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By David Shepardson
NEW YORK, April 12 Volkswagen AG
plans to build another new sport utility vehicle at its
Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant as demand surges for larger
vehicles, the German company's top U.S. executive said on
VW Group of America Chief Executive Officer Hinrich Woebcken
told reporters at the New York auto show that the automaker
planned to build a five-seat SUV in Tennessee, but he declined
to say when production would begin. The news follows VW's 2014
announcement that the company would spent $900 million to build
a new SUV in Tennessee.
VW, the largest automaker worldwide by sales, will start
selling its new seven-seat VW Atlas SUV next month.
Woebcken said VW was shifting focus in the United States
from a mainly car brand to a "family friendly" automaker
offering larger, U.S.-built SUVs.
At the show, major automakers said they expected the
popularity of SUVs to increase in the United States. SUVs' share
of U.S. vehicle sales rose to nearly 40 percent in 2016 from
32.6 percent in 2014.
Woebcken would not say whether VW would add additional
workers in Tennessee to build the new SUV.
VW will sell four separate SUVs in the United States later
this year, a figure that does not include the new one.
The company said on Tuesday that it would continue selling
the current Tiguan as the "Tiguan Limited" for several years
even as it plans to offer a completely new, larger version later
this year. The company also announced it was offering an
industry-leading six-year, 72,000 mile warranty on its new SUVs.
As part of its diesel emissions settlement, Volkswagen has
agreed to add at least three additional electric vehicles,
including an SUV, in California by 2020 and must sell an average
of 5,000 electric vehicles annually there through 2025.
Woebcken said he hopes that decision will help boost the
company's image in the United States. VW has agreed to spend up
to $25 billion to buy back vehicles and resolve claims from U.S.
regulators, dealers, owners and states.
(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Franklin Paul and
Lisa Von Ahn)