When the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid arrives at dealers in late December or early January, VW will become the only carmaker offering both a diesel engine and a hybrid model of the same compact sedan.
Why two such different approaches?
Because, Volkswagen says, the audiences for the two cars are actually very different--and there's very little crossover from one to the other.
As part of its launch event last night, Rainer Michel, vice president of product marketing and strategy for Volkswagen of America, discussed the two different sets of buyers.
Using data from research firm Strategic Vision, Volkswagen looked at buyers of the Honda Civic Hybrid, the Toyota Prius, and the Honda Insight.
The company found that almost half the Toyota Prius buyers considered no other vehicle at all. Of those who did look at alternative choices, none had considered the Volkswagen Jetta TDI.
One-third of buyers of the diesel Jetta TDI, however, considered no other make than Volkswagen. And a mere 5 percent looked at the hybrid Toyota Prius as a competitor.
As Michel's presentation noted, "Jetta Hybrid will allow VW to attract new customers who don't consider TDI as a legitimate rival to hybrids; those customers equate hybrid with eco-friendly."
Moreover, the Jetta TDI and hybrid buyers differed demographically as well.
Buyers of the three competitive hybrids were just 51 percent male, 78 percent of them were married, 89 percent had no kids in the household, and their average age was 61.
Jetta TDI buyers, on the other hand, included far more men than women. Fewer of them were married, but more of them had children in the house, and they were fully 17 years younger, with an average age of 44.
Michel reiterated several times that the new hybrid Jetta was not a competitor for the longstanding and much-loved Jetta TDI diesel sedan.
2011 Volkswagen Jetta
Instead, he said, the new model would bring new buyers to the Jetta model, those who would not previously have considered buying a Jetta because they didn't feel it had sufficiently high fuel economy.
The company projects that the new Jetta Hybrid will comprise about 5 percent of overall Jetta sales.
Last year, Volkswagen sold 150,000 Jetta sedans, meaning hybrid sales next year could number roughly 7,500.
What do you think: Is Volkswagen right? Are diesel buyers and hybrid buyers two distinct groups?
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