Volkswagen plans to launch an all-new Chattanooga-made Passat next year in the first full remake of the sedan since the automaker began U.S. production of the car in 2011 as it tries to power up sales.
Also, VW is spending $3.3 billion in North America over the next three years, including $1.2 billion aimed at projects in the U.S., the company revealed at an auto show Monday.
"This market is a touchstone for our success. At long last, we want to get it right," said Herbert Diess, chief executive of the VW brand globally.
Diess on Monday unveiled Volks-wagen's redesigned 2019 Jetta compact sedan, which is larger than its predecessor but less expensive.
› $3.3 billion: Amount VW plans to spend in North America over the next three years
› 339,700: Number of VW brand vehicles sold in U.S. last year
› 6.23 million: VW brand vehicles sold worldwide in 2017
The model will have a sales price starting at $18,545 when it hits dealers later this year.
"We're putting the pedal to the metal in the U.S. market with the best Jetta of all time," Diess said about the vehicle that is the VW brand's best-selling single product in the U.S.
With a new design, added technology and safety features, and VW's transferable, six-year/72,000-mile new vehicle warranty, he expects the Jetta will make "a huge splash in the compact market."
Also Monday at the North American International Auto Show, VW officials rolled out its new 2018 Passat GT aimed at bringing more sportiness to the sedan built at its Enterprise South industrial park assembly plant that employs about 3,450 people.
Hinrich J. Woebcken, CEO of VW's North American region, said the vehicle "brings real excitement" to the automaker's sedan lineup.
He said the Passat GT, priced at just over $29,000, was designed and engineered in the U.S. That includes input from the company's engineering and planning hub in Chattanooga.
"It's the first production vehicle designed and engineered for the market from our local team in America," Woebcken said.
A totally redesigned Passat that will be unfurled next year is expected to help inject new life into an aging platform, said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book.
"You need a sedan to be a player," he said. "It's an additional component to the SUVs."
As Americans have turned to buying more SUVs and trucks, Passat sales have dropped. Sales of the sedan fell 16.8 percent to 60,722 units in 2017, according to the automaker.
The Passat's slide occurred while VW last year introduced the Atlas SUV, also assembled in Chattanooga, which had its best month in December with sales of 6,070 units.
Diess has said it's "highly likely" the automaker will bring a five-seat derivative of the Atlas SUV to the market.
"By 2020, we will offer at least two new [Volkswagen] U.S. models annually, covering key segments in the United States," Diess said.
Woebcken said Monday the Atlas is aimed "right at the heart of the SUV market" with the size, features and comfort Americans expect.
"With a competitive price and ... the best bumper-to-bumper warranty, sales of the Atlas are continuing to build," he said. "In order to grow, we needed to reach the heart of the market and offer a fresh lineup of SUVs."
According to VW, the first of a family of full battery electric vehicles will be added starting in 2020. The first model to go on sale in America will be an SUV.
Woebcken said the automaker made "significant progress towards the comeback of the Volkswagen brand in the U.S. in 2017."
The U.S. contributed to the overall delivery record of the Volkswagen brand in 2017 with around 339,700, up 5.2 percent, the company reported.
Worldwide, 6.23 million Volkswagen passenger cars were delivered to customers in 2017, 250,000 vehicles more than in the previous year.
The VW Group also sells Audi, Porsche and other brands in the U.S. and worldwide.
Diess acknowledged the diesel emission scandal that hit sales and shook trust in the brand.
"We disappointed many people," he said. "But we must and will make up for it. We're working hard on it."
Contact staff writer Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318.