Volkswagen to unveil new SUV in electric-car push to win back U.S. buyers

Fri Jan 8, 2016 8:27am EST
 
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By Andreas Cremer

BERLIN (Reuters) - Volkswagen will unveil a battery-powered SUV at the Detroit auto show on Monday, according to company sources, part of a push into electric vehicles as it seeks to win back U.S. buyers following its emissions test cheating scandal.

The car will be a plug-in hybrid version of the Tiguan, the German automaker's top-selling sport-utility vehicle (SUV), the two sources told Reuters on Friday.

Analysts say Volkswagen's core VW brand badly needs new models in the world's second largest auto market to reverse a three-year decline in sales which fell 4.8 percent in 2015 to 349,440 cars.

Europe's biggest automaker is putting increasing emphasis on electric cars following its cheating of diesel emissions tests, which analysts think could hit demand for diesel vehicles, and a focus on SUVs makes sense given their growing popularity.

"VW can't release an SUV soon enough," Edmunds.com analyst Jeremy Acevedo said. "SUV market share is at its highest ever level (in the U.S.)," with compact SUVs such as the new Tiguan accounting for 13 percent of all U.S. auto sales in 2015.

The sources said the concept model, following VW's unveiling of an electric microbus at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week, would hit U.S. dealerships sometime after the planned release next year of a new midsize crossover vehicle and a long-wheelbase Tiguan.

However, the German group is struggling to balance model development with the growing costs of its emissions scandal, a task made more difficult this week by a U.S. lawsuit seeking billions of dollars in fines.

The new Tiguan prototype integrates electric engines at the front and rear axles and boasts more offroad quality than the GTE concept version of VW's fifth best-selling model launched at the Frankfurt auto show last September, the sources said.   Continued...

 
The logo of German carmaker Volkswagen is seen at a VW dealership in the Queens borough of New York, September 21, 2015. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton