DETROIT (AP) — Volkswagen is getting into the midsize SUV market dominated by Ford and Jeep.
The German company unveiled the CrossBlue concept SUV Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Volkswagen wouldn't say whether the vehicle will be built, or when it might go on sale, but called it a "realistic glimpse of the future."
Jonathan Browning, CEO of Volkswagen's American division, said the company will decide whether to make the CrossBlue in the next few months, based partly on reaction at the Detroit show. But a midsize SUV, which would fall between the small Tiguan SUV and the pricey, five-seat Touareg, is clearly needed in the company's lineup. It would help VW meet its goal of more than doubling U.S. sales to 1 million by 2018.
The Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee dominate the midsize SUV segment in the U.S., with sales of nearly 320,000 vehicles between them in 2012. But Browning says there's room for more. Volkswagen projects midsize SUV sales will jump 20 percent by 2018.
Here are more details on the CrossBlue:
UNDER THE HOOD: The CrossBlue would be a first in the U.S. market: a plug-in hybrid SUV with a diesel engine and two electric motors. Volkswagen estimates it can travel 14 miles in all-electric mode before a diesel engine would kick in. In electric mode, it would get the equivalent of 89 miles per gallon, a measurement reached by estimating the energy it uses. In hybrid mode, it would get an estimated 35 miles per gallon. Volkswagen said the vehicle would have 305 horsepower.
INSIDE: The concept has six seats, but anything that makes it to market would likely have seven. The dashboard has a 10.2-inch touchscreen to control the entertainment system. It also shows the driver the status of the hybrid system. Second-row passengers can use iPad minis that are integrated into the front-row headrests.
OUTSIDE: The CrossBlue looks like a bigger, beefier Touareg, and not unlike an Explorer or a Grand Cherokee. At 196.3 inches long and 79.3 inches wide, it's slightly shorter and wider than the Explorer.
PRICE: Volkswagen isn't saying, but it's likely to be significantly less than the Touareg's starting price of $43,945. The Ford Explorer starts at $29,100.
CHEERS: Volkswagen needs a midsize SUV in its lineup, and a diesel hybrid is an appealing combination.
JEERS: Volkswagen is still getting its footing in the SUV market, and customers might not necessarily look to Volkswagen for an SUV. Honda sold nearly 9 times more CR-V small SUVs than Volkswagen sold Tiguans in 2012.
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