Earlier this morning, German automaker Volkswagen confirmed that it will bring a new mid-size crossover SUV to the U.S. market next year.
Sold as a 2016 model year, the seven-seat crossover SUV will be built in the U.S. at VW’s Chattanooga facility, already home to the recently-launched 2015 VW Passat Sedan. Designed to appeal to the U.S. market, the new, un-named crossover SUV will likely go up against cars like the Mitsubishi Outlander, Kia Sorento and Nissan Pathfinder.
While Volkswagen hasn’t confirmed drivetrain options for this all-new car, we here at Transport Evolved think it will be offered at least in optional plug-in hybrid format. Here’s why.
Based on the CrossBlue
Firstly and most importantly, Volkswagen has said the new seven-seat mid-size SUV will be based on the CrossBlue concept car we saw at the 2013 Detroit auto show. While we already know the seating will be different to that used in the concept car, one of the CrossBlue’s defining features was its plug-in hybrid drivetrain.
Powered by a two-litre, four-cylinder TDI engine and twin electric motors, the CrossBlue was capable of operating in electric only, serial hybrid or parallel hybrid operation, allowing for frugality when desired and power when needed. Like the Volkswagen Golf GTE we drove earlier this year, the CrossBlue hints at a future where electric motors are used to give drivers the power they crave without resorting to massive engines.
In fact, the combined diesel plus electric power output of the CrossBlue concept car was more than the V-6 engine found in Volkswagen’s U.S. market Touareg SUV.
Tougher emissions, fuel economy targets
Despite their questionable gas mileage and traditionally-high tailpipe emissions, SUVs are still growing in popularity around the world. Practical, roomy and with enough off-road capabilities to handle bad weather, a seven-seat mid-size crossover SUV from Volkswagen would prove extremely popular with families all around the world, especially among the growing affluent Chinese middle class with a penchant for European cars.
Amidst tightening emissions and fuel economy regulations in the U.S., Europe and Asia, the only way Volkswagen could successfully build and market a new, affordable, powerful mid-size crossover SUV to sell in large enough volumes to turn a profit would be to power it with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain.
It needs to compete
A plug-in hybrid SUV isn’t a new concept. Both Mitsubishi and more recently Volvo, view plug-in hybrid crossover SUVs as an essential part of any future lineup. The Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid is already popular with customers in Europe and Asia with plans to bring a revised version of it to the U.S. for 2016, while Volvo announced last week that the plug-in hybrid variant of its upcoming XC90 SUV would be the most powerful and greenest XC90 available.
For Volkswagen to compete in the same market as both these cars, its vehicle will need to match the power output and fuel efficiency of both models– something only a plug-in can offer at the current time.
Volkswagen wants to lead
Like many other automakers in the world today, Volkswagen has its eyes set on domination of the plug-in car marketplace. Most noticeably, Volkswagen says it will lead the ‘electrified vehicle’ market by 2018. While it’s important to note that electrified vehicle does not always mean a vehicle with a plug, Volkswagen needs as many plug-in models as it can in the next four years in order to make this happen.
With time ticking out, we think a plug-in SUV from Volkswagen is inevitable. The questions that remain to be answered are when, and how much?
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