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Volkswagen Shares Rise as World’s Second-Largest Carmaker Details New Investment

Volkswagen AG (VLKAY) shares were one of the top gainers in Frankfurt Monday after the world’s second-largest automaker said it would pump more than $25 billion in new investment cash into its main car brand over the next five years and lifted its near-term sales guidance.

The moves come as part of the German group’s broader €72 billion ($84.7 billion) investment overhaul designed to enhance its post emissions-cheating scandal recovery and position itself in key markets in Europe and around the world. Last week, VW said it had earmarked €10 billion for investment in electric car production in China in order to fund the launch of 40 new hybrid and all-electric vehicles, including 15 new models over the next two to three years.

“The investment package which has now been adopted will give a decisive boost to the largest product and technology offensive in the history of the brand,” said VW brand CEO Herbert Diess Saturday when the new plans were unveiled.

VW said it sees group revenues rising at least 25% from last year’s record of €217 billion by 2020, a 5 percentage point improvement from its previous forecast. Operating profits, the company said, will rise by more than 25% over the same period.

VW’s ordinary shares were marked 3.15% higher in Frankfurt and changing hands at €165.55 each, the highest since Nov. 1 and extending their year-to-date advance to around 17.8%.

The Wolfsburg, Germany-based carmaker said most of the cash — €14 billion — would be invested in its domestic market.

VW catches come good news.
VW catches come good news.

VW expects to sell 400,000 so-called new energy vehicles, or NEV’s, in China by 2020 and was targeting 1.5 million per year by 2025, said Heizman. The company, which operates in China through a partnership with state-owned Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group, will start electric vehicle production in China the first half of 2018.

China’s government, in September, detailed a concerted push to reduce the number of petrol driven vehicles on its road and set out penalties for manufacturers whose NEV output is less than 10% of their total in China by 2019, rising to 12% by 2020.

The moves follow sustained pressure for European automakers over the summer and autumn months after the European Commission confirmed it will study a report that linked several of the country’s biggest brands to a decades-long program of collusion on technology costs and emissions controls.

The Commission said it had “received information on this matter”, along with Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, but noted it was “premature at this stage to speculate further.”

The statement followed a report from Germany’s Der Speigel magazine which said that carmakers including Volkswagen, Daimler AG (DDAIY) and BMW AG (BMWYY) , may have met and colluded for as many as two decades on issues such as technology costs, strategy and diesel engine emissions controls. If proven true, the EU could fine the automakers as much as 10% of their collective annual sales, a figure which could result in a penalty of as much as €50 billion ($58.3 billion).

Germany’s Cartel Office said it had looked into the industry last year as part of an investigation into possible collusion in steel use but didn’t mention any ongoing probes related to the Spiegel allegations

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Volkswagen Shares Rise as World’s Second-Largest Carmaker Details New Investment

Volkswagen AG (VLKAY) shares were one of the top gainers in Frankfurt Monday after the world’s second-largest automaker said it would pump more than $25 billion in new investment cash into its main car brand over the next five years and lifted its near-term sales guidance.

The moves come as part of the German group’s broader €72 billion ($84.7 billion) investment overhaul designed to enhance its post emissions-cheating scandal recovery and position itself in key markets in Europe and around the world. Last week, VW said it had earmarked €10 billion for investment in electric car production in China in order to fund the launch of 40 new hybrid and all-electric vehicles, including 15 new models over the next two to three years.

“The investment package which has now been adopted will give a decisive boost to the largest product and technology offensive in the history of the brand,” said VW brand CEO Herbert Diess Saturday when the new plans were unveiled.

VW said it sees group revenues rising at least 25% from last year’s record of €217 billion by 2020, a 5 percentage point improvement from its previous forecast. Operating profits, the company said, will rise by more than 25% over the same period.

VW’s ordinary shares were marked 3.15% higher in Frankfurt and changing hands at €165.55 each, the highest since Nov. 1 and extending their year-to-date advance to around 17.8%.

The Wolfsburg, Germany-based carmaker said most of the cash — €14 billion — would be invested in its domestic market.

VW catches come good news.
VW catches come good news.

VW expects to sell 400,000 so-called new energy vehicles, or NEV’s, in China by 2020 and was targeting 1.5 million per year by 2025, said Heizman. The company, which operates in China through a partnership with state-owned Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group, will start electric vehicle production in China the first half of 2018.

China’s government, in September, detailed a concerted push to reduce the number of petrol driven vehicles on its road and set out penalties for manufacturers whose NEV output is less than 10% of their total in China by 2019, rising to 12% by 2020.

The moves follow sustained pressure for European automakers over the summer and autumn months after the European Commission confirmed it will study a report that linked several of the country’s biggest brands to a decades-long program of collusion on technology costs and emissions controls.

