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VW crushed the iconic Beetle to make room for this little SUV

The company sees Americans buying almost 10m a year by 2030.
Image: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Automakers are so eager to replace less-lucrative cars with higher-margin SUVs, they’re willing to scrap iconic nameplates along the way.

Volkswagen AG’s newest North American model, the Taos, is perhaps the starkest example of this yet. The German automaker made room to manufacture the compact sport utility vehicle in its Mexican assembly plant by ceasing production of the Beetle, one of the most influential cars of the 20th century.

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For automotive product planners, the decision making is simple. The ebb toward crossovers and away from sedans has been relentless, helping put SUVs and trucks on course to seize more than 70% of the U.S. market this year. Crossovers also are a better bang for automakers’ buck — consumers are willing to pay up for the higher ride height and roomier interior of models that aren’t substantially costlier to develop or build compared with sedans.

“We think the trend is going to continue,” Duncan Movassaghi, executive vice president of sales and marketing for VW’s US unit, told reporters during a briefing on the Taos. The automaker sees Americans buying almost 10 million SUVs a year by the end of the decade.

VW is far from alone in being cold-blooded about its cars.

Ford Motor is abandoning sedans in North America, killing off the likes of the Taurus, once the top-selling car in the country. General Motors has ceased several nameplates including the Chevrolet Impala, a model line with more than 60 years of lineage. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles also gave up trying to get Americans to buy the 500, the diminutive car used to bring its eponymous Italian brand back to the U.S. in 2011.

While those companies are making space in factories and showrooms for SUVs some consumers will recognise — the Ford Bronco, Chevrolet Blazer and Jeep Grand Wagoneer — VW eschewed the Beetle for an entirely new nameplate. The Taos is named after a town of less than 6 000 people in the northern New Mexico desert.

By adding the Taos and the all-electric ID.4 to the Tiguan, VW will have three models in the compact SUV segment, similar to how Subaru has the Outback, Forester and Crosstrek, and Jeep has the Wrangler, Cherokee and Compass.

Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess is counting on an expanded SUV lineup to help VW put an end to losses that predated the German carmaker’s disastrous diesel-emissions scandal. He told shareholders last month the brand was close to breaking even in North America before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. The manufacturer generates the vast majority of its profits in China and Europe and has struggled for years to make money in the US.

The Taos will be available in the second quarter of next year. It will be about 9 inches (23 centimetres) shorter than the Tiguan and priced below that model, which starts at $25,245.

© 2020 Bloomberg

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The iconic beetle was crushed long ago. The beetle was designed as a low cost entry car. It was basic, affordable and reliable. Then somewhere along the line it became way out too expensive and luxurious and only for people who could afford to buy an overpriced status symbol. The same happened to the mini. There is no need for them any more.

When FIAT launched their 2nd generation PANDA (2004-2012)…which was voted European Car of The Year in 2004….is was marketed as a sub-A class “citi” hatchback.

Little did they know they created the perfect “Crossover vehicle/mini-SUV” at the time (talk about missed marketing opportunities!)

Yet was marketed as a small hatchback.

In my (simplistic) view, there are only 5 (basic) shapes of light vehicles:
(i) a BAKKIE or light truck, with 2 or 4 seats (with open loadbed)
(ii) a PANELVAN with enclosed loadbed (…and include the versions converted in passenger vehicles). Includes your typical Hi-Ace & Quantum taxis, Kombis, Avanzas, VW Caddy.
(iii) 2-seat SPORTS cars, open or closed top (Ferrari, Porsche, etc)
(iv) a SEDAN…typical 4/5 seats with a rear ‘boot’. We all know them.
(v) a HATCHBACK with it’s “5th door”, any main characteristic of rear seats that can be folded to increase cargo/load space.

What do we have today, is a move away from sedans to (more practical) hatchback. Remember the practical 5th door & tumbling rear seats???

The clever marketers the past few decades ago realised “lets take the Hatchback basic design and expand on that: keep the roof same height, just lengthen the rear body…voila, you have a sub-sector known as “station wagons” *lol* Wait, let’s raise the suspension & add 4×4 drive system: the offroader was born. Lets raise the body height also. Those old Landrovers, boxy Landcruisers are in fact “offroad hatchbacks”(?)

…then we car marketers can CHARGE PEOPLE more by adding “segments”. Wait there’s more…let’s get more money out of buyers by creating new segments based on the same “hatchback” theme: Sport Utility Vehicle (with or without AllWheelDrive)

OK, now let’s design these SUVs’ smaller again….keep the raised offroad “look” suspension….now we’re back to the original “hatchback” called Crossovers.

I’m going to be BRUTALLY offending to many owners: that Fortuner you have….is nothing more than an upscaled, offroad Hatchback! The practical 5th door opens, to rear seats tumble (….not an original idea…started with the hatchback). The Tiquans / RAV-4’s / Tucsons / Sportages / Merc GL-series / Ecosports / Qashqais / LR Discoverys, etc etc…..all grouped into one, as hachbacks.

ALL the above morphed from the hatchback basic layout…albeit, enlarged, raised, and some have AWD-systems. The basic characteristic is the same: open rear 5th’s door, tumble rear row(s) of seat, and voila…cargo can be loaded.

You can’t do that with a SEDAN, nor with a 2-seat sports car. Everything else are variations of the HATCHBACK basic design.

I enjoy my small Italian backback…which has more SUV/Crossover styling into it since 2004, than current day crossovers.

Agree?

(Waiting for comment: I’m now closing my hatches…no pun intended)

Interesting points, can’t disagree with your take on SUVs – oversized hatches is exactly what they are. Remember the old spam cans? There you have the genesis of the SUV. I think you were a little unkind in dismissing the station wagon/ estate so easily: the station wagon is the epitome of a practical people/luggage carrier – it’s a shame that Mummy felt she needed something more aggressive (LOL) in which to ferry her little brats to school.

….interesting point, yes “estates” are still popular in Europe.

Talking of mummy needing a more aggressive vehicle, which offers a “commanding” view of the road, adding to the impression of being ‘safer’ in an elevated seating position.

The feeling of being safer in large SUV is false security: that high centre of gravity, in combination of wide, grippy tyres can be bad.
I’d dare anyone…do this:
(i) travel at 120kmh on open road in your sedan/estate, and pluck the steering wheel to the left & right…to avoid an imaginary cow on road.
(ii) …then TRY THE SAME in a high riding SUV! You’ll have ‘fun’ keeping it under control. Too much sideways movement, that wide tyres ‘dig in’…so what gives? The roll commences.

clever of you to put in a picture of the car you based the article on, it helps conceptualise the story.

Ah, one of my favourites. Overpriced vehicles, and especially in this Godforsaken country, a whole string of parasites attached to the purchase of a new/ nearly new vehicle. That’s right, go and purchase your dream machine. Live rich to retire poor. Join the majority of your fellow citizens, you’ve earned it.

End of comments.

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