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VW may reduce minivan lineup in switch to SUVs

Customers are switching from minivans such as the VW Sharan, shown, to SUVs and crossovers.

in Automotive News Europe, by Christiaan Hetzner, 20-12-2019

Volkswagen brand will look at axing at least one of its minivans to reduce costs as customer demand shifts away from people carriers to crossovers and SUVs.

The brand has already dropped the New Beetle, Scirocco coupe, Phaeton sedan and the Eos cabriolet. These were niche vehicles, while VW’s minivans still sell relatively well.

“We need to see whether we still need to have three minivans in our range with the Golf Sportsvan, Touran and Sharan,” VW brand finance chief Arno Antlitz told Automotive News Europe at a press event here.

The Touran compact minivan is the best-selling model of the three vehicles. Touran sales in Europe fell 14 percent to 69,814 in the first 11 months, according to JATO Dynamics market researchers. Sales of the Golf SportsVan, which is positioned between the Golf hatchback and Touran, dropped 26 percent to 40,215. Sales of the Sharan large minivan were up 1.7 percent to 20,854.

VW brand’s T-Roc and Tiguan compact SUVs have much higher sales volumes. European sales of the Tiguan rose 2.2 percent to 245,056 through November and T-Roc sales increased 46 percent to 193,963.

VW is scrutinizing its model, engines and transmission lineups as it seeks to reduce costs to deliver a profit margin of 6 percent or more by 2022, up from an expected 4 percent to 5 percent next year.

Antlitz said VW had reduced costs significantly by eliminating about 30 percent of engine-gearbox combinations.  “In the past someone from sales would invariably say that there was some important customer group that needed a particular combination,” he said.

The switch to WLTP type approval rules in Europe, which caused supply bottlenecks because automakers had to certify their cars under the new regime, was beneficial because it led to reduced engineering complexity, Antlitz said.

“Although it cost us about 500,000 euros, the changeover did have a positive effect. We didn’t have the luxury anymore to maintain this number of combinations, so cuts were easier to implement,” he said.

VW has expanded its SUV lineup in recent years with the T-Roc and T-Cross as it seeks to increase sales of higher-margin SUVs to help fund an industry-wide shift toward low-emission vehicles.

The brand has increased its share of SUVs sold to 37 percent in Europe and 42 percent in the U.S., Chief Operating Officer Ralf Brandstaetter said at the same event.



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