Despite having scuttled plans to produce a modern-day interpretation of the legendary Microbus, Volkswagen hasn’t given up on the U.S. minivan market – but odds are that many potential buyers don’t even know about the VW Routan.
The maker’s current minivan model, assembled for VW by Chrysler, has certainly not set the market on fire, leading to a shutdown of production earlier this year. But the German maker insists the Routan will be back, with new models set to roll out of Chrysler’s Windsor, Ontario minivan plant by next summer.
Volkswagen’s plan is “to offer the 2013 model year Routan,” spokesman Scott Vaizin told Automotive News, though for now there’s apparently enough inventory to satisfy the market’s limited demand. He added that it’s “a safe bet” production will resume in 2013, as well.
The VW Routan came to market in mid-2009 as a 2010 model. It shares its underpinnings with the current Chrysler offerings, such as the Town & Country, though there have been some design tweaks, such as the twin-bar grille with a large VW logo anchored in the middle.
Minivan sales, in general, have taken a sharp tumble over the past decade, plunging from a 2000 calendar-year peak of 1.7 million to just 472,000 in 2011. Despite a modest uptick during the first 11 months of this year, that has prompted Chrysler to give serious thought to its future options even after closing one of its two minivan plants, in St. Louis.
(Chrysler studying four possible minivan options. Click Here for that story.)
Volkswagen, meanwhile, has never come close to hitting its goals for the Routan – sales plunging 38%, to just 8,882, from January 1 through December 15. Production has been idled since last July.
VW officials continue to insist they want some form of minivan in their line-up. They have unveiled a number of possible design alternatives over the last decade, all aiming to recapture some of the emotional magic of the original Microbus. The latest was the Bulli Concept unveiled at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. But the German maker quietly decided to scrap the Bulli several months ago.
Volkswagen’s contract with Chrysler to produce the Routan continues through 2014 and it is unclear if it is working with the U.S. automaker to see if there’s an alternative opportunity moving forward.
But VW has confirmed plans to develop another crossover vehicle, a three-row CUV that would slip in the line-up alongside the current Volkswagen Touareg. If the Routan were to be dropped, it is quite possible the new crossover might be marketed as an alternative people-mover.
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