I was thinking about Volkswagen this weekend, as you do. We’ve all seen the recent reports that the company is losing money, betting big on the new electric ID lineup, and about to sell its halo supercar brand Bugatti.
But I think the company has another, product-centric issue in North America as you might’ve guessed by the title above. The Arteon must go.
You see, I was checking out some pictures of an Arteon SEL at whatever random dealer Google presented to me. And while the alignment of the trunk really bothered me from a quality perspective, the rest of the photos caused me to consider how the Arteon is absolutely the wrong premium sedan offering for VW’s North American lineup.
The looks aren’t the issue, as it manages to stand out with its unique profile and appears upscale in lots of colors that aren’t Hot Gold Metallic. No, the Arteon’s issues are with positioning. Arteon’s playing the premium sedan game, sitting above the Passat as VW’s flagship sedan in this market.
As you know, I’m no fan of the current Passat, which is worse than the Passat the rest of the world gets for VW Corporate Reasons. It’s unacceptable the MQB-based Arteon shares a showroom floor with the crap “NMS” Passat, unless Volkswagen wants to make the Arteon look more premium. But the Arteon can’t be that premium, because it’s required to sit below Audi offerings. That’s problem one.
The second issue for the Arteon comes in the form of its … form. It’s a liftback, which is traditionally not a thing Americans go for outside of premium offerings – see Kia’s Stinger for example. The “coupe” form factor also arrives for historical reasons, because the Arteon is the official replacement for the departed CC. That sloped “four-door coupe” (2008-2017) was so ancient by the time it was canceled that everyone forgot it was still on sale. And nobody wanted a second album from CC and company anyway. Dealers are throwing thousands on the hood to try and shift Arteon: $6,000 on the one above, even before you begin negotiations.
The Arteon’s placement is wrong, its form is wrong, and the North American Passat sucks. What’s my recommendation then? Two birds with one stone, as it were: The ancient NMS Passat and slow-selling Arteon must be killed immediately. In place of both these things American’s don’t really want, Volkswagen can bring over the legitimate MQB Passat they sell in the rest of the world.
A sedan will always sell better than a liftback in North America (even if that’s still a bit slow), and the Passat’s price is more in line with what consumers are willing to spend on a Volkswagen. They could bring over the wagon as well, but that’s probably a bad idea. Volkswagen’s North American Passat and Arteon need to ALT+F4 right out of this market. Bring back a well-made, premium Passat like you used to sell here, VW.