published Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

VW unveils cheaper, updated Jetta

  • photo
    Klaus Bischoff, left, a designer for Volkswagen, and Stefan Jacoby, president and CEO of Volkswagen of America, unveil the 2011 Jetta, Tuesday, June 15, 2010, in New York's Times Square. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

VW unveiled its new Jetta on Tuesday, cutting its price and boosting its size as the compact and the Chattanooga-made sedan the automaker will unveil next year key Volkswagen's growth strategy in the U.S.

"Today marks the beginning of a new era for Volkswagen and for Jetta," said Stefan Jacoby, Volkswagen Group of America's chief executive at the compact car's debut at a New York news conference.

VW's top-selling vehicle in the U.S., the Jetta will start at around $16,000 when the 2011 version goes on sale here in October. By contrast, the 2010 Jetta starts at $17,735.

The Jetta is built at VW's Puebla, Mexico, facilities.

Also, officials have said the Jetta and midsize sedan will share some parts. VW is building a $1 billion plant in Chattanooga that is to employ more than 2,000 people with production to start early next year.

Frank Fischer, who heads VW's Chattanooga operations, said last week he's looking forward to driving the midsize sedan.

"I love the design," he said.

Last year, Volkswagen sold about 100,000 Jettas in the U.S. Its goal is to boost sales 20 percent to 30 percent by next year, Mr. Jacoby said. Volkswagen's total share of the domestic market was 2.9 percent in 2009.

The Jetta is a critical car, Mr. Jacoby said, because it is the company's most recognizable nameplate behind the Beetle -- the car that established Volkswagen more than 50 years ago.

So far this year, VW has sold about 37,000 Jettas, up 19 percent from the same period last year, according to Autodata Corp. That's slightly better sales growth than the industry overall.

SHARED PARTS

The new Jetta will share some parts with the midsize sedan that will be assembled in Chattanooga, according to VW officials.

Other specs of the new compact:

* It will be sold with four engine types, including Volkswagen's 2.0-liter "clean diesel" engine.

* It will give drivers more space, including an added 2.6 inches in legroom.

* Like the 2010 model, the 2011 Jetta will come in four trims: the base S version, the higher-end SE, the top-of-the-line SEL and the diesel engine TDI.

The company aims to nearly triple total U.S. sales to a million vehicles by 2018. The Chattanooga plant is to produce 150,000 vehicles annually, officials have said.

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