Volkswagen reveals bigger Tiguan crossover at Detroit auto show – USA TODAY
DETROIT—This is a stretch. Literally.
German automaker Volkswagen Group revealed a stretched version of the Tiguan crossover vehicle for sale in the U.S. as it overhauls its product lineup in the wake of its emissions scandal and low gasoline prices.
In an event Sunday night tied to the Detroit auto show, Volkswagen revealed an optional three-row version of the vehicle, which has two more seats than its predecessor.
It’s a direct response to the massive shift in consumer interest to crossovers, sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks amid low gasoline prices. With the new Tiguan and a recently revealed SUV called the Atlas soon to hit dealerships, Volkswagen dealers will have two crucial weapons in their battle to lure consumers who are disinterested in VW’s small cars.
“I truly believe that this auto show marks a real turning point for Volkswagen in the United States, based on an upcoming strong product momentum with vehicles that are truly tailored to what American buyers want,” VW North America CEO Hinrich J. Woebcken said at a press conference.
Whether it makes consumers forget about Volkswagen’s crushing emissions scandal is another question altogether.
To be sure, the Tiguan has been one bright spot for VW as the German automaker has grappled with the aftermath of its emissions scandal. While overall VW brand sales were down 7.6% in 2016, Tiguan sales rose 11.6% to 47,861.
Nearly 11 inches longer and with 57% more cargo space, the Tiguan is much bigger than its predecessor, by auto industry standards.
The vehicle will get optional safety systems that are spreading quickly throughout the industry, such as forward-collision warning, pedestrian monitoring, blind-spot detection and lane-departure warnings.
What it won’t have is a diesel option, which represented 25% of VW’s sales in the U.S. before the emissions scandal erupted in September 2015.
“Diesel could make sense in bigger SUVs, so I wouldn’t totally exclude it, but currently we have no plans,” VW global brand CEO Herbert Diess told reporters Sunday in Detroit.
The front-wheel-drive version of the 2018 model-year Tiguan will get third-row seats as standard, while it will be optional on all-wheel-drive vehicles.
The vehicle will get a 2-liter turbocharged direct-injection engine with 184 horsepower, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Volkswagen said in late 2016 that it would launch an “SUV offensive” in the U.S. But that offensive will take time. While awaiting the Tiguan and Atlas to hit full speed, Volkswagen is lavishing discounts on poor-selling cars such as the Passat and Jetta to help dealers move inventory.
December incentives per Volkswagen vehicle soared 20%, compared to a year earlier, to $4,392, according to TrueCar. The industry average was $3,673.
The arrival of the Atlas and Tiguan is long overdue. It’s “an area where we have been underrepresented,” Woebcken said.
Plainly, many consumers have lost interest in small vehicles with low gasoline prices making crossovers, pickups and SUVs affordable to drive.
“More than ever Volkswagen is taking American customers seriously,” Diess said.
That may begin with the approximately $11 billion VW has agreed to pay U.S. owners of diesel vehicles fitted with software to cheat emissions standards.
“Our most important task is to regain the trust of our customers by resolving the diesel issue,” Diess said.
He declined to confirm reports that VW is nearing a criminal settlement with the U.S. Justice Department worth several billion dollars.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.