SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- For Volkswagen, the Atlas large crossover is more than just its first entry in the crowded and profitable field of family crossovers -- it's a new beginning.
After three years of falling U.S. sales, plus a 12.5 percent decline through September and a reputation marred by VW's diesel emissions scandal, much of VW's hopes for a rebound rests on the Atlas' shoulders.
VW, which revealed the Atlas in Santa Monica last week, says the crossover signals a break from bungled past attempts to be more than a niche brand in the U.S. market. The vehicle was engineered for the U.S. market from the ground up, so much so that its overall length is within a 10th of an inch of the Ford Explorer. VW's U.S. boss Hinrich Woebcken says that was "not an accident."
Built at its plant in Chattanooga, given a U.S.-only name and honed by engineers in Tennessee, the Atlas arrives next spring at dealers as thousands of diesel owners pass through VW showrooms to sell their noncompliant cars back to the automaker, giving VW an opportunity to keep those customers in the fold.