Volkswagen enters minivan market in US

Chicago: Volkswagen AG has entered the minivan market in the US by launching the Routan, a seven-passenger minivan at the Chicago Auto Show. Volkswagen said the vehicle is inspired by European design and its standard version comes with a 3.8L V6 engine that offers 197 horsepower. The Routan also features two 9-inch screens with touch screen navigation for the second and third passenger rows, as well as conversation mirrors.

The Routan will be produced at company's Windsor, facility near Ontario in Canada and will be built by Chrysler LLC.

The Routan has a Chrysler frame, engine and transmission but has Volkswagen-engineered steering and suspension as well as Volkswagen interior and exterior styling. The Routan also has dual sliding doors and an entertainment system in the second and third rows.The Routan will start with a 3.8-liter V-6 engine and will also have a 4-liter V-6 engine for those who want more power.

The Routan 2009 will go on sale this autumn and will be priced at around $25,000.

Currently available in a petrol version the company has said it may consider offering a diesel engine in later years.

US minivan sales have been falling in recent years due to the rising popularity of crossover and small sport utility vehicles. Minivan sales fell 18 percent last year in the US. Big automakers like General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. have exited the minivan market.

Volkswagen however feels that the market at 1 million vehicles a year is substantial and says it is targeting a 3 to 5 per cent share of the market. It also says U.S. sales are very important fro its growth. Volkswagen is targeting to sell 800,000 vehicles in the US by 2018 having sold about 200,000 vehicles in 2007.