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.
In March, members of VW's executive board told Automotive News 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 Chattanooga plant.
During the meeting in a Washington suburb, Winterkorn was accompanied by the CrossBlue, a three-row, seven-seat SUV concept that 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.
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."