Editor's note: The original version of this story about the U.S. debut of the Volkswagen Arteon at the Chicago auto show incorrectly listed several features only available on the European versions of the sedan. The U.S. version uses an 8-inch touchscreen and has different safety options available.
CHICAGO -- As product timing goes, 2018 isn't looking like a great year to tout a pair of new sedans, given that U.S. car sales in January fell to less than a third of U.S. volume. And they are on track to drop for the fifth year in a row.
Yet after introducing a pair of crossovers in 2017 to bolster a lineup with a shortage of them, Volkswagen dealers will find themselves this year touting a new flagship sedan, the Arteon, and a redesigned version of the brand's best-selling vehicle in 2017, the Jetta. Both are center stage at this year's Chicago Auto Show, where the Arteon is making its U.S. debut after going on sale in Germany last year.
The midsize 2019 Arteon Gran Turismo and the compact 2019 Jetta sedans share the automaker's global front-wheel-drive MQB platform, as do the three-row Atlas and redesigned Tiguan crossovers that the brand launched in late 2016 and 2017.
Volkswagen's shared platform strategy has been in place since 2012, working its way through the lineup as product cycles age out and new vehicles are introduced. The Passat will be the last vehicle in the brand's lineup to be redesigned on the MQB platform in 2019. The platform is flexible, fixing only the engine position and distance between the front axle and pedal box, while leaving all other dimensions variable, which is how the same platform can be used on vehicles ranging from the Golf to the Atlas. More than five years in, MQB now underpins a huge percentage of the more than 10 million vehicles VW delivers globally each year.
The successor to the discontinued CC, the Arteon is more than 5 inches longer than the outgoing car, and is set to arrive in U.S. dealerships in the third quarter. In the U.S., it will have a 268-hp 2.0-liter inline-four engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, making 258 pound-feet of torque.
Volkswagen's platform strategy allows the automaker to save billions of dollars each year by being able to spread costs across a wide range of vehicles, sharing components and technologies either as standard or optional features. For example, the strategy was a primary reason why pricing for the redesigned 2019 Jetta -- which is larger than the outgoing version and has more standard features -- will start at $19,395 including shipping, $100 less than the outgoing version. Pricing for the Arteon is not yet available. Pricing on the 2017 CC started at just more than $35,000.
The Arteon's interior features a customizable instrument cluster, head-up display and a new infotainment system with an 8-inch screen. Safety systems in the flagship sedan include VW's latest generation of adaptive cruise control with stop and go, which will resume forward operations after stopping if the car ahead moves forward, active lane departure warnings, automatic high beam lighting control, parking assist and a birds-eye parking display. The Arteon will also offer a post-collision braking system and a reactive hood, which uses sensors to detect an imminent collision with a pedestrian, and uses pyrotechnic charges near the hinges to raise the rear of the hood nearly two inches to reduce injuries.