HERNDON, Va. — Volkswagen officials said Friday they’re launching a minivan later this year that, though it’s aimed at the North American market, will be “decidedly German.”
“We see the Honda Odyssey at the center of our bullseye,” said VW product planner Bret Scott at the company’s new U.S. headquarters in Virginia.
The seven-passenger Routan is aimed at filling a market niche for which the German automaker has had no offering. Officials said the Routan and other vehicles coming to market this year, coupled with VW’s plans for an factory in Chattanooga, show the company’s growing commitment to North America.
VW officials have said they want to triple sales in the United States to a million cars per year in 10 years.
Jennifer Jacoby, Routan marketing manager, said the van is a product in a highly competitive segment of the car-selling market. The van is expected to be at dealerships in September.
VW hopes to relate driving the Routan with the fun associated with driving VW’s iconic Beetle, she said.
“In many ways, it’s the Beetle of minivans,” Ms. Jacoby said.
VW considered bringing back a new version of the classic VW Microbus, another familiar icon of the 1960s and ’70s, but it wouldn’t match what U.S. buyers now want, officials said.
Earlier this decade, VW sold the Eurovan in the North American market, but stopped shipping it to the United States in 2003. From 1980 to 1991, VW marketed the Vanagon, the successor to the Microbus, in the U.S.
Mark Barnes, Volkswagen Group of America’s chief operating officer, said Ford Motor Co. and General Motors are exiting the minivan market, leaving an opening.
“Here at VW we see opportunity,” he said. “This fills a gap in our product portfolio.”
* 7 — number of passengers
* $24,700 — starting price
* September — arrives at dealerships
* Windsor, Ontario — assembly plant
The Routan will be built on the same chassis as the Chrysler Voyager and Dodge Caravan and will have a Chrysler engine, but the interior pieces will be distinctly VW, he said. “Even the seat cushions feature German engineering.”
The Routan also will feature “European driving dynamics,” which generally fine-tune cars for Europe’s twisting roads and high-speed highways, he said.
“There’s more of a ride you’d find in other VWs,” he said.
The minivan is being produced at a Chrysler plant in Windsor, Ontario.
“In light of our announcement of the assembly plant in Chattanooga, we’re building more vehicles in North America,” Mr. Barnes said.
Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...