The Passat sedan was the first vehicle assembled at VW’s Chattanooga plant in 2011.
Volkswagen will launch a refreshed Passat soon to bolster the Chattanooga-made sedan as its sales lag the popular Atlas SUV, which itself will come packed with new technology for 2020.
Also for the new model year, nearly all of the VW lineup will have standard driver-assistance, according to the automaker. Features include forward-collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, blind spot monitor, and rear-traffic alert.
The updated Passat will offer a coupe-like profile, dominant grille and "dramatic lines" to give it a bolder look, said Mike Tolbert of Volkswagen Group of America. In addition, the car's 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injection TSI engine will hold a new torque converter and software, increasing its output, he said.
Inside the vehicle, VW upgrades the infotainment system with a new glass-covered touchscreen, Tolbert said. Pricing details aren't available yet, he said.
Passat sales though July are down 54 percent to 12,084 vehicles. Just 628 were sold last month and only 797 in June, figures show. Jessica Anderson, a Volkswagen of America product communications specialist, said there's a simple explanation to the low numbers the past two months — the automaker is running out of the 2019 models.
"The 2020 hasn't launched yet," she added.
Amanda Plecas, a spokeswoman at the Chattanooga assembly plant, said the 2020 model Passat is in "pre-series production." That means the factory is preparing to start assembling vehicles which will be shipped to dealers later this year and put on sale.
Still, sales of the Passat, like the sedans of other automakers, have fallen amid motorists' increasing appetite for SUVs.
VW's seven-seat Atlas SUV, also made in Chattanooga, has benefited from the trend with record-high sales for the vehicle.
July's Atlas sales rose to 7,424, double the level of the same month a year ago, according to VW. June sales were even higher at 7,688, the automaker reported.
Derrick Hatami, Volkswagen Group of America's executive vice president of sales, marketing and after-sales, said the company's sales are outpacing the market on the strength of the Atlas and Tiguan compact SUV.
In July, SUVs marked 53 percent of all Volkswagen of America sales at 16,662, the company reported.
"They demonstrate the benefits of having the right product at the right time for the market," he said.
For the 2020 model year, Atlas will offer seven trim levels as in 2019, Anderson said. But, all models are equipped with VW's next-generation Car-Net telematics system and have in-car wi-fi capability when buyers subscribe to a data plan.
A five-seat version of the Atlas, the Cross Sport, also made in Chattanooga, is slated to debut this year to further the automaker's SUV offerings.
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