he said. “It’s one of the segments in the market that would be nice to have a car.” In 2013, SUV sales made up 29.4 per market of the overall Australian market, with large SUVs taking a sizeable 11.1 per cent share, while mid-size soft-roaders ate up 10.5 per cent of total sales for the year.

For context, the large SUV segment is the fourth largest segment in Australia by sales, behind small cars (23.4 per cent), 4x4 light-commercial utes (12.2 per cent) and light cars (11.5 per cent).

While technically a mid-size offering, the future Volkswagen is rumoured to be similar in size the Touareg, meaning it could slot into the large SUV category in Australia’s VFACTS sales figures.

Meanwhile, Dr Winterkorn used his address at Detroit to confirm Volkswagen’s $US7 billion investment in North America over the next five years, and the start of production of the Golf at the company’s Puebla, Mexico plant this week.

The German giant aims to sell one million Volkswagen and Audi badged cars per year in the US by 2018, following total Group US sales in 2013 of 600,000 vehicles.

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