Sunday, July 30, 2017

It’s Only Getting Going, but the Volkswagen Atlas Is Already One of VW’s Top Sellers


By: Timothy Cain
June 2017 was only the Volkswagen Atlas’s first full month on sale in the United States, but the Atlas, still ramping up inventory, already accounts for more than half of Volkswagen’s U.S. utility vehicle sales. In fact, the only Volkswagens that sold more often than the Atlas in June were the Jetta, Passat, and (if you count all variants together) the Golf.
2,413 units is not a terribly impressive number, although it’s stronger than what the MitsubishiOutlander, Ford Flex, Mazda CX-9, and Volkswagen’s two other utility vehicles managed last month. But the rate at which Volkswagen is building the Atlas at the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, assembly plant suggests dealers are only beginning to see just how many copies of the Atlas they’ll soon have to sell.
Will there be buyers?
According to the Automotive News Data Center, Volkswagen’s Tennessee plant built 6,104 Atlases for North American consumption in June, the sixth month of production increases at the Tennessee plant.
Getting the Atlas to dealers and into customer hands has not been a quick process. Having built nearly 24,000 copies of the Atlas by the end of June, Atlas inventory at Cars.com shows fewer than 1,000 units.
But these are very early days for the Atlas, a vehicle on which half the load of Volkswagen’s U.S. SUV hopes rest. The Volkswagen Tiguan arrives later this year in long-awaited second-gen form and brings with it a third row that could limit some of the Atlas up-sale potential.
The Volkswagen Touareg, meanwhile, has been dropped from Volkswagen’s lineup.
Years of apparent Volkswagen non-reaction have passed since the SUV/crossover wave began to grow in America. While the industry generates over 40 percent of its sales from utility vehicles, Volkswagen has been tied to increasingly unpopular, aging passenger cars. As a result, through the first-half of 2017, only 14 percent of the vehicles sold in Volkswagen’s U.S. showrooms were utility vehicles.
The Atlas, however, unlike the overpriced Touareg and undersized Tiguan, sits in the center of the market. Despite its blocky styling — about which even some Volkswagen insiders were decidedly unhappy — the Atlas has a measure of mainstream appeal the Touareg and first Tiguan could never dream of. Given the anti-Volkswagen tide that recently swept across America, the lack of built-in loyalty for an all-new nameplate, and the slow inventory ramp-up, the Atlas’s early numbers bode well.
Now that the Atlas is being built in consequential numbers, we expect to see far more significant U.S. Atlas sales figures, and soon. If not, it’ll be obvious that Volkswagen’s production is not running parallel to demand, and all the more obvious that Volkswagen of America can’t even produce significant volume in one of the United States’ hottest categories.


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