The promise of a three-row SUV for Volkswagen is quickly turning into the wait for "Ghostbusters 3." It's been well more than two years since Jonathan Browning, former CEO at Volkswagen Group of America, told us that a large crossover to compete with a slew of established models — including the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot and GM's SUV trio — would be "a very natural extension to the brand." VW executives told reporters in October 2012 that the SUV would be built in the U.S.; in January 2013, the automaker issued a preview in the CrossBlue concept SUV at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Two months later, Volkswagen reportedly said it was mulling over an expansion at its Chattanooga, Tenn., plant to build a production version of the full-size SUV.
Now Reuters reports the automaker may announce production plans in Chattanooga as soon as next week's NAIAS. Still, analysts reportedly told Reuters the SUV would arrive "in 2016 at the earliest." That's late for an automaker whose U.S. sales — including luxury subsidiaries Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini and Bentley — fell 0.6 percent in 2013, well behind the industry's 7.5 percent rise. Volkswagen Group of America's namesake brand accounts for some two-thirds of the automaker's sales.
Volkswagen has said it wants to be the largest global automaker by 2018. China — where Volkswagen is the largest international automaker in terms of car sales — plays a chief role in that, but the VW's U.S. sales fall well behind the Detroit Three and Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai-Kia.