In one more sign that the automotive world is shifting to electric-drive technology, Volkswagen today reconfirmed its commitment to producing a hybrid version of its popular Jetta. A gas-electric Jetta, to debut in 2012, would put another affordable mainstream hybrid option into showrooms.
Affordability is the key word, as hybrids push further into mainstream vehicle lineups. The new (gas-powered) 2011 Volkswagen Jetta, which made its global debut in New York today, is priced at $16,000, about $1,700 less than the current version. “With the new Jetta, we’ve kept everything people liked, but also made the car more accessible to the entry-level buyer in the compact segment,” said Toscan Bennett, a VW product strategist. “We want people who had considered Jettas too expensive to put us on their shopping lists.”
Later this year, Volkswagen will introduce the Touareg Hybrid SUV, its first hybrid, but it will hardly be affordable. Based on pricing announced in Europe, the Touareg Hybrid could exceed $90,000 in the U.S. Moreover, it will join a crowded field of expensive luxury hybrid SUVs already on the market—and not selling particularly well.
On the other hand, a Jetta Hybrid probably will probably be priced in the low $20,000s, while offering fuel economy numbers in the mid-40 mpg range. It will represent the first time an automaker stacks up a hybrid and clean diesel option in a cost-competitive model.
City versus Highway
The Jetta TDI clean diesel, rated at 30 in the city and 41 on the highway, carries a base MSRP of $22,000. It’s way too early for fuel efficiency ratings for the Jetta Hybrid, but it’s reasonable to assume that the city and highway numbers will be reversed—with city driving in the 40s and highway mileage in the low to mid-30 neighborhood. Consumers are likely to make the hybrid versus diesel decision based on their driving cycle. Do you mostly drive on the highway? Go diesel. Mostly city driving? Take the hybrid. (Of course, we’ll have to wait and see how a VW hybrid will drive.)
More importantly to the green car movement, Volkswagen is demonstrating the “no silver bullet” philosophy, in which efficient gas-powered cars, clean diesel, hybrids and electric cars mutually coexist. Cutting oil dependence and reducing emissions is not an either-or decision. It’s all of the above.
In terms of electrification, Volkswagen is saying that electric-drive cars will come in a range—from conventionally hybrid through pure electric. (Ford is taking the same electrification approach.) With a lower price tag and no range concerns, hybrids will become the most affordable and accessible in the spectrum—while Volkswagen electric cars will take the critical step towards petroleum-free driving.
“VW as a brand takes the electrification of the automobile very seriously, and we have a longtime strategy for growing that business,” Mr. Bennett said. “The Jetta hybrid is our first entry in that strategy.”