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Volkswagen eyes new affordable midsize SUV for US market

Volkswagen looks to increase its share of the U.S. sport utility vehicle market by adding a third SUV to its lineup.

Volkswagen AG has not been secretive of its ambitious sales goals. In fact, the automaker wants to triple its 2010 sales, increasing them from 256,000 in 2010 to 800,000 in 2018. Through nine months of this year VW’s sales are up 30 percent to 432,000, but still short of its future goal of 800,000.

In order to meet its bold objective VW has just announced plans to produce an all-new sport utility vehicle, which will be available in the United States. According to Detroit News, VW’s upcoming SUV will be bigger than the Tiguan SUV ($22,995) and smaller than the up-scale Touareg ($43,000). Although the unnamed SUV will be larger than the Touareg, it will be more affordable says VW Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn.

Winterkorn also revealed that the forthcoming SUV will be built in America. Although unconfirmed, the automaker’s new Chattanooga, Tenn. plant is a likely option. VW previously stated that it is expanding the Chattanooga plant’s capacity by 20,000 units to build new Passat sedans. Like the successful all-new Passat, VW’s new SUV will be designed with the American consumer in mind.

In its first year of availability, the Chattanooga-built Passat has earned numerous accolades including being awarded the most appealing mid-size car in the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) Study. The redesigned Passat was also named the top-rated premium mid-size car in the Autobytel and AutoPacific 2012 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards.

VW previously announced that it was considering a seven-seat SUV in 2011, which would have been larger than the Touareg, but less pricey. With this in mind, the automaker may announce two SUVs when it makes its formal decision early next year.

Despite becoming popular in the 1990s, VW arrived to the SUV party rather late releasing the Volkswagen Touareg in 2002. A joint venture by VW, Audi and Porsche, the Touareg was originally envisioned as an off-road vehicle with sports car handling. The end result was an SUV built on the VW Group PL71 platform, which is also shared by the Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7.

Both of VW’s sport utility vehicles enjoyed impressive sales last month. The Tiguan sold 2,202 units, making it the best September ever for the vehicle, while the Touareg sold 828 units, a 26.2 percent increase compared to September of last year.