VW to Unveil First Electric Crossover Model in Tesla Challenge

  • Third model of planned I.D. range combines coupe, SUV features
  • Volkswagen to present crossover concept in Shanghai next week

Volkswagen AG’s namesake brand will present the concept of a fully electric crossover model in Shanghai next week to challenge Tesla Inc.’s Model X as the German manufacturer gears up to roll out a new zero-emission line-up as of 2020.

Like the hatchback and van concepts VW has shown in recent months, the third vehicle of the planned I.D. electric-car line offers a battery-powered range comparable to models with combustion engines and can drive autonomously, the Wolfsburg, Germany-based automaker said Wednesday in a statement.

VW’s electric crossover concept model

Source: Volkswagen AG

“Volkswagen has set the clearly defined goal of advancing electric-drive vehicles from the status of a startup niche to large-scale production models by the middle of the next decade in a worldwide product offensive,” it said.

The brand’s target to sell 1 million electric cars a year by 2025 is a cornerstone of a comprehensive revamp amid a tectonic industry shift to emission-free vehicles prompted by tightening regulations. Volkswagen, which dethroned Toyota Motor Corp. as the world’s best-selling automaker last year, must balance the huge expenses of developing battery-powered vehicles and new digital features with the financial fallout of its diesel-emissions cheating scandal, which stands at 22.6 billion euros ($24 billion) so far.

The I.D. crossover, a mix between a four-door coupe and a sport utility vehicle, targets the auto industry’s fastest-growing segment as customers increasingly opt for spacious, comfortable rides with a higher seating position. The concept vehicle can switch to autonomous driving mode with a push on the VW badge in the middle of the steering wheel, which then folds automatically into the cockpit. The car then maneuvers around based on signals it gets via laser and ultrasonic scanners, radar sensors and cameras.

The model would compete with Tesla’s Model X, which the U.S. manufacturer started delivering in in 2015. The vehicle will probably be priced lower than the Tesla counterpart, as VW has pledged that the I.D. line will cost about the same as its diesel models. The German company, which has yet to name the crossover, will display it for the first time at the Auto Shanghai show, which starts with press days on April 19 and is open to the public April 24 through 28.