Volkswagen Product Binge: Beetle Lives, EV Microbus possible, Phaeton may return
Rumors of the Volkswagen Beetle's demise past the current iteration have been greatly exaggerated, according to information gleaned from a roundtable discussion with VW board member Heinz Jakob Neusser during the New York Auto Show. While reports had lumped the Beetle in with a story identifying low volume models to be axed like the European 2-door Polo, Neusser said the iconic Bug will remain in the lineup and move over to the MQB architecture underpinning the 7th generation Golf.
"It is iconic, given its historical context," Neusser said of the Beetle. "People look at it as a lifestyle car." He added that VW has long looked at trading on the iconic shape of the Microbus, but that with conventional powertrains, the short front overhang of the design was very difficult to build and certify to present and future safety standards.
However, as the company works on its EV technology, such a design keeping in line with the classic shape of the Microbus, may be possible since the electric motors and batteries can be mounted beneath the floor and the short front overhand built to absorb impacts and pass U.S. and European crash tests.
Phaeton return hinted
Neusser also indicated that VW is working on a large D-Class sedan, presumably to replace the Phaeton, slated for a 2017 launch in both Europe and the U.S. that incorporates the advanced proximity sensing infotainment system presented last January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The new approach allows the use of hand gestures to operate the system. The styling of this new generation Phaeton is said to be inspired by the VW Sport Coupe Concept GT liftback introduced in Geneva.
The high performance Golf R400, a 395-horsepower, all-wheel drive performance hatch positioned about the Golf R is a go for production and that it's likely to be sold in limited numbers in the U.S. However, other nice performance cars, like the Scirocco will remain in Europe.
Neusser also said that in addition to offering a new 7-passenger 3-row mid-size SUV, and the next generation 3-row, 7-passenger Tiguan compact model, which will be built in Mexico, VW is also eyeing a smaller 2-row SUV based off the T Roc concept for the U.S.
While Mercedes-Benz is developing a new mid-size pickup truck with Nissan for global markets, VW said it's not ready to plunge just yet into the American pickup market, even with a mid-size model patterned after its Argentinian-built Amorak. However, Neusser said a new modular kit for trucks similar to the car-based MQB platform is being developed and could open the door to VW competing in the large van/medium truck market against vehicles like the Mercedes Sprinter, Ram ProMaster and Ford Transit.