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VW Speeds Ahead with Crossovers

In addition to three new models, VW is giving its Atlas midsize crossover a faster-than-usual mid-cycle makeover. 
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Like most of its competitors, Volkswagen increasingly relies on SUV/crossover-type vehicles. Last month, VW’s two crossover models—the midsize Atlas and compact Tiguan—accounted for 55% of the company’s U.S. volume. The other 45% was spread across five car lines.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport. Source: VW

To keep pace with the shift in consumer demand, a trio of new crossovers are on the way. First out of the gate is the Atlas Cross Sport, which bows early next year as a two-row variant of the Atlas. It will be followed next spring by the all-electric ID.4 compact model and in 2021 by an entry-level subcompact that will slot below the Tiguan.

Redrawing the Map

Deliveries of the hot-selling Atlas have surged 40% through the first 11 months of 2019, including a 50% spike in November. By conventional wisdom, VW should ride the success and not make any major changes. Don’t mess up a good thing, right?

2021 Volkswagen Atlas   Source: VW

Not so fast. Or, in this case, faster. VW is giving the 3-year-old Atlas a major update next spring, a full year earlier than usual. Much of the styling changes also are adopted in the smaller Cross Sport. The 3-row Atlas also grows slightly in length, adds more standard safety features and gets an upgraded infotainment system.

Other models are expected to get similar quick turnarounds in the future. VW reasons the practice will help keep products fresh and top-of-mind with buyers.

Safety, Comfort Key to Growth

If you already own an SUV or crossover, the likelihood of your next purchase being a similar body style is almost certain. Nearly nine in 10 owners indicated as much in a recent VW survey.

The reasoning boils down to two main factors: safety and comfort. Among those polled, safety was the top choice for women and younger consumers, while men and older people put more stock in comfort, especially cushy seating.

In other findings, 94% of respondents said they felt more confident driving an SUV than a traditional car. Owners also like the utility of such vehicles, especially family friendly features such as three-row seating.

The results confirm VW’s strategy and will drive its future product direction. “All of our SUVs rank high on independent measures of comfort, standard safety features and passenger space within their classes, and we’re focused on those priorities as we develop new entries like our upcoming subcompact SUV,” says Hein Schafer, senior vice president-product marketing and strategy for Volkswagen of America.

But Schafer adds that VW must continue to adapt with new products (such as the ID.4 and restyled Atlas) that meet evolving customer demands. Some may call that fast thinking.