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Has The Volkswagen C-TREK Got NO Rival?

Date:10-24 14:33 Authour:He Lun

——Auto Market Hotspots Q&A (105)

If FAW-VW intends to build the C-trek into a strategic model, designed to set the trend in its market segment, it will have to make a bet on the price and rely on its high cost-performance ratio to attract as many interested but hesitant customers as possible.

C-Trek is attracting great attention and provoking plenty of controversy.

Has The Volkswagen C-TREK Got NO Rival?

Even without entering the booming SUV market, FAW-VW can still remain in the Top 3 in terms of passenger car sales. So interested parties have been wondering what will happen once it launches an SUV. Today, FAW-VW came up with a surprising answer: it has launched a “crossover wagon” – the C-Trek, attracting great attention and provoking plenty of controversy.

Q: Some media do not consider the C-Trek a wagon, mainly because in appearance it looks like a fastback car with the tilted D pillar, very similar to SAIC VW’s hatchbacks the Gran Lavida and the Cross Lavida. For a standard wagon, the D pillar is not tilted much and the roofline is much flatter, leaving a more spacious trunk. What do you think?

A: First of all, the Gran Lavida and the Cross Lavida are not hatchbacks in the usual sense. They are 22cm longer than Volkswagen’s standard hatchback – the Golf - and only 11cm shorter than the Golf Variant. So in an attempt to distinguish them from standard hatchbacks or wagons SAIC-VW classifies them strictly as “compact station wagons”. The issue is whether people will accept this “compact station wagon” concept.

The question whether the C-Trek is a wagon is an interesting one. On one hand, it is only 3mm shorter than the Golf Variant, but on the other hand, with the much tilted D pillar and the downward roofline, it looks dynamic but not as spacious as a standard wagon. In my view, FAW-VW has adopted this design simply because it had no other choice.

Actually, it would not be difficult for FAW-VW to develop a standard wagon – it could simply introduce the Golf Variant to China. However, in the eyes of many Chinese, this kind of big-tailed wagon looks more like a hearse. In order to meet the customer’s demand for space and also consider the preferences of the Chinese, FAW-VW has designed this all-new C-trek. To strike the right balance, FAW-VW has really done a lot of hard work. As a result, its description of the C-trek as a wagon is justified. Besides, all the hot-selling wagons in the international market now tend to have aerodynamic rear design. The C-trek simply takes this one step further.

Q: Why does Volkswagen say the C-trek is the first A-class crossover wagon in its global product portfolio when it already has the Golf Altrack?

A: First of all, the C-trek and the Golf Alltrack are not the same thing. The Golf Alltrack has off-road features like an SUV – full-time 4WD, a strengthened chassis which can be elevated in the off-road mode, and an off-road assist system. However, according to the information released by the manufacturer, the C-trek has none of these features. It is just slightly higher from the ground than a sedan in the same class, with slightly wider tires, making it better able to handle China’s difficult road conditions than a sedan. In addition, with body kits, it looks cooler and more attractive.

If you want to challenge the use of the term “crossover”, the Golf Alltrack is for all tracks, similar to the Audi Allroad, and in fact the Audi A6 Allroad Quattro is the earliest model of all-terrain vehicles and is also believed by many people to be earliest crossover model. “Crossover” is a general term, which includes SAVs, CDVs and VANs. Many people also classify the SUV as a crossover. Therefore, it is not misleading for the manufacturer to call the C-trek a crossover. If a vehicle has the features to satisfy your main needs and a look that is pleasing to the eye, and it is also offered at an acceptable price, that will be more than enough. If you really want a crossover with off-road features like an SUV, you have to pay more. For example the Golf Alltrack, with power equal to that of an SUV, is priced 27% higher than an ordinary Golf wagon.

Q: So is the C-trek the first domestically-produced crossover wagon? What are its major rivals?

A: From the perspective of wagons, the Gran Lavida and the Cross Lavida are both 11cm shorter than the C-trek, with smaller trunks, so they are called “compact station wagons”. The Qoros 3 SUV looks similar to the C-trek from a side view, but it is also 10cm shorter than the C-trek. Judging by the data, the Qoros 3 SUV performs better in terms of overtaking. So from this perspective, the C-trek really has no direct competitor.

But of course, the C-trek also has similar features to these models, so there is indirect competition among them. Buyers will compare the models consciously or unconsciously, especially in terms of price.

Q: What do you think the starting price of the C-trek will be?

A: In China, the biggest problems for wagons are high price and unpopular appearance. Now that the C-trek has taken care of the appearance problem, price has become the decisive factor. Under almost equal conditions, a wagon will be more expensive than a sedan, whether it is a hatchback or saloon, while an all-terrain crossover or SUV will be even much more expensive. The reason is simple: you get what you pay for.

However, FAW-VW has stated that its intention is to build the C-trek into “a strategic model aiming to lead the trend in its market segment”, with a monthly sales target of nearly ten thousand vehicles. As a result, it will have to make a bet on the price and rely on the high cost-performance ratio to acquire as many interested but hesitant customers as possible, so as to open up this whole new market segment and allow more people to experience its benefits. Only when the C-trek has built a strong reputation will it become a hot seller. The C-trek’s sister, the Cross Lavida, is a good car, but it has not sold particularly well. So what will happen if the more spacious and stylish C-trek is offered at the same price as the Cross Lavida (which comes in at RMB 148,900 Yuan), or even less? China is a huge market, with increasingly diversified needs. So can the wagon, one of the most popular of vehicle types in Europe, find its own place over here? The C-trek may well be the trend-setter.

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