WOLFSBURG, Germany -- The next crop of Volkswagens coming to the U.S. will bare their teeth and flex their muscles to convey a more aggressive design message aimed at American consumers.
They also will include a new small crossover with a footprint similar to the Golf hatchback, VW executives say, that could arrive in the U.S. in late 2017.
The new design strategy is the result of a more market-focused approach that is forcing Volkswagen to venture beyond the conservative styling that has worked so well for it in Europe and China but failed to inspire much passion for the brand in the U.S., where it has been present for more than 65 years.
Take the new midsize crossover that VW is preparing to build at its Chattanooga factory. At nearly 200 inches long and more than 78 inches wide, it's the largest vehicle VW ever has designed, similar in size and proportion to the Audi Q7, says Klaus Bischoff, chief designer for the VW brand.
The still-unnamed crossover borrows many design elements from the Cross Coupe GTE concept shown at the Detroit auto show, including the notch-tooth grille, creased hood and a sharp-angled character line that runs from the fenders through the beltline. Detail work such as intricate headlights that integrate structural elements that begin from the grille, and metal side vents below the A-pillars, are almost Audi-like in their execution.
"This has to be bold. It has to be a statement," Bischoff said during a tour of Valhalla, as Volkswagen's design studio here is known, for Automotive News and a few other media.