Reveling in the North America region’s newfound greater independence from the Volkswagen mother ship, Volkswagen Group of America CEO Hinrich Woebcken said diesels may return stateside someday. He also said the region may finally get a version of the Amarok pickup, although he noted that the company has greater priorities at the moment.
Speaking at the 2016 Los Angeles auto show, Woebcken said diesels may be considered for 2018 and beyond “package by package,” although increasingly stringent emissions standards and shifting priorities toward electrification mean “diesel will not come back to the same magnitude.” Before the diesel-emissions scandal broke last year, VWs accounted for 25 percent of all diesel passenger-car sales in North America. “Those levels will not come back,” Woebcken said, but he would not say that diesels are off the table for future VW products.
Also possible is a U.S. version of the Amarok pickup sold in other markets. The current platform isn’t suitable, Woebcken said, but when the platform gets replaced in the next year or two, a U.S. version will be considered. So far, Woebcken sees limited possibilities for what he calls “B segment” pickups, populated by smaller trucks such as the Chevrolet Colorado and the the Toyota Tacoma. But he acknowledged that new entries may cause the segment to grow in popularity.
At the moment, VW of America is fixated on high-volume segments such as small and medium crossover SUVs. In the latter category, VW is launching the three-row Atlas. The truck’s name was cited by Woebcken as an example of North America’s new independence, since Teramont, the truck’s name in other markets, was considered less appealing for U.S. buyers. In the past, Germany has overridden North America on such decisions, which is how we ended up with tongue twisters like Touareg and Tiguan.
Other VW ambitions, according to Woebcken: Update mainstream cars like the Passat more often rather than let them get stale, launch up to 30 battery-electric vehicles worldwide by 2025 on dedicated EV platforms, and launch initiatives to spruce up the damaged Volkswagen brand, including a major push on quality.