VW's latest SUV follows a bold prediction to bump sales

Phil Berg
Special to The Detroit News

The latest VW SUV will go on sale in 2016 and will be almost a copy of the Cross Coupe GTE concept introduced at the Detroit auto show Monday morning by Volkswagen chairman Martin Winterkorn.

The new SUV "might be a perfect match" for American consumers, as Winterkorn stated the company is "fully committed" to the U.S. market and is aiming to sell one million vehicles in North America by 2018. Current sales have slumped this year, however, and are only about two-fifths of that figure, leaving industry critics at the show in doubt.

However, worldwide Volkswagen sold 10 million cars last year, which was a record achieved four years ahead of schedule, said Winterkorn.

"We've done awfully well worldwide," he commented to critics on Sunday night in Detroit.

To support the sales push in North America, Winterkorn also said that $7 billion would be invested into the market by 2018, with $600 million to increase production at the Chattanooga, Tennessee, factory and add 2,000 new jobs.

The new Cross Coupe GTE will be built at the Chattanooga plant where the U.S. Passat sedan is now built. It will be powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 engine mated to an electric hybrid driveline with two electric drive motors, one that will supplement the gasoline engine driving the front wheels, and another driving the rear wheels. VW calls this its "electric driveshaft."

The new hybrid SUV is called the GTE for Grand Tourismo Electric, said U.S. President Michael Horn, at the car's unveiling Monday morning. Total output will be 360 horsepower, and the hybrid system will enable the SUV to reach a 70 mpge rating on EPA tests for fuel efficiency.

Horn also announced that the company will cut two years off the life cycle of its cars, revising each model every three years, and replacing models every five years. "We are keenly aware of what the American consumer wants," Horn explained.