The Volkswagen Jetta as we know it is no more. The model line has been discontinued across all markets except North America, which sells an all-new Mexico-made, MQB platform-based Jetta Mk7 but that model is made exclusively for the North American market.
Just when we thought the Mk6 Jetta has been retired for good, Volkswagen China announced yesterday that it is launching a new China-only JETTA brand (now in capitals), aimed at consumers in lesser developed Chinese cities.
That’s right, the Jetta nameplate has been elevated to the status of a car brand. Two models – a sedan and an SUV - will be launched, both made by FAW-VW, one of the two local joint ventures operated by Volkswagen there.
The sedan is of course, a modified version of the Mk6 Jetta while the SUV is clearly based on the Seat Ateca, a sister-car to the Volkswagen Tiguan. Production will begin in Chengdu in the third quarter of this year.
Jürgen Stackmann, Member of the Volkswagen brand Board of Management responsible for Sales, says: “With JETTA, we are closing the gap between the established VW lead brand in the top volume segment and entry-level mobility, which accounts for about one third of the Chinese market and is served mainly by local brands. This way, we will significantly increase our market coverage.”
Explaining the decision to make the Jetta nameplate into a brand, Stackmann said “In China, the Jetta plays an extremely valuable role for us as a Volkswagen model. It has brought mobility for the masses, just like the Beetle once did in Europe. Developed by Volkswagen and built in China, the Jetta China has placed China on four wheels. To this day, it is one of Volkswagen’s most popular models in China – a real icon. This is why we are transforming a model into a brand for the first time in the history of Volkswagen and establishing a separate model and brand family.”
The JETTA brand will have its own dealer network that’s separate from the namesake Volkswagen brand. The brand aims to have about 200 JETTA dealers by the end of this year.
“With the introduction of JETTA, the Volkswagen umbrella brand will be able to position itself even more clearly as “top of volume” with its vehicles and to further sharpen its profile. In addition, with this offering specially tailored to the needs of the Chinese market and developed together with FAW-Volkswagen, Volkswagen is forging ahead with the further regionalization of the market,” added Stackmann.
In other words, JETTA allows Volkswagen to expand into the lower priced segments without adding more drag to the Volkswagen brand, allowing the latter more freedom to pursue a higher, more premium image (but still more affordable than an Audi).
The Jetta as we remembered it to be.
Much of the development in China’s car market – still the largest in the world with 28 million cars sold last year – is centred on more developed coastal cities. However, a large portion of sales are now coming from the lesser developed inner cities in the western region of China, most of which are contributed by cheap domestic Chinese brands.
With the markets in developed Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou reaching saturation point, these so-called Tier-3 to Tier-5 cities in the inner regions of China offer tremendous growth potential for foreign brands like VW looking for their next phase of growth.