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VW Teases New Premium Fastback for U.S., Global Markets

Due for Geneva debut, four-door could fill niche left open by Phaeton.

by on Nov.28, 2016

VW plans to top its sedan line-up with the new Arteon fastback due to market for 2018.

Determined to rebuild in the wake of its costly diesel emissions scandal – especially in the critical U.S. market – Volkswagen is offering a teaser image of the “premium fastback” model it plans to unveil at the Geneva Motor Show three months from now.

To be called the Volkswagen Arteon, it will be “positioned above” the brand’s largest current model, the Passat, and potentially fill an upscale niche abandoned when the VW Phaeton was pulled from production. But the Arteon is not expected to go quite as far upmarket as that big sedan, which made pretenses of targeting the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series and even sibling brand Audi’s A8.

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The Arteon “emphasizes emotionality in the upper mid-class,” says a statement from VW accompanying the teaser image. “The four-door fastback impresses both through revolutionary design and great practical value in use.” The statement concludes that “This combination is unique.”

The timing of the announcement is not entirely a surprise. Just a week ago, the German maker laid out a series of steps meant to rebound from a crisis that has so far cost it more than $20 billion, with the cash register still ringing. VW brand chief Herbert Diess’s Transform 2025 plan is meant to “fundamentally change Volkswagen,” he said, adding that reviving sales in the U.S. will be essential.

Hinrich Woebcken the new CEO of VW's North American operations, shows off the Atlas.

(For more on VW’s plans, Click Here.)

The maker has seen sales collapse in the States, nabbing just 1.8% of the new vehicle market so far this year. With a total of 256,047 vehicles sold here from January through the end of October, demand was down 13.1%. That was despite some of the heftiest incentives VW has offered in years. But the maker has also had to make up for the fact that it can no longer sell the diesel models that once accounted for nearly a quarter of its American volume.

The rebuilding process will include a variety of new products, as well as a push into electrification. Last month, VW also revealed a third SUV model during a media preview in Santa Monica, the new Volkswagen Atlas set to start rolling out of the maker’s Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant early next year.

The VW Arteon will be produced at a plant in Emden, in Northern Germany. While Atlas will primarily target the States, Arteon will fill in model-line gaps around the world, though the U.S. is high on the list. That said, it will enter a market segment that is both crowded – going up against products like the Toyota Avalon, the Chevrolet Impala and the Chrysler 300 – and losing market momentum. According to industry sales data, full-size sales were off 14.1% through October.

Audi unveiled the 2018 A5 Sportback at the Los Angeles Auto Show earlier this month.

VW isn’t saying much about the Arteon, beyond noting it has “a highly expressive, horizontally accentuated brand look.” The overall design shifts away from the traditional, slab-sided shape of traditional VW products. If anything, it picks up key cues from the likes of the A7 and newly updated A5 models from sibling brand Audi. It is unclear how much of its underlying components the new Arteon might share with one of those models.

(Click Here to check out the new Volkswagen Atlas SUV.)

The name itself is meant to put the emphasis on the first syllable, “art.” The “eon” is lifted from the ending of VW’s top Chinese market model, the Phideon, and “identifies it…as a premium model,” the maker notes.

We’re expecting to see more on the Arteon as we get closer to the official Geneva Motor Show launch.

(For the latest on the VW diesel scandal, Click Here.)

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