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New five-seater plug-in hybrid concept car, the Volkswagen Cross Coupe GTE was unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show today.

DETROIT -- Aimed at revving up its sport utility vehicle sales, Volkswagen today took the wraps off a concept of a new 5-seat SUV that could be assembled in Chattanooga.

Dubbed the Cross Coupe GTE, the five-door vehicle would be a slightly smaller version of the 7-seat midsize CrossBlue which is slated for production at Chattanooga's plant in late 2016.

"For us, it's important to come up with a new design approach for America," said Klaus Bischoff, chief designer for the VW brand, to a small group of journalists prior to the opening of the North American International Auto Show media preview on Monday.

He said that some of the elements of the concept, a light metallic blue exterior, would find their way into the 7-seater, but the Coupe would appeal to a somewhat different motorist.

"It's a strong signal of what we'll do," Bischoff said.

The Coupe would have a more sloping roof line and, at 119 inches long, not quite as long as the CrossBlue, which was originally introduced at the Detroit auto show two years ago.

Michael Horn, Volkswagen Group of America's chief executive, called the Coupe "really a possibility," though a decision will be made later on production.

The concept vehicle uses V6 plug-in hybrid drivetrain with 276-horsepower 3.6 V6 FSI engine and two electric motors, though the SUV would have more conventional power plants if it is built.

The plug-in hybrid system has a maximum output of 355 horsepower and an all-wheel-drive system that uses an "electric driveshaft," according to VW. The hybrid has a manufacturer-estimated fuel economy rating of 70 mpg.

Bischoff said the Cross Coupe GTE is "the ambassador of a new design language developed by Volkswagen for the U.S. The concept car has a commanding presence. It is powerful with a look that could almost be described as aggressive," he said.

He said that numerous details hint at how VW envisions a future production of SUV models for North America. Bischoff said the underlying concept combines German engineering and design with a vehicle that suits the American lifestyle.

"That means high efficiency, clear and powerful design, logical operation and supreme quality--combined with lots of space, superior performance, and outstanding comfort," he said.

The Cross Coupe GTE is the third concept car presented by Volkswagen on the way to the production version of the midsize SUV.

Together, all three concepts--the CrossBlue presented in Detroit in January 2013, the CrossBlue Coupe shown in Los Angeles in November 2013 and the Cross Coupe GTE--represent just a part of the wide spectrum of SUV variants that can be produced off Volkswagen's modular transverse matrix architecture, the company said.

See more in Monday's Times Free Press.