VW is closing the chapter on small wagons in America

The VW Golf Alltrack and SportWagen will leave the U.S. at the end of the year, bringing to an end the era of small, gas and diesel-engined VW wagons.

The U.S. market is about to lose two more small station wagons as Volkswagen plans to end production of the Golf SportWagen and its Alltrack sibling at the end of the year, effectively spelling the end for VW wagons in America. The pair has been on sale for the past few years as some of the last non-luxury station wagons still offered — VW had a commanding grasp of an ever-shrinking segment — offered in front- and all-wheel drive flavors.

What do we have to not thank for the demise of these two small wagons?

Crossovers and SUVs, which had been in remarkably short supply at Wolfsburg for the past decade at a very crucial time for the brand. VW continued selling the aging Tiguan well after it had lost its competitive edge due to age and some packaging issues, and it had not fielded a larger SUV until the arrival of the Atlas just two years ago. This meant that for a long time, VW had almost surrendered all SUV segments to rivals in a decade when utilities of all sizes were booming — and still continue to gain more market share.

VW admitted this much in announcing the upcoming end of production of the Golf SportWagen and Alltrack.

“Over the past several years, demand among American consumers has shifted from wagons to SUVs,” the automaker said in a statement. “Through the first half of 2019, SUVs account for 47 percent of the industry sales and more than 50 percent of Volkswagen sales.”

VW launched the wagon bodystyle in the U.S. with the 1600 Squareback Sedan.

VW now has a new Tiguan on sale, and it’s about to debut a shorter variant of the large Atlas crossover with seating for five, badged as the Atlas Cross Sport that will go on sale by the end of 2019. In 2021, VW will bring an even smaller utility to the states, positioned below the Tiguan, that will likely carry the Tarek badge. The model is currently on sale in China and a handful of other markets as the Tharu. Being almost a foot shorter than the Tiguan, it will set its sights on other subcompact non-luxury crossovers like the Mazda CX-3. But even before the Tarek lands stateside, VW will offer a battery-electric ID Crozz midsize SUV, scheduled to go on sale in early 2020.

“SUVs have definitely assumed the mantle of family haulers from the station wagons and minivans we remember from our childhoods,” noted Scott Keogh, president and CEO, Volkswagen of America Inc. “But as we look towards the future, both our expanded SUV lineup and the upcoming ID. family of electric vehicles will bring the opportunity to combine the style and space people want in a variety of ways. As the ID. BUZZ concept demonstrates, the flexibility of our EV platform gives us the ability to revive body styles of the past, so anything is possible.”

The end of Golf SportWagen and Alltrack sales in the U.S. will serve as the final chapter for VW wagons in America, which was inaugurated more than 50 years ago with the introduction of the 1600 Squareback in 1966 and the Type 412 wagon in 1971. Volkswagen made an effort to dominate the small station wagon market early on along with a handful of Japanese rivals, offering the Dasher starting in 1974 and following it up with the Quantum in 1981, serving up wagons far smaller in size than many American automakers had in their lineups at the time. During this time, almost all small wagons were imports, and VW experienced success in this niche.

The Brazilian-built Fox wagon was a rare bodystyle in the U.S. in the 1980s.

But it was the Passat that played the role of the volume wagon model starting in the 1990s, as VW occupied a niche not addressed by the larger Volvo, BMW and Mercedes-Benz station wagons. But even then, the wagon body style was already on the decline, playing a big role in forcing Peugeot out of the U.S. market. An even smaller Jetta wagon arrived at turn of the century, alongside the Audi A4 from VW’s sister brand, and it was the Jetta that was eventually replaced by the current-generation Golf SportWagen and Alltrack models in 2015.

Front-wheel-drive versions of the departing Golf SportWagen are powered by a 1.4-liter TSI engine producing 147 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, while all-wheel-drive versions use the 1.8-liter TSI engine good for 168 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque. The smaller engine is offered with a choice of an eight-speed automatic or a six-speed manual, while the larger engine is offered with a choice of six-speed DSG automatic or a six-speed manual. The higher-sitting all-wheel-drive Alltrack, on the other hand, has only used the larger 1.8-liter TSI engine, offering a total of 6.9 inches of ground clearance and a unique exterior treatment meant to highlight its soft-road ability.

The Golf SportWagen and Alltrack will continue to be built through the end of this year in Volkswagen’s factory in Puebla, Mexico, which delivered its last VW Beetle last week. Along with the demise of the Beetle, the end of SportWagen and Alltrack production will also help bring to a close the era of small, gasoline and diesel-engined cars for VW, with just the Golf hatch and the Jetta sedan carrying the torch for small VW cars.

The Passat and later the Jetta wagons preceded the introduction of the Golf SportWagen and Alltrack in the 2010s.

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