Volkswagen Group of America unveiled plans to further extend its SUV lineup in the U.S. Tuesday when it unveiled the Atlas Cross Sport concept vehicle ahead of the New York International Auto Show.
The automaker will produce a version of the crossover for the U.S. market beginning in 2019 at its plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.
The production model will use the name Atlas, but the company is still deciding whether to stick with Cross Sport or use a different designation, said Hinrich Woebken, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America.
“Atlas is resonating so well that we want to continue building on that name,” Woebken said.
The Atlas Cross Sport Concept is a five-seat version of the Atlas, a three-row SUV that went on sale in 2017. The two SUVs both ride on Volkswagen’s Modular Transverse Matrix global architecture platform, or MQB. As a result, they have the same wheelbase measurement, though the total length of the Cross Sport is 7.5 inches shorter than the Atlas.
The Atlas Cross Sport and Atlas also share similar styling cues, such as LED headlights and taillights, broad fenders and a distinctive character line that runs from the front grille all the way to the rear hatch.
But there are key differences between the two. Where the Atlas is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine with 276 horsepower, the Atlas Cross Sport Concept adds a plug-in hybrid system that increases output to 355 horsepower.
It is also capable of driving 26 miles on all-electric power. It can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, according to Volkswagen. One electric motor powers the front axle and another the back, while an 18-kWh lithium-ion battery lies under the floor of the SUV.
Volkswagen is eager to expand its SUV offerings in the U.S. Since launching the Atlas and a refreshed Tiguan in 2017, the automaker is seeing results. Sales of its SUV models grew to 27,500 units in the first two months of 2018, an increase of 270 percent compared with the same period in 2017.
“We knew that in order to grow we needed to reach the heart of the American market,” Woebken said. “This vehicle will be further evidence of our commitment to the U.S. market and the U.S. economy.
The growth in SUV sales has offset a 42 percent decline in sales of Volkswagen’s smaller cars. The brand as a whole is up by 5.6 percent so far in 2018.
The Atlas Cross Sport Concept joins the I.D. Crozz in Volkswagen’s stable of upcoming SUV models. The I.D. Crozz is an all-electric crossover with a promised range up to 300 miles.
Volkswagen is also planning an electric van called the I.D. Buzz for the U.S. in 2022 and an electric sedan called the I.D. for Europe and Asia.
The automaker is eager to rebrand itself after the Dieselgate scandal – where it embedded software in its diesel vehicles to fool federal and state emissions tests. The scandal has cost VW more than $20 billion in fines, vehicle buybacks and settlements in the U.S. alone.
In addition to its I.D. line of electric vehicles, Volkswagen’s Electrify America division will embark on an EV infrastructure plan to install charging stations that are universal for all electric vehicles.
The plug-in hybrid version of the Atlas Cross Sport Concept offers five driving modes: all-electric E-Mode; Hybrid; the sporty GTE; Off-Road; and Battery Hold/Battery Charge to manage the electric power on board.
The New York International Auto Show will open to the public on Friday, March 30, and close on Sunday, April 8.