BERLIN (Reuters) -- Volkswagen plans to show an SUV concept at the Detroit auto show next month as the automaker seeks a larger presence in lucrative crossover segments to boost sales in the U.S. market, company sources told Reuters.
The concept is said to be a five-seat variant of the seven-passenger SUV that VW plans to build at its U.S. assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, starting in 2016, two sources said on Monday. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the proposed model have not been released.
VW would only say that a concept SUV will be shown in Detroit, without providing further detail.
The concept vehicle, which the sources said is likely to be approved for production in 2016 or 2017, is the latest part of VW’s plan to plug gaps in its U.S. lineup, which includes just two crossovers, the Tiguan compact and Touareg midsize SUV.
A large stable of smaller vehicles such as the Golf hatchback and Jetta compact car has held back VW in the U.S. market, where rivals offer a wider range of SUVs and crossovers.
VW brand sales were down 11 percent to 332,911 vehicles through the first 11 months of 2014 in the U.S. versus the year-earlier period.
Bernd Osterloh, VW's top labor representative and a member of the carmaker's panel shaping U.S. strategy, acknowledged in an interview this month that the brand is not yet represented in the growing segments of the U.S. market.
“We need more models there ... If we had a pick-up truck today, we would perhaps already be at 600,000 [vehicle sales].”
Europe's largest automaker, which ranks second to Toyota in global sales, plans to spend more than $7 billion in North America by the end of 2018 in an effort to more than double sales to 800,000 cars.
The company will overhaul the Tiguan next year and add a coupe-style version as well as a long-wheelbase model that may offer a petrol-electric hybrid version.
Its crossover campaign ties in with similar plans by the group's premium marques. Porsche started selling the Macan SUV in April while luxury division Audi will start building the Q1 baby SUV in 2016.
Ultra-luxury division Bentley will expand into SUVs in 2016 while Italian supercar maker Lamborghini, also part of the VW group, is awaiting parent approval for its own SUV.