Volkswagen affirmed its commitment to allowing VW of America a unique identity
Marc Stern's picture

Looking For A Special Passat? Volkswagen Shows GT Concept That May Be Real

Further affirming its commitment to a separate North American market identity, Volkswagen announced that it will display a Passat GT, based on the restyled Passat that was introduced this year.
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When Volkswagen introduced its new Atlas last month the promise that was made by Volkswagen headquarters was simple: hands-off America; the market can go its way. As if to emphasize and re-emphasize the point, VW Group AG and VW of America both recognized that the seven-passenger Atlas was aimed at the streaking crossover market in the U.S., not in Europe.

Subsidiary Sets American Tone

VW execs, likely biting their lips when they talked with auto writers, said the new full-sized crossover was developed specifically for the U.S. market. Wolfsburg planned to keep hands off. Indeed, VW headquarters, typically the place where vehicle names came from, left the name up to its American operation. U.S. operations responded by coming up with the name Atlas.

Continuing the theme of market independence, Volkswagen is using this week’s L.A. Auto Show to highlight its new laser-like focus on the U.S. The automaker plans to use the Passat as the platform for another midsized (named Passat, of course) with changes pointed directly at the U.S. market.

VW plans some major changes for the GT. They include:

  • Suspension chopped a bit (0.6 inches)
  • Unique grille and fascia
  • 280-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 powerplant used in the 2017 Passat

Though the automaker has made no firm commitment to the Passat GT’s position in the U.S. lineup, it did say, in a statement, that it could be a potential addition.

Designed by the engineering staff at VW’s Chattanooga factory, the GT’s features resulted from feedback provided by U.S. consumers and dealers. It also shows how the brand is bending to shape its products here.

”Freedom…To Shape Future”

“We have the freedom and responsibility to shape future North American vehicles here in the U.S., combining engineering resources from around the world with our unique perspective and talented local team, Matthias Erb, head of VW North American engineering.

Interestingly, at a time when car sales have tanked due to a blazing crossover market, Volkswagen has chosen to emphasize a midsized auto. Perhaps it is because they figure either the market will be coming back when the Passat GT appeared – if it is more than just a concept. Maybe the GT will lead a sales resurgence in the auto segment. It’s always a possibility.

For the year, though, sedan deliveries are off 17 percent through October to 59,320 Passats. For the midsized segment sales are off 13 percent.


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