Winterkorn also hinted that a coupe-style crossover may join VW’s U.S. lineup, based on the Cross Coupe GTE plug-in hybrid concept debuting at the Detroit auto show on Monday.
At that point, Winterkorn said in prepared remarks, “the Volkswagen brand will have the best and most attractive SUV portfolio ever in its U.S. showrooms.”
The Volkswagen Group sold 10.14 million vehicles in 2014, including commercial vehicles, a 4.2 percent gain from 9.73 million in 2013, the company also announced today. It marked the first time that VW's global sales exceeded 10 million vehicles, according to the company.
"That is impressive confirmation we are vigorously implementing our Strategy 2018," Winterkorn said in a statement about VW's 2014 global sales.
Big goal stands firm
The SUV blitz is part of the $7 billion in North American investments Volkswagen plans to make by 2019 to fund new vehicles, production and technologies, Winterkorn said.
In July, VW announced plans to open a 200-engineer North American vehicle design and development center in Chattanooga to develop vehicles suited for North America. And VW executives are banking on the overhauled crossover lineup to fuel a turnaround starting in 2016, and followed by a redesigned Passat midsize car expected to arrive in 2018 as a 2019 model.
For now, crossovers remain a big vulnerability in Volkswagen’s U.S. lineup, which is dominated by cars. Its two current crossovers -- the Tiguan and the Touareg -- have been hampered in the marketplace by their steep sticker prices and intensifying competition.
Meanwhile, its two best sellers -- the Jetta compact and Passat midsize sedan -- also saw sales slip last year, putting Volkswagen well behind the pace for its onetime target of selling 800,000 vehicles in the U.S. by 2018. Volkswagen brand sales slid 10 percent to 366,970 units in 2014, their second straight year of decline.
Despite the setbacks, Winterkorn reaffirmed the VW Group’s U.S. sales target of 1 million units by 2018, with the fast-growing Audi and Porsche brands likely picking up much of the VW brand’s slack.
“The big goal stands firm: By 2018 we want to deliver one million vehicles per year in this market,” he said in prepared remarks.
In addition to hinting at a new model, VW’s Cross Coupe GTE concept foreshadows the next phase in VW’s design language. The concept was previewed at a VW event here Sunday ahead of its debut Monday morning at the Detroit auto show.
“The Cross Coupe GTE is the ambassador of a new design language developed by Volkswagen for the U.S.,” Klaus Bischoff, VW’s chief designer, said in a statement released ahead of the Detroit auto show. “Numerous details hint at how we envision a future production SUV model for North America.”
Bischoff said the concept combines high efficiency and “powerful design” with the space, performance and comfort that American drivers seek. It follows two earlier concepts heralding the midsize crossover bound for Chattanooga and “increases the momentum towards series production,” VW says.
Like the earlier CrossBlue and CrossBlue Coupe concepts shown in 2013, the Cross Coupe GTE rides on VW’s modular transverse matrix, or “MQB,” platform toolkit that will underpin much of VW’s U.S. lineup, starting with the redesigned Golf that went on sale last year.
At nearly 191 inches long, 80 inches wide and 68.3 inches high, the Cross Coupe GTE concept is similar in size to the Toyota Highlander -- a key segment competitor -- but about 5 inches wider.
The concept’s grille marks an evolution from the faces of VW’s current crossovers, with two horizontal bars undergirding the VW badge and flowing into the dual-LED headlight housing that sits atop wing-like bands of LED daytime running lights -- a detail that will appear on future production models, VW says.
Sheet metal is highlighted by a high shoulder line, swept-back A-pillar, low-slung roof and a closed-angle C-pillar to give the crossover a fastback-style roofline.