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Volkswagen will build its first convertible SUV starting in 2020, the automaker said.

in Automotive News Europe, by Nick Gibbs, 27-02-2018

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This rending shows the VW T-Roc cabriolet. VW aims to make 20,000 units a year of its first open-top SUV.

 

The launch of the T-Roc cabriolet is part of the automaker's wider strategy to improve its share of SUV sales, currently one of the lowest in Europe.

"Volkswagen is evolving into an SUV brand. With the cabriolet based on the T-Roc, we will be adding a highly emotional model to the range," Herbert Diess, CEO of the Volkswagen brand, said in a statement.

VW's late entry into the booming subcompact SUV segment -- the T-Roc arrived near the end of 2017 -- meant the brand's share of SUV sales in Europe was just 15 percent of its total last year, according to data from market researcher JATO Dynamics.

Only Skoda, Fiat and Citroen posted lower SUV shares in Europe, where the market average for SUV sales from volume brands was 28 percent last year, JATO's figures show.

VW said it will sell 20 SUVs globally by 2020, which will boost SUVs to 40 percent of the automaker's worldwide volume by then from 15 percent now.

The T-Roc convertible will join a European SUV lineup that also includes the hardtop T-Roc small SUV, Tiguan and Tiguan Allspace compact SUVs and Touareg large SUV.

VW will build the two-door T-Roc convertible at its factory in Osnabrueck, Germany. VW aims to make 20,000 T-Roc cabriolets a year.

The only convertible VW offers now in Europe is the Beetle Cabrio. The automaker sold 15,773 units of the car in Europe last year, a decrease of 0.2 percent, according to JATO. Despite the low volume and the small decline, the Beetle Cabrio was Europe's No. 2- selling convertible last year behind the Mazda MX-5. VW dropped the Golf Cabrio last year.

Automakers are becoming more confident about launching niche versions of SUVs as the sector continues to grow. Land Rover began selling a convertible version of its best-selling model, the Range Rover Evoque, in 2016, while BMW and Mercedes now offer two coupe-styled SUVs each.

VW will spend 80 million euros upgrading its Osnabrueck plant to incorporate the T-Roc convertible. The plant currently builds the Tiguan compact SUV as well as the Porsche Cayman coupe.