The ID.3 is an electric 5-passenger hatchback with good range and performance at a reasonable price. Should be no-brainer, right? So why isn’t Volkswagen bringing the ID.3 to America? Because Americans have no interest in hatchback sedans, the company’s market research shows. Volkswagen of America CEO Scott Keogh says in an official company interview it’s all about coming out of the gate strong, and that means leading with your very best products, the ones that people are clamoring for like the ID.Crozz/ID.4 electric crossover SUV. That car will be the first electric vehicle built at the new Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga.
To me, it’s just simple, simple logic. If you look at the segment that the ID.3 competes in, let’s call it the classic hatchback segment. In America, unfortunately, that’s about 100,000 cars. If you look at what we’re going to do with the E-SUV, that’s four to five million cars. So look, we need to get the cars on the road. We need to show success. How do we come in with the ID.3 and say we’re just testing it out? They would say small euro car, more of a compliance car. As opposed to an E-SUV, they’re going to say, wow, that’s in the heart of the market, in the heart of the segment, that’s a real car! Let’s go! We want to throw a good first punch. We never want to throw a weak first punch because you might not get a chance to throw a second.
Volkswagen currently has about 2% of the US market for SUVs. Keogh thinks electrification could push it closer to the front of the pack. The new Ford Mustang Mach-E is the only electric SUV announced so far by a legacy US manufacturer. The Tesla Model Y will be on sale before production of the ID.4 begins in Tennessee. GM and Chrysler have no active plans that we know of to bring an electric SUV to market any time soon.
This is a market reset and if you are a brand in our position, 2% market share, a relatively small player with a really strong parent looking after us – this is a chance for a reset. It gives us a chance to win. I think the second thing goes back to our very roots. The roots of Volkswagen in America are that we provide incredible transportation for the masses. We have that opportunity now with e-mobility, just as we did with the Beetle back in the 50s or 60s. For me, this is an exciting thing. So, I love the reset. I love the jump ball. And I love that we can bring electrified mobility to the masses.
SUVs Are 50% Of US New Car Market
SUVs currently account for about half of US new vehicle sales. In a recent survey of 1,000 customers who currently own an SUV, 96% ranked SUVs as the best vehicles for your money. 87% said they do not plan on owning any vehicle other than an SUV in the future. 94% indicated they feel more confident on the road when driving an SUV.
68% said safety and comfort are the highest priority features when it comes to SUVs, but the results are different for men and women. The men said comfortable seating is more important than overall safety while women are more likely to place importance on safety and passenger space. The survey results also showed families are spending a lot of time together in SUVs and that third rows are being used a lot more than previously thought. The SUV is the new American living room, apparently.
Eight in ten parents said they have family discussions in their SUVs, which opens up a new opportunities for family time whether on the way to school or on a family road trip. 90% claimed having an SUV leads to more family discussions. 75% of people who own an SUV with third seating row report having discussions while only 60% of those without third row seating say that happens while driving in their cars.
Personally I think those findings are suspect, as the likelihood of someone in the front seats having a meaningful discussion with someone in the third row is remote. Not to mention that young people today often communicate between themselves by text even while sitting side by side. I’m skeptical that all this family quality time is taking place inside America’s fleet of sport utility vehicles.
“As we look to the future of Volkswagen, and the direction we are mapping out for our lineup, we understand that appetites for certain capabilities of SUVs evolve. This includes EV options in the SUV market,” says Hein Schafer, senior vice president for product marketing and strategy at Volkswagen of America. “Taking into account the features that we know consumers are looking for in upcoming models, we’re eager to bring a price conscious, thoughtfully designed, and range competitive electric SUV to the U.S. market in the near future.”
ID. Buzz Should Be Priority One
What really gets Americans who are interested in owing an electric Volkswagen excited is the proposed ID. Buzz, the electrified reincarnation of the original Microbus. “I [have] had about five to six experiences between dealers, customers and that car,” says Scott Keogh. “And in my 25 years in the automotive business, I’ve never seen a reaction like that. It puts a smile on people’s faces. It just changes the room. I haven’t seen a vehicle do that before…..I think it’s the coolest damn car I’ve seen in my career. And we’ve got to work on it. We’ve got to get it here. And that’s what we intend to do. It could be a game changer.”
Yes it could, Scott. But the company has been teasing various electrified versions of the ID. Buzz for going on 10 years. It’s time to stop showing concept drawings and get it into production. I know my wife has her heart set on a Tesla Model 3, but the only other electric vehicle that pegs her interest meter is the ID. Buzz. Build it and customers will be banging on showroom doors begging to buy one. The ID. Crozz is appealing. The ID. Vizzion is attractive. But the ID. Buzz would take America by storm. It should be priority one in the Volkswagen plan to gain market share in the US.
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