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VW thinks EVs give the brand an opportunity for a new 'magic moment'

The ID 4 electric SUV will debut in February and start at around $33,000 before incentives.

The upcoming ID 4 SUV will be revealed early next year.
Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Following the debut of the Atlas Cross Sport SUV at Volkswagen's factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, last week, Volkswagen USA CEO Scott Keogh sat down with Roadshow to talk about a number of topics, ranging from the brand's new SUVs to Johan de Nysschen's new role at the company. But what we found most interesting -- and most promising -- were Keogh's comments on VW's impending electric-car offensive. 

"VW had a magic moment in the 1960s when we provided transportation for the millions," Keogh said in reference to the Beetle's explosion of popularity. "It was a cool car that was different and caught the zeitgeist. It moved America." He's hoping VW can capture that zeitgeist again. "I think we have the opportunity to be the brand that has a cool car with a cool price that brings electric cars to a broader market. Do I think there is a market there [in the US]? I do." 

Keogh said he doesn't see charging times or infrastructure as the biggest hurdle in the US -- rather, it's basic familiarity. "We have to work our tails off on getting the cars out there, and we need to get consumers to track their daily lives with their car." Consumers are always triggered by "that one time" an EV's range might not be enough for them, and it's something he thinks can easily be remedied by educating buyers. Keogh said that the marketplace for EVs in the US has grown by 30% in VW's focus groups compared to two years ago, and customers have "moved dramatically" from not knowing what EVs are to now actively considering them. "A customer wants to own the future."

Dieselgate is part of the reason for the fundamental shift in VW's planning. "[Dieselgate] is not something we should put away and forget happened," Keogh said. "It's in the process of making us a better company in terms of corporate responsibility and integrity, it's making us ask the right questions and do the right thing." He also chalks the new strategy up to climate change and how it is affecting younger customers. "I don't view this as a political thing -- when you read the headlines [about things like climate change and the EPA], they are having an impact on the consumer. They look to companies and say 'What are you doing?' So we want to be able to respond, 'Here is what we're doing.'"


This camo-wrapped ID 4 was hidden away at the Frankfurt auto show.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

While we won't get the ID 3 hatchback in the United States, we will get the ID 4 SUV, which is the production version of the ID Crozz concept from 2017 that will ride on Volkswagen's MEB EV platform. The ID 4 will be revealed in February, likely at the Chicago Auto Show , and go on sale by the end of 2020. Keogh revealed a number of new details, saying that the ID 4 will be shorter than the Tiguan SUV but offer more interior space thanks to better packaging. He also announced that the ID 4 will start at around $33,000 before any tax credits, which he said is "the dart for EVs." It's no coincidence that $33K is close to the average transaction price for cars in the US, as well as the price of a mid-range Tiguan.

The ID 4 will be imported from Europe for the first two years, but in 2022 it will begin to be produced at the Chattanooga plant as part of a massive $800 million expansion focused on the new electric MEB platform. That factory currently produces the Atlas and the Passat and is on track to build around 180,000 cars next year, doubling the 2019 total. Keogh says that EV capacity from the factory will be "a lot," but gave no specific targets. Global investments and platforms will help with speeding up VW's electrification plans, and Keogh wants to take advantage of the opportunity that the new EV-only MEB platform will provide -- it will eventually underpin millions of cars. "We can use our global scale to leverage competitive pricing and get cars to market," he said.

The best news? When we asked about the exceptional Microbus-inspired ID Buzz concept, which we got to drive in 2018, Keogh said it's still on track for production, starting in 2022. It will likely be imported from a European factory, as the costs and manufacturing don't make sense for Chattanooga. Keogh gushed a bit about the production version of the Buzz, calling it "incredible." We can't wait.

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