NEW YORK -- Volkswagen is betting that there's enough life left in the floundering U.S. compact sedan segment to draw new customers to the redesigned Jetta.
The Jetta is the brand's best-selling model in the U.S., and carried the water in the market before VW made a big move into crossovers this year with the three-row Atlas and redesigned 2018 Tiguan.
Now, Volkswagen believes that much-improved driving dynamics, more technology and a more fuel-efficient gasoline powertrain in a redesigned Jetta that is moving onto the brand's global MQB platform will draw sedan customers into its showrooms.
"It's so important that it's our high-volume car, so this car has high volume expectations, so we really put a lot in there necessary to make it a great concept," said Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of Volkswagen of America, at a media unveiling here. "It's the only German-engineered car in that segment."
The redesigned Jetta, which will appear in U.S. showrooms in mid-2018, will continue to be equipped with the brand's 150-hp 1.4-liter turbocharged I-4 engine, but it will now be mated to either an eight-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual gearbox.
Volkswagen's platform strategy — which uses the same flexible platform for U.S. vehicles ranging from the Golf hatchback to the three-row Atlas crossover — allows the brand to democratize development costs, making it possible to put luxury-level safety equipment into commodity-like segments such as compact sedans, said Matthias Erb, chief engineering officer and head of product strategy for Volkswagen's North American region. For example, the 2019 Jetta will get post-collision braking standard, with optional blind spot monitoring, rear parking assist and adaptive cruise control.