Purists Rejoice: There Will Never Be a Volkswagen GTI SUV; Golf GTI Cruising Along Nicely in America

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Image: VolkswagenGot your heart set on a 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, one with upsized wheels, stickier tires, bigger brakes, some red piping around the grille, and tartan seats?

I feel you. But Volkswagen’s illustrious GTI range is not about to co-sign any legislation on the other side of the aisle. Atlas? Tiguan? Tiguan Limited? Touareg? T-Roc? Amarok? Westfalia? Eurovan?


“I think with the three [GTI models] we have now, we are set,” Volkswagen board chairman Herbert Diess told Autocar.

Unfortunately for the United States hot hatch market, however, only one-third of Volkswagen’s GTI lineup actually makes it to America.

Maybe a Tiguan GTI wouldn’t be so bad?

20018 Volkswagen Tiguan Euro spec - Image: VolkswagenVolkswagen’s Herbert Diess isn’t ruling out performance utility vehicles altogether. In reference to a hot version of the upcoming T-Roc, “We have another sub-brand R which we are considering [for such a model],” Diess says.

Diess is therefore open to the idea of fast Volkswagen crossovers, and why wouldn’t he be? The U.S. market, for example, now generates more total sales with SUVs/crossovers than with passenger cars. There are performance SUVs aplenty in the luxury sphere, enhancing profit margins and allowing buyers who want utility and performance to have their cake and eat it, too.

Adopting such a practice in a lower price bracket will surely seem obvious at some point. Yet for the time being, high-performance variants of mainstream SUVs/crossovers are rare, though an N-badged Hyundai Tucson seems likely.2017 Volkswagen Up GTI Concept - Image: VolkswagenNevertheless, Volkswagen will reserve the GTI practice for hot hatchbacks. GTI, says Diess, “should be this car – a hot hatch.”

Despite great difficulties for the Volkswagen brand in America over the last few years — sales were plunging before the diesel emissions scandal rocked the automaker in late 2015 — the Golf GTI continues to be a success for the brand. Excluding wagons, 48 percent of the Golfs sold in the United States through the first five months of 2017 were GTIs. Factor in the all-wheel-drive Golf R and performance Golfs accounted for 60 percent of Golf hatchback sales and more than one-third of total Golf sales.

In fact, Golf GTI sales are up 2.5 percent, year-over-year, in early 2017, rising beyond the record levels achieved by the Golf GTI in calendar year 2016. Volkswagen of America reported 23,934 Golf GTI sales in 2016, 59 percent better than the annual average achieved by the Golf GTI over the previous decade.2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI - Image: VolkswagenAcross the entire Golf performance lineup, GTI and R inclusive, Volkswagen reported 11,151 U.S. sales in 2017’s first five months, 2,379 fewer than Subaru managed with the WRX/STI lineup.

Volkswagen today revealed the sixth-generation Polo and its accompanying GTI variant, a 197-horsepower junior Golf that currently has a base price 30-percent lower than the Golf GTI’s in the UK. Furthermore, Volkswagen is expanding the GTI lineup with the Up GTI, a 113-horsepower A-segment hot hatch at roughly half the Golf GTI’s price point.

You can’t have those cars. And if you could, the price points likely wouldn’t be quite as attractive on this side of the Atlantic.

You also can’t have a Tiguan GTI, Atlas GTI, or Touareg GTI. The reasons in this case are different. Such vehicles don’t exist.

And won’t exist.

[Images: Volkswagen Group]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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