VW plug-in hybrids are a US possibility for the first time since Dieselgate

Volkswagen has in recent years seen hybrids and plug-in hybrids as slowing the U.S. shift to EVs. But that may no longer be the case.

At the 2023 Chicago Auto Show, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America Pablo Di Si told Green Car Reports plug-in hybrids are back in consideration for the U.S.

Di Si said the more options on the table the better because “we take CO2 and emissions seriously, and this is another solution.”

During a media roundtable, Volkswagen of America Senior Vice President of Sales Hein Schafer showed a presentation slide with two columns: one with ICE vehicles and one with BEVs. The executive noted the automaker currently needed both types of vehicles to be competitive in the marketplace.

Such a choice to shift an internal-combustion product over to hybrid or plug-in hybrid flies in the face of VW’s messaging since around 2017, when it started pushing toward the launch of the ID.4 and its MEB platform. By 2019, both GM and VW stood out for their positions eschewing forms of hybrid tech, as it would only slow the progress of being all-in on EVs.

Prior to the recent focus on EVs, VW was into the idea of hybridization, calling plug-in hybrids a “bridge” to pure EVs as far back as 2014—a year before the Dieselgate emissions scandal hit. In that era, Volkswagen was one of the few automakers to go so far as to plan plug-ins with CCS fast-charging.

Volkswagen Cross Coupe GTE Concept live photos, 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Volkswagen Cross Coupe GTE Concept live photos, 2015 Detroit Auto Show

At present, the U.S. VW team faces some decisions. It plans to put forth a proposal for an electrified pickup truck built in America to the VW board in Germany during the third quarter of this year, according to Di Si. While the executive wouldn’t confirm which platform the  truck would ride on, the only vehicle large enough to support such a model while still being built in the U.S. is the Atlas.

Moments before talking about that possibility, Volkswagen’s North American Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Andrew Savvas had confirmed the next-generation of the three-row people mover could be electrified. For the meantime, VW refreshed the Atlas lineup, still without electrification, at the 2023 Chicago Auto Show.

In the same briefing Savvas confirmed that the next-generation Atlas could be electrified. Di Si noted that electrification could be in the form of a hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrain. The executive acknowledged the former would be more cost-effective but the latter would make more of an impact.

“It’s not strategically wise to go into multiple directions for hybrids,” Di Si said.

When asked later why VW appears to have changed its position on U.S. plug-in hybrids (and maybe hybrids) yet again, Di Si said “things change,” noting “the world is moving at a different speed.”

Volkswagen Plug In Coming

Volkswagen Plug In Coming

“We need worldwide solutions,” Di Si said while noting Volkswagen’s already confirmed PHEVs for the European market.

The executive said Volkswagen needs to bridge the gap between EVs and ICE—perhaps knowingly revisiting the language VW used long before fully electric became such a big part of its future.

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