It's clear from the Jetta's official reveal inside Cobo Center, which used images of Detroit cityscapes and photos of hip young millennials and families, whom Volkswagen is targeting with the new generation of its best-selling vehicle in the U.S. But the company also sees the Jetta as an important piece of rebuilding consumer trust in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal and strengthening its position in the U.S. market.
It sounds strange for a company that sold 6.23 million vehicles globally in 2017, an increase of 4.2 percent, and will challenge Toyota for the crown of world's biggest automaker. But VW brass is serious about growing market share in the United States, where its sales last year were 339,700. VW opened its Jetta reveal event by talking about its new Atlas SUV and Tiguan three-row crossover, saying it knew it had to respond to Americans' appetite for big utes.
"This is just the beginning of our model offensive. We are pushing really hard, and I won't rest until Volkswagen has rebuilt its position as a reliable, trustworthy and successful brand in the United States," said Herbert Diess, chairman of VW's board of management.
So here comes the new 2019 Jetta, which arrives in showrooms in the second quarter in five trim options, plus a sporty R-Line trim, which gets exclusive interior and exterior design flourishes and the XDS electronic differential. The compact sedan gets a longer wheelbase, wider stance and more interior room, plus LED tail- and headlights. Its 1.4-liter TSI engine offers best-in-class torque and available eight-speed automatic and six-speed manual transmissions, plus a 400-watt Beats audio system.
It's priced competitively starting at $18,545, a hair under the price of its outgoing version, despite packing it with more features. Sales of the Jetta fell 4.4 percent in the U.S. last year to 115,807, so it'll be interesting to see how the new version performs when it hits showrooms in the second quarter.
We were able to pose a few questions about the new car to VW's North American CEO, Hinrich Woebcken.
How confident are you that the new Jetta can turn around its sales here in the U.S.?
Well, if you look at the numbers, the Jetta did quite well in recent years, and it's a high volume car for us, the most-selling car of the brand in this country. It is in still one of the largest segments in the industry, and we have always said that to gain market share, to get a relevant player in the market, we have to be a full-line automaker, and of course in this important compact sedan segment as well. So the Jetta will get a great successor.
If you look at the package, I think it's really compelling. Having all the tech features, especially, the young generation requires. It is growing in dimensions in wheelbase and height and width. It has beautiful design, very stylish coupe-ish design, but still the second row, a fantastic seating position, still headroom enough. And it comes with a fantastic price tag — $18,545 — lower than the outgoing model, so that is part of our overall strategy to position the brand into the heart of the American market in the so-called sweet spot.
We want to be competitive and on top of all this. We put the people's best warranty, where we give the proof point to the customers making a safe choice on a car with a six-year, 72,000 (mile) limited warranty transferrable, so even the second owner of the Jetta enjoys the beauty of the warranty coverage.
So especially with the Jetta today, we demonstrate that we have a good plan for the future.
The new Jetta is built on the MQB architecture. How does that help you attain these goals?
The MQB is a fantastic platform not only in terms of scalability and business economics — you can imagine a global platform with such volume, we have scales second to none. More important is actually the technology behind it. We can offer a fantastic package on driving dynamics with super comfort. If you ride this car — and I drove it, a prototype, pre-series car — if you drive it through a bumpy American road, it's a fantastic comfort you would not expect from a sedan. At the same time, it's direct, sporty, so especially the younger generation loves to drive this car because it is a direct feeling. So I would say in terms of driving dynamics, it is best in class.
What's the range of vehicle size you can accommodate with that platform?
The largest is right here around the corner, it's the Atlas. The large midsize SUV seven-seater, it's the largest and upper end in terms of dimensions for the MQB platform, also with stunning results. So the MQB platform is an important success factor for our strategy here in America.
But besides that, we also have a great regional approach. We have engineering centers here, we have franchising organization, our own manufacturing locations. That is the second big pillar to get competitive and make these prices available.
Was the Jetta designed and engineered here?
Yes. These kinds of global cars of course have a global footprint in terms of design and engineering, but the North American region had a heavy input and portion of the design for this car.