The American city car segment is too price-driven, according to a top executive.When we drove the last-generation Polo in Germany three years ago, Volkswagen executives told us they were considering selling the new model in the United States for the first time in the nameplate's decades-long history. Those plans have been canned, however.
"It doesn't make too much sense for us to bring a car like this, which has the substance of a class higher, into a segment that is so price-driven in America," Juergen Stackmann, Volkswagen's global sales boss, told Automotive News.
In North America, many consumers buy a Polo-sized car for its unbeatable price. Price is important in Europe, too, but there's a big chunk of the population looking for a small car that's easy to park in crowded cities, and with a small engine because it's cheaper to register. They're willing to pay extra for big car features like adaptive cruise control and state-of-the-art infotainment tech, so transaction prices often get pushed close to Golf territory.
In Germany, the new sixth-generation Polo (pictured) starts at 12,975 euros, which converts to approximately $14,500. In the United States, its rivals would include the Ford Fiesta -- including the popular ST hot hatch --, the Honda Fit, and the Toyota Yaris.
Stackmann explained a full 50 percent of Golf buyers go for the GTI variant, which carries a base price of $25,595. "This is essentially where we start. Therefore, it makes little business sense to bring the Polo to the U.S. currently," he explained.
Finally, he added Volkswagen of America has chosen to focus on two key segments: sedans and crossover. Those are the segments that "make volume and business sense" in the U.S. The city car category expanded a couple of years ago when gasoline prices sky-rocketed, but it deflated as soon as prices began to drop. Consequently, giving American motorists a sub-Golf model is very low on Volkswagen's list of priorities.