The current Passat is beginning to show its age, but a replacement won't be on board until 2010Enlarge Photo
Volkswagen of America president Stefan Jacoby has confirmed to High Gear Media that the new sedan to be built in Tennessee will effectively replace the VW Passat in North America--and that the former Phaeton sedan will return to the U.S. market.
Speaking to journalists gathered to drive the new VW Golf, Jacoby admitted that today's Passat is too small for the duties pressed on it by American drivers. The Passat is "not the right size...for the distances Americans drive."
The Passat's replacement will be a new four-door code-named "NMS." Set for a new Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the new sedan arrives in about two years' time and will be joined by a second product a year later. Jacoby would not confirm the second product would be a crossover vehicle, as some sources have suggested.
By the time the "NMS" arrives on the market as a 2012 or a 2013 model, Volkswagen's lineup will include these sedans:
VW Polo: A new generation of the subcompact Polo arrives in about two years as well, and a four-door sedan is under study for the American market. Like the upcoming Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen thinks both a hatchback Polo and a four-door Polo sedan could be its new model-line anchors, positioned and priced to challenge the Fiesta and the Honda Fit.
Volkswagen Jetta: The next generation of Jetta (and the mechanically similar Golf hatchbacks) should arrive within three years. The cars will continue to compete against the likes of the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Ford Focus.
VW NMS: The new NMS sedan has been shown in sketches released by Volkswagen (above). In Germany today, VW design chief Walter de' Silva showed three more complete sketches of the NMS sedan, including full frontal, side and rear views. The shape shows some similarity to the former Volkswagen Quantum, with a faster rear roofline, a smoothly integrated grille and headlamps, and angular taillamps. In size, the NMS will likely be roughly the size of today's Nissan Altima-- to provide a wider cabin than the VW Passat, and more rear-seat leg room. According to other High Gear Media sources within the Volkswagen Group, the new sedan will be closely related to the next VW sedan to be built and sold in China.
Volkswagen CC: Jacoby says the new 2009 Volkswagen CC--a re-bodied, re-engineered spin-off of the current Passat--has moved decidedly upmarket from the Passat itself. It may drift further higher in price and mission as Volkswagen introduces the NMS sedan.
VW Phaeton: In the early part of the decade, Volkswagen introduced a large, conservative sedan called the Phaeton. You may have missed it: it sold slowly and was pulled from the market after the 2006 model year. Abandoning the Phaeton in the U.S. market was a "mistake," Jacoby says. "You need to be patient to enter a new segment." It's most likely the new Phaeton will arrive before the end of next year in Europe, and could share the same flexible component kits with other big sedans due from the VW Group, including the Audi A6, A7 and A8--though the A8's aluminum space frame and body panels are sure to remain exclusive to Audi.
Jacoby says that Volkswagen needs the new NMS sedan to compete alongside the likes of Toyota and Honda. But with a five-sedan lineup spanning a price range from about $12,000 to more than $50,000, the VW brand will be stretched much wider than either of the Japanese car names. In fact, that spectrum would include all of Toyota and Honda's core products, all of Acura, and almost all of Lexus.
What gives Volkswagen the reach that's missing from those nameplates? The brand and its heritage, Jacoby says. It's the "brand, the technology, the perception...the [Volkswagen] brand is strong enough to carry this kind of product range."
Stay tuned--we'll have our bottom line on the 2010 Volkswagen Golf and news about the next VW Beetle later today.