The next step on Volkswagen’s SUV growth plan is a five-seat, two-row version of the Atlas. VW confirmed today that the new model will be built at the company’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and that a concept version will be shown later this month at the New York Auto Show. While a name has not been confirmed, VW described the new model as an, "Atlas variant."
That Volkswagen wanted to offer even more SUVs in the U.S. market was widely known. A report in December said as much, and at the Chicago Auto Show we heard that Volkswagen planned to add two more SUVs alongside the Atlas and Tiguan.
The new Volkswagen SUV will also be built on the MQB modular chassis, as is the case with the Atlas and Tiguan. The company says it was specifically, “designed and engineered for the American market.” As this teaser image of the concept shows, the design language will basically match the regular Atlas, with a wide horizontal grille and rectangular headlights at either side.
It’s possible the new five-seat model will be a little shorter in length than the existing seven-passenger Atlas, and that it might have a more affordable entry point. The smaller Volkswagen Tiguan is offered with either five or seven seats depending on configuration. Adding more choices is a surefire way to draw in customers, given increasing buyer preference for SUVs of all shapes and sizes. On the other hand, VW will not bring the new Touareg to the U.S. market.
“The Atlas has built strong momentum for Volkswagen in the SUV segment, and we are excited to grow our SUV portfolio with this new, Chattanooga-assembled, five-passenger SUV,” Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of Volkswagen North American Region, said in a statement.
Last month, SUVs accounted for 54 percent of Volkswagen’s U.S. sales, as the Atlas and Tiguan continue to draw in more buyers. They were the brand’s first and second best-selling models last month, respectively.
VW will invest $340 million to prepare the Chattanooga plant to build the new SUV. The factory already builds the Atlas and the Passat sedan.
Gallery: Volkswagen Atlas Five-Seater Concept
VOLKSWAGEN ANNOUNCES A NEW FIVE-PASSENGER ATLAS SUV TO BE BUILT IN CHATTANOOGA
Based off Volkswagen’s award-winning MQB platform, a concept version
will be unveiled at the 2018 New York International Auto Show
Chattanooga, Tenn. – Volkswagen of America, Inc., announced today that it will be building a new five-passenger SUV at its Chattanooga factory. Based off Volkswagen’s award-winning MQB platform, the new Volkswagen SUV will be a variant of the seven-passenger Atlas and, like its sibling, will be designed and engineered for the American market.
“The Atlas has built strong momentum for Volkswagen in the SUV segment, and we are excited to grow our SUV portfolio with this new, Chattanooga-assembled five-passenger SUV,” said Hinrich J. Woebcken, President and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. “We are not only committed to this market, we are committed to our U.S. manufacturing home in Chattanooga, Tennessee.”
Woebcken made the announcement in Chattanooga today with Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.
“During my time as Governor, I’ve watched Volkswagen Chattanooga flourish from a single vehicle producer, starting with the Passat, into what it is today—a thriving U.S. manufacturing operation that can produce three models, and counting,” said Governor Haslam. “We value Volkswagen as a committed partner, whose investments in the state have not only created new jobs, but have helped us build a skilled Tennessee workforce. I look forward to watching as VW continues to grow in Tennessee.”
Volkswagen will invest approximately $340 million to bring the vehicle to market, in addition to approximately $900 million already invested to expand the plant for Atlas production. The five-passenger Atlas variant will mark the third Volkswagen model assembled at the Chattanooga factory. Volkswagen Chattanooga also manufactures the Passat, which went on sale in 2011, and the Atlas, which started sales in 2017.
A concept version of the five-passenger SUV will be officially unveiled at the 2018 New York International Auto Show.