Volkswagen Considers Subcompact for US

After more than three years of rumors, Volkswagen has acknowledged that it is considering bringing a subcompact car to the US market in order to compete with other small car offerings, such as the Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit. Earlier this week, Stefan Jacoby, president of Volkswagen Group America told The Detroit News, “We could imagine having a car like the Polo in the United States.”

The German automaker would by vying to capture a piece of America’s fastest-growing automotive segment, driven primarily by consumers’ desire for fuel-efficient alternatives in a period of fluctuating gas prices. Jacoby said, “We need to get more into the sweet spots of the market.”

The Polo is a three- or five-door hatchback that is more concise than Volkswagen’s Rabbit or Golf. It is most comparable in size to the Honda Fit. Powerplants range from a 1.4-liter diesel to a slightly larger 2.0-liter gas engine. A US version of the Polo could get an entirely different motor.

Official details are not yet determined, but the Polo could also get a whole new name, as well as a facelift, to distinguish it from its European counterpart. “Specific styling would almost certainly be changed, as well as certain interior features which set American buyers apart from those in Europe,” a Volkswagen spokesperson told “But that’s all speculation until the company actually commits to bringing this car over.”

Combined fuel economy would need to be at least in the low 30 mile-per-gallon range in order to take on the subcompact competition. And, of course, price will be a large factor in determining sales success. Volkswagen is generally known as a pricier brand, as seen with its US passenger cars, the Passat and the Jetta. Both have stickers that are 10 to 20 percent higher than other cars in their class.

The subcompact strategy—the Europeanization of American roadways—is being employed by many carmakers. Volkswagen’s acknowledgment that it’s considering joining the trend is the first step, but whether VW follows through or not will be unknown for some time.

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  • Samie

    Problem with subcompact cars is that people often associate them with the whole brand. That can bring negative images or stereotypes to certain brands. Sounds silly to me but some people think that. As for the Volkswagen subcompact car, it needs to keep the same market niche without feeling like it has taken the brand into the “cheap” car market. I wish it was here already that is another choice for consumers but I wonder why these options are not here already especially those like Dodge/Chrysler who opted out of the subcompact market.

    Also what did Volkswagen mean when they said American’s like different interior features then the Europeans? I would also love to see an article explaining why American’s usually see European vehicles that are totally redone. I know that there are different federal regulations and driving conditions are different but would love to see why more cars don’t have more universal features. If it could be done you could implement a car into a market faster and not worry about totally redesigning a vehicle.

  • Dom

    VW should bring the Polo, and bring it in it’s European styling, not dumbed down for the US. And make sure to bring the diesel!! 60mpg easily. If they did this, it would lead its class, and not feel cheap either.

    I think the main problem is Americans aren’t willing to pay for a really nice small car… and that is the main reason they all feel/are cheap. We’ve got it stuck in our thick heads that larger=better=more expensive, smaller=cheaper=it better cost next to nothing.

  • Franck from Kansas City

    Exchange rate aside, VWs cost “10 to 20 percent higher than other cars in their class” because they are better made, are safer and provide more equipment standard. The Polo Diesel is a must in the US. The 2.0 TDI Jetta is now proven to get over 58mpg (see Taylor’s world record). If a 1.4L Polo TDI shows 60-70mpg as it already does, VW will have them all pre-sold before they hit the ground. To do well, a small gas engine would have to show an EPA sticker higher than 30 city/38 highway to beat the Fit (28/35) or Yaris (29/35) and justify paying more in the mind of the American consumer.

  • Boon

    If I can get 50-60 from Diesel Polo, I’m willing to pay pay 10-20 percent extra for it. Even Prius is at least 3-4k extra than other cars of its size.

  • mdensch

    I beg to differ with Frank from Kansas regarding Volkswagens being better made cars. Survey after survey shows that Volkswagens, along with most other Euro brands, rank considerably lower than either Japanese or American cars in frequency of repairs.

  • Dom

    And I beg to differ with mdensch who differed with Frank from Kansas.
    Frank is right, as CURRENT surveys including the Toyota fanboys at Consumer Reports actually recommend several of the current model VWs. VW’s low quality rating (perceived or real) has much improved lately. Most of their real quality problems were at least eight years ago (1999-2000 timeframe I believe), with the early MKIV platform cars.

  • ncdub2.0T

    I agree with Dom. VW has jumped 7 spots in JD Power IQS. The reason that we were low was the sales people didn’t go thru a proper delivery with the consumer so most of the “problems” were consumers not knowing how to operate their piece of German Engineering. VW just got “Motorist Choice Award” from, 4 different models were awarded Top Safety Picks from IIHS, and last but definitely not least KBB just voted VW BEST RESALE BRAND OVERALL!!! Above any rice burners or domestic sled!

  • mdensch

    Well, Don, I just took a look at Consumer Reports frequency of repair charts from earlier this year and the stats for VW don’t look all that stellar to me. The V6 Passat is their only model that scored above average and the charts don’t show an improving trend over the past six years.

    The data for the frequency of repair records are culled from surveys of owners, not the opinions of the editors. In fact, the magazine often scores VWs fairly high in testing but stop short of recommending many of its models because of the weak reliability ratings.

    (And among the worst cars in the ratings? The ‘legendary’ Mercedes Benz.)

  • John Rees

    If you want to view a VW nightmare, view my web page at:
    John Rees

  • hybridman2

    Regarding Volkswagen’s safety engineering- my daughter was in an accident years ago – she had a Volkswagen Jetta. She had 4 passengers- three in the back. A big SUV ran a red light and slammed into them broadside. The lady tried to hit and run, but somebody chased her down.

    The good news? No one was injured inside. That was before side airbags too. The design of the car absorbed the impact and prevented any injury. Car was totaled but people were safe.

    I agree with Boon- if they bring it as a Euro diesel that gets 60 mpg, they’d own the market, even if they were 10-20% higher. People WANT better mileage period.

    I’d love to get one of those 1.6 liter diesels in my shop and put one of our hydrogen generators in it – love to see what we could do with a car already doing 60 MPG- I bet we could squeeze out at least 80 – 90 MPG from it.

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