OXON HILL, Md. -- Volkswagen AG remains committed to selling a mid-sized SUV to U.S. customers, CEO Martin Winterkorn told the brand's U.S. dealers today during a closed-door meeting in a suburb of Washington, D.C.
The automaker needs to "take initiative" in that crucial segment of the U.S. car market, Winterkorn said, according to a transcript of his remarks viewed by Automotive News.
"And we will," Winterkorn said. "I promise you."
It was a clear sign that VW is getting closer to approving an SUV larger than the current Tiguan and less expensive than the Touareg, to help propel the VW brand toward Winterkorn's lofty sales goals. The Volkswagen brand aims to sell 800,000 vehicles annually in the United States by 2018, nearly twice its sales in 2012.
Members of the VW's executive board told Automotive News in March that a business plan for an SUV was in development, and that there is room to build an assembly line for the vehicle at VW's assembly plant in Chattanooga.
During the meeting today, Winterkorn was accompanied by the CrossBlue, a three-row, seven-seat SUV concept VW brought to the Detroit auto show this year, as well as the CrossBlue Coupe, a five-seat SUV concept shown at the Shanghai auto show with a coupelike design similar to that of the BMW X6.
U.S. dealers have clamored for such an SUV for years, hoping it would give them another volume model to go along with mass-market sedans such as the Jetta and Passat.
Among them is Beau Boeckmann, president of Galpin Motors Inc. in North Hills, Calif. His family's Los Angeles-area dealership group added a VW franchise 11 months ago, drawn by the brand's recent U.S. growth.
"That, for me, can't come soon enough," Boeckmann said of the mid-sized SUV. "We can all agree on that."