Are PHEV Concepts Leading To VW’s Market Dominance?

As Volkswagen moves forward with boldly stated plans to become the global electrified vehicle market leader, it’s off to a slowish start with another plug-in hybrid concept to add to a stable of a slow-selling EV, and slow-selling hybrid – but it says more is coming.

In September 2013, Volkswagen announced that its goal was “market leadership in electric mobility by 2018.” Two plug-in hybrids are debuting this year as part of that plan.

Last month, VW showed off its Cross Coupe GTE in Detroit (pictured above). As a crossover, the prototype follows recent trends for automakers to bring more SUV-like hybrids to consumers.

The electrified portion of the Cross Coupe GTE’s powertrain consists of a 54-horsepower motor in the front and a 114-horsepower motor in the rear. Mounted in the center tunnel is 14.1-kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery.

Volkswagen plug-in hybrid concept

Volkswagen plug-in hybrid concept due to be revealed March in Geneva.

With its 3.6-liter gasoline engine, the Cross Coupe GTE has a combined output of 355 horsepower. Driving settings can enable an all-electric mode for up to 20 miles of zero emissions driving, according to VW. In hybrid mode, Volkswagen estimates its average miles per gallon equivalent at 70 MPGe.

Now, the German automaker has just released sketches of another plug-in, which it will bring to the Geneva car show next week. Details are limited on the upcoming four-door sedan, but it’s expected to have a powertrain similar to Cross Coupe GTE concept.

Volkswagen Cross Coupe GTE concept

Volkswagen Cross Coupe GTE concept

These two plug-in hybrid concepts follow on the heels of the battery electric e-Golf, which will be available starting in November. And more models will be coming soon, according to company leaders.

“We are electrifying all vehicle classes, and therefore have everything we need to make the Volkswagen Group the top automaker in all respects, including electric mobility, by 2018,” said Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft (AG).

To reach this goal, some analysts have said it’s more important for VW to focus on plug-in hybrids instead of electric vehicles.

SEE ALSO: 116 MPGe Combined For VW e-Golf

“Volkswagen isn’t going to sell many battery-only cars, said Nicolas Meilhan, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan.

“The E-Golf is a stop-gap. It’s telling people that VW is coming with electric cars, but the range-extended (plug-in hybrid) car will come soon … That won’t be a niche model like the battery electric car, but will be for the mass market.”

But so far, VW’s current hybrids have not proved to be market leaders. The Jetta Hybrid only makes up 0.17-percent of hybrid sales, while the Toureg Hybrid posts a paltry 0.01-percent.

VW_concept

What’s more, as is true for several others, with the promise of 200-mile-range EVs by 2017 priced around what VW is asking for its new $36,000 83-mile e-Golf, VW may find itself with decidedly outdated goods unless it too can revamp its EV in the next year or two.

SEE ALSO: Is a 200-Mile EV the Next Automotive Benchmark?

Volkswagen is much more successful with another alternative fuel vehicle category. It dominates the diesel-powered passenger car market with its Jetta Diesel, Passat Diesel and Golf Diesel. The less popular Beetle Diesel and SUV Toureg Diesel also add to VW’s market share in this segment.

But diesels themselves are a minority in the U.S. with a paltry 1-percent market share, and meanwhile VW is not close to taking over in the U.S. electrified category if one looks at the present sales picture, what it has, what’s pending, and the timeline it has set for itself.

As for VW’s plug-in hybrids, it will still be a while until they are available. Production is expected to begin on the Cross Coupe GTE at the end of 2016, but the carmaker has yet to release firm availability or pricing on any plug-in models.