The Commission said it had “received information on this matter”, along with Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, but noted it was “premature at this stage to speculate further.”

The statement followed a report from Germany’s Der Speigel magazine which said that carmakers including Volkswagen, Daimler AG (DDAIY) and BMW AG (BMWYY) , may have met and colluded for as many as two decades on issues such as technology costs, strategy and diesel engine emissions controls. If proven true, the EU could fine the automakers as much as 10% of their collective annual sales, a figure which could result in a penalty of as much as €50 billion ($58.3 billion).

Germany’s Cartel Office said it had looked into the industry last year as part of an investigation into possible collusion in steel use but didn’t mention any ongoing probes related to the Spiegel allegations.

From Eiffel Tower to high-tech storm

Source: https://www.volkswagen-media-services.com/en/detailpage/-/detail/From-Eiffel-Tower-to-high-tech-storm/view/5810936/7a5bbec13158edd433c6630f5ac445da?p_p_auth=rCgKTMd6

Wolfsburg, 07 November 2017

From Eiffel Tower to high-tech storm

Measuring aerodynamic drag – the story starts before the first wind tunnel

The inauguration of the Wind Tunnel Efficiency Center in November 2017 opens a new chapter in the history of aerodynamic drag measurement. This center is one of the world’s most advanced research facilities in the field of aerodynamics and aeroacoustics and an expression of genuine engineering spirit. With the goal of combating aerodynamic drag with the most perfect shape possible, scientists have been perfecting design and technology for more than 11 decades and have regularly set milestones. From free fall to an artificial hurricane in the climate chamber – people have always written history in the battle for the perfect Cd value.

The first wind tunnels: a tower builder faces a headwind from Germany

The first wind tunnel was preceded by a free fall. The designer of the Eiffel Tower, Gustave Eiffel, was one of the first engineers to investigate the topic in 1905. For his research work, he used the his famous tower as an open-air laboratory. He dropped various metal plates from the second platform.

Laboratory for aerodynamic experiments in 1905: the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Although the results were convincing, the method was strongly dependent on wind and weather. In 1909, Eiffel moved to the Laboratoire Aérodynamique Eiffel – a sort of open wind tunnel which he had designed. Ambient air was sucked into the tunnel by a turbine. However, because the measurement section was also exposed to temperature and pressure fluctuations from its surroundings, it soon reached its accuracy limits.

The situation was rather different with the measurement method developed by German engineer Ludwig Prandtl at about the same time. His aerodynamic investigations were chiefly concerned with aircraft design, which was the main focus in the early years of aerodynamics, and he opted for a closed loop in which the air was accelerated.

The father of aerodynamics at work: Dr. phil. Ludwig Prandtl (1875-1953)

His measurement principle not only provided more precise results; these tests were also repeatable. His test configuration soon became an international standard. Ludwig Prandtl is still considered to be the father of aerodynamics throughout the world.

Peace treaty provides a tailwind for the automobile

At the beginning of the 20th century, the main focus was still on aviation, a recent development. A large number of experiments with a view to identifying the right flow behavior provided rapid results and gave rise to bold visions. However, these became castles in the air in 1919: the Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany from producing airships and aircraft with more than 20 PS. Many aviation engineers lost their jobs but found new opportunities in the automobile industry.

At the beginning of the 1920s, most automobiles had Cd values similar to those of a garden shed. At the same time, pioneers like Paul Jaray or Edmund Rumpler developed striking vehicles born of necessity. With his prototypes, Paul Jaray defined the streamlined car. However, the most spectacular prototype was the Tropfenwagen designed by Edmund Rumpler, former manager of an aircraft factory.

The 1921 Rumpler Tropfenwagen

Rumpler uncompromisingly applied the knowledge he had gained in aircraft design to an automobile, presenting his Tropfenwagen in 1921. The streamlined shape not only allowed a very low fuel consumption but also ensured optimum efficiency. The power output of the engine was converted into speed in the most efficient way possible. In addition, the new design certainly stirred up the industry but it did not stir up any dust. What may seem to be unimportant today was a key consideration at a time when many roads were simply gravel tracks. Tests in the Volkswagen wind tunnel confirmed this droplet-shaped prototype’s low drag value in 1979. To this day, the Cd value of 0.28 which was measured can be considered to be exemplary.

400 km/h on the autobahn thanks to streamlining

In the 1930s, roads became better and vehicles became more powerful. Enthusiasm for motor racing grew throughout Europe. At racing circuits such as the Nürburgring or the Avus in Berlin, thousands of spectators cheered drivers on to faster and faster lap records. Optimized aerodynamic drag gave cars a decisive edge on the track. Strands of wool glued to the body provided new information in the wind tunnel. If the air flow remained constant, there was scarcely any movement of the strands. It is only when flow was interrupted that the strands waved backwards and forwards. In 1937, a further record was achieved. The Auto Union Type C racing car broke through the 400 km/h barrier not least because of its low drag value of 0.237. However, this was not on the racing circuit but on the Frankfurt-Heidelberg autobahn which had been closed for the purpose.

