Volkswagen's new crossover will be called 'Atlas': can it bear the burden of saving VW?

October 12, 2016

Volkswagen's got at least 99 problems in the U.S., but the name of its brand-new, mass-market crossover ain't one. According to Auto News, it's going to be called the VW Atlas--which is appropriate, considering the burden it's going to bear.

The Atlas crossover--not to be confused with Ford's Atlas concept that debuted in 2013 at the Detroit Auto Show--is based on VW's CrossBlue concept, which, just to make things confusing, also debuted in Detroit in 2013. The Atlas is a midsize, seven-passenger, three-row vehicle that's designed to sit between VW's underperforming Tiguan compact crossover and the brand's more upscale, midsize Touareg.

The Atlas is slated to debut on October 27 in Santa Monica, California, and it will be built at VW's facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It's scheduled to roll into showrooms by mid-2017.

When it does, it'll be carrying the hopes and dreams of many a VW dealer. The brand is facing numerous obstacles and stiff competition in the U.S., and some view the Atlas as the first step in a long, complicated turnaround for VW. Among the troubles it's meant to address:

1. Dieselgate. Unsavory headlines about not-so-clean diesel vehicles from Audi, Porsche, and VW have been on the front pages for over a year, and Volkswagen's eponymous mass-market brand has borne the brunt of the bad press. (Oddly, Audi and Porsche have emerged largely unscathed.) Last month, VW sales were off 7.8 percent compared to September 2015, and they're down 12.5 percent for the year. 

2. Years of declining VW sales: Long before Dieselgate, VW was having troubles in the U.S. Its designs have often been uninspiring, its prices have often been high, and its lineup has been curiously car-heavy at a time when Americans have been flocking to crossovers and SUVs. Sadly, the only crossovers to be found on VW lots in recent years have been the barely pronounceable Tiguan and Touareg, the latter of which has been hurt by especially high sticker prices. 

Whether the Atlas can do the heavy lifting needed to overcome those problems remains to be seen. However, it's encouraging to see that VW has at least given the model a name that Americans can pronounce, instead of stubbornly insisting that its name begin with a "T" and match other markets. That's something. 

Want to know more? Back in July, we got to take a quick spin in an Atlas prototype. Click here for our impressions.

Note: for purposes of clarity, "Volkswagen" has been used to refer to the Volkswagen Group parent company, while "VW" has been used to refer to the company's popular mass-market brand of automobiles.

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