Volkswagen unveiled the 2021 ID.4 Pro, its flagship electric SUV for the U.S. Wednesday, positioning the vehicle against mainstream crossovers like the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V rather than Tesla’s electric Model Y.
The German automaker has learned from Tesla’s experience selling electric cars, Jeffrey Lear, Volkswagen’s product manager for electric vehicles in the U.S.
Tesla established itself by selling luxury sport sedans and crossovers that happen to be electric, taking share from VW’s sister brand Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
VW wants the ID.4 to play on the biggest field rather than isolating it as a niche vehicle.
Automakers sold 4 million compact SUVs last year, or 25 percent of all new vehicle sales. The RAV4 was the best-selling vehicle that wasn’t a pickup truck. The Honda CR-V was next, followed by the Nissan Rogue.
Such an approach is critical to the mass electric vehicle adoption VW is seeking, Lear said.
“To really make a change, we have to go after the top vehicles, the RAV4s, the CR-Vs, the Subaru Foresters and play in the overall segment,” Lear said.
To be sure, VW is watching other electric competitors, including the Model Y and Ford’s upcoming Mustang Mach-E. Still, VW is most focused on having an attractive entrant in the entire segment, he said.
Consumers are increasingly becoming interested in electric vehicles, according to VW’s internal market research.
“Almost a third of compact SUV buyers are telling us they’re ready to make that shift into an EV,” Lear said. “There’s nothing small about the opportunity with the ID.4.”
To encourage buyers to leap, VW includes three years of free charging with Electrify America with each purchase. The crossover will have a range of 250 miles and can use a fast-charging system to recoup 80 percent of its range in 38 minutes or less, Lear said. VW is also providing a better warranty than most of its internal combustion rivals, four years and 50,000 miles.
Over the next year, VW will start selling several ID.4 configurations. The first out is a rear-wheel-drive model with one electric motor that will produce up to 201 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque. An all-wheel-drive version – which adds a second electric motor located at the front of the SUV, will have 302 horsepower. It goes on sale late next year.
The price starts at $39,995 for the ID.4 Pro before a federal tax credit of up to $7,500. The ID.4 AWD Pro will start at $43,695. That configuration also will come with a heated windshield and tow hitch.
VW is launching production of the ID.4 in Europe. The automaker will migrate assembly its factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 2022. Once VW starts manufacturing the ID.4 in the U.S., it will have an entry-level version priced at $35,000, Lear said.
Although VW has sold an electric version of its Golf compact car in the U.S. in small numbers, this will be the first auto it has designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle for the U.S. market.
It follows the architecture of other purpose-built electric vehicles by positioning the battery pack in the SUV’s underbody. That creates a low center of gravity and enhances its driving dynamics and stability. The ID.4 is a battery pack is comprised of 288 pouch cells in 12 modules housed in a lightweight aluminum structure that is bolted to the frame, helping to improve rigidity.
The vehicle’s size puts it in the middle of the compact-SUV market that includes conventional gas vehicles such as the RAV4, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V. At 180.5 inches, it is a bit smaller than the Tiguan, VW’s gas entrant in that segment. But the Tiguan is among the larger compact SUVs.
However, the passenger cabin is nearly the same size as the Tiguan because the electric drive system with a battery spread across the lower frame of the vehicle takes up less space than a comparable internal combustion powertrain. It also matches the gasoline options from the other automakers.
The ID.4 has a standard 10-inch touch infotainment display located in the middle of the dash panel and angled slightly towards the driver. VW will also offer a 12-inch option.
VW is packing the ID.4 with standard automated safety systems. They include forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring. Other features include a blind-spot monitor, rear traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and a lane-centering system.