This story was updated Jan. 14, 2019, at 6:59 p.m. with more information.
DETROIT — Volkswagen's redesigned Passat — coupled with other Chattanooga-made vehicles such as the Atlas SUV and a soon-to-come electric crossover — are helping make VW more relevant in the U.S., officials said Monday.
The German automaker showed off its overhauled Passat at the North American International Auto Show, calling it a vital entry point for the brand in America.
The four-door sedan, despite part of a declining car segment in terms of U.S. sales, is still an opportunity for the company, said Scott Keogh, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America.
Keogh said Americans like the size of the sedan and its durability, noting they've bought about 730,000 of the vehicle since assembly began in Chattanooga in 2011.
"Passat is the only midsize sedan to offer German driving dynamics at an affordable price and has long resonated with buyers for its combination of comfort, reliability and driving dynamics," he said.
Passat sales have fallen while buyers turn to SUVs and trucks. Despite a 32 percent drop in sales of the Passat last year to 41,401 units, the car market in the U.S. is still massive with about 4 million sold annually.
The 2020 Passat offers a bolder design, upgraded technology, and enhanced access to convenience and driver-assistance features, according to the automaker.
Keogh said that with the new model, "we've stepped up the style factor and upgraded the technology to make it even more attractive. In addition, we've made desirable convenience and driver-assistance features more accessible."
While the 2020 Passat retains the underpinnings of the previous model, it has been completely restyled, the company said. A coupe-like roofline and dominant grille give the Passat a new look that's elegant and sporty, according to VW.
Standard slim LED headlights and taillights, along with more prominent Passat badging that runs the width of the trunklid, also give the car a more premium look, the company said. Standard 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels enhance the design, and 18- and 19-inch wheels are available.
Inside, the Passat combines a new design and upgraded technology with the spacious cabin that made the outgoing model popular. The cockpit features a horizontal design, incorporating air vents that flow across the dash in a style reminiscent of premium models.
A new, more contemporary instrument panel has been fitted, along with a new glass-covered infotainment touchscreen. Complementing the new interior design are new colors and premium materials.
Herbert Diess, Volkswagen's CEO, said the automaker grew its market share slightly in the U.S. last year. In the U.S., VW brand sales rose to about 355,000 vehicles. That came as worldwide sales for the VW Group hit a record high of 10.83 million vehicles.
"We're quite happy with the result," Diess said.
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