Volkswagen has recently made headlines with a renewed lineup of vehicles sourced from VW China. The new vehicles — the Santana, Santana GTS, Lavida, Lamando, and Tiguan — were all launched a couple of weeks ago with very competitive prices. This is thanks to the recent free-trade agreement brokered between the Philippines and China that only imposes a 5% duty on vehicle imports. Volkswagen Philippines is the first automaker to benefit from this recent development, and the first market to receive exported vehicles from China.
Volkswagen Philippines has already begun deliveries of the Santana to the first batch of customers. Santana GTS and Lamando units will arrive in a few months. They will also be offering a Santana with an automatic transmission in the coming months.
The new vehicles also herald the implementation of new badging at the back, with three numbers following the engine badge, e.g. TSI 180, TSI 230, and TSI 280. This alphanumeric code corresponds to the engine type and rounded up torque figures (in Nm) produced.
The marque recently held an intimate event at its Quezon Avenue dealership to give select members of the media a closer look at the newly launched models and answer any questions we may have.
Present at the event was Volkswagen's Chief Operating Officer, Klaus Schadewald, who was keen to answer any questions.
“These cars are the result of Volkswagen's quest to find the best cars for our market, at the best quality and at the best price,” said Schadewald of Volkswagen's new models. “They may be made in China, but I assure you, they are made in a German factory, with German machinery, with German computers, and held up against German quality standards.”
“Parts are not a problem,” added Schadewald, when asked about possible future repairs for these vehicles. “Now we can get them within five days.”
He also addressed concerns that Volkswagen Philippines's entire lineup might be replaced with China-sourced vehicles. The COO said that the Golf GTI and Tiguan (from Germany) will continue to be offered so long as there is demand for them.
When asked if more models will be sourced from China, Schadewald motioned towards three of the new vehicles in the showroom, pointing in the general direction of the Tiguan and Santana. When pressed further for more specific details, Schadewald remained mum on which cars in particular, hinting only that they will be an “SUV, MPV, and a small car.”
The Magic Three
If we were to hazard a guess, we suspect it will very likely be in segments already popular in our local market but which VW has yet to compete in competitively.
For the small car segment, it's possible Volkswagen will consider bringing in the Santana Cross. Based on the Santana, the Cross imbues the car with higher ground clearance and rugged trim. If brought in, the Cross could be positioned against similar B-segment crossovers like the Mitsubishi ASX, Nissan Juke, Honda HR-V, Ford Ecosport, Chevrolet Trax, and the Suzuki Vitara.
For the MPV segment, Volkswagen could look into the Touran L. Like the China-sourced Tiguan, the China made Touran also boasts of a longer wheelbase. This will allow it to more comfortably fit 7 people. Thanks to the free-trade agreement, the Touran could also be offered at a more competitive price. If imported, it will compete against the Honda Mobilio, Toyota Avanza, and Suzuki Ertiga.
Finally, perhaps the most intriguing of the possibilities, is the option for an SUV. With the Tiguan already sourced from China and benefitting greatly in terms of price and size, Volkswagen Philippines could look into bringing in what was once a China exclusive, the Teramont, also known as the Atlas in the US. The Teramont is Volkswagen's largest SUV, built on a crossover platform and boasting of seats for up to seven. If brought in, it will complete Volkswagen's SUV lineup, complementing the Tiguan (compact) and Touareg (mid-size), to serve as the flagship large SUV.
All these vehicles will be powered by TSI gasoline engines. While they may have small displacements, the addition of turbos will grant them torque figures comparable to larger diesel engines.
Of course, these are just guesses and in no way indicate which vehicles Volkswagen may finally decide to bring in. However, based on these vehicles' positioning, the popularity of their segments in the local market, and the benefits of a new free-trade agreement with China, it's certainly nice to dream.