A Beetle sports model makes history in the wind tunnel

Soon afterwards, the automobile euphoria of engineers and industry was brought to an abrupt halt by the Second World War. Materials and machinery were needed for the war effort and were no longer available for fast vehicles on the autobahn.

During measurements made decades later in March 2003, a special VW Beetle sports version produced in 1947 thrilled the Volkswagen Research and Development team. In comparison with a standard Beetle produced at the same time, which had a rounded design intended mainly to ensure a spacious interior, the Volkhart V2 Sagitta not only looks but actually is more slippery. With a phenomenal drag coefficient of only about 0.22, the elegant sports coupe was a step ahead of the record racing cars of the 1930s.

The 1950s and 1960s

Beetle, tailfins and a new wind tunnel in Wolfsburg

However, the streamlined Sagitta was to remain an exception over the next few decades. In post-war Germany, cars mainly needed to be practical. The Beetle provided Germany with mobility and set off on its success story throughout the world. On the other side of the Atlantic, cars became larger and presented a more and more jagged appearance with giant tailfins. Thanks to cheap fuel and increasingly powerful engines, aerodynamic drag was of secondary importance, at least on production vehicles.

In Germany, Volkswagen took a ground-breaking step: 10 million Volkswagens had rolled off the production lines by 1965. According to the CEO at the time, Heinrich Nordhoff, the next 10 million were to be even better.

Wind tunnel construction site, 1964

To keep his promise, Nordhoff presented a unique wind giant to international trade journalists in December 1965.

Volkswagen 1600 TL. Press photo celebrating the inauguration of the wind tunnel on December 14, 1965

With its eight-meter-diameter fan and a rating of 2.6 megawatts, wind tunnel 1 could generate air speeds of up to 150 km/h – 30 km/h faster than a hurricane.

But that was not all: vehicle tests in sweltering desert heat or icy polar temperatures were now possible in Lower Saxony at any time of the year. The temperature in the climate air tunnel could be set precisely from minus 35 to plus 45 degrees Celsius, with relative humidity between five and 95 percent. Even sunlight could be simulated with special spotlights. At long last, developers could not only test the shape of a vehicle but also heating, air conditioning and the starting and operating behavior of engines under all types of climatic conditions in the Wolfsburg wind and weather machine. For many years, the combination of climate chamber and wind tunnel remained a technical innovation.

1966 advertising motif

The oil crisis poses new challenges for aerodynamics

Knowledge gained in the climate wind tunnel allowed significant improvements in the comfort and reliability of vehicles. It was in the wind tunnel that the lines of an iconic coupe produced at the end of the 1960s – the Karmann-Ghia with a Cd value of 0.39, were optimized. The strands of wool used to visualize air flow in the early days of the wind tunnel had long been replaced by steam. And the sensors used to measure the forces acting on a vehicle had become more and more accurate. From the late 1960s, computers were already used to analyze and process the values measured in the wind tunnel.

Following a number of oil price hikes, fuel efficiency once again became a key concern. In 1975, the Golf 1 had a Cd value of 0.41, which was a significant improvement over the Beetle (0.46). The second-generation (Cd value 0.34) and third-generation Golf (Cd value 0.30) outdistanced their ancestor even more comprehensively. This achievement is even more impressive in view of the fact that these vehicles also became increasingly spacious.

Into the new millennium with the one-liter car

To improve the test possibilities available, work on a second, smaller wind tunnel, thermal wind tunnel 2, started in Wolfsburg in 1985. In the 1980s and 1990s, vehicle designers were searching for the ideal compromise between vehicle size, performance and aerodynamic drag. Vehicles which were to sell in large numbers had to offer generous space and better performance than their predecessors. Their fuel consumption was also to be as low as possible. That was rather a tall order for automakers: after all, almost half the fuel used by a vehicle was needed to overcome drag.

Even though the theoretical calculation of air flows had been possible for some time using supercomputers, practical measurements in the wind tunnel remained essential. Smooth underbodies, new wing mirrors, flush glass surfaces and a number of other tricks were used to compensate for the growing frontal area of vehicles.

Thanks to smart design, the assumption that a high frontal area results in high drag can be disproved by a simple calculation. In 2005, the Golf Plus was 10 centimeters taller than the Golf V and its frontal area had therefore increased from 2.22 m² to 2.38 m². However modifications to the body allowed the Cd value of the Golf Plus to be reduced by 0.1 points. Fuel consumption only rose by 0.1 liters per 100 kilometers.

However an entirely different vehicle made in Wolfsburg proved that miraculously low consumption be achieved by a car that had been consistently designed in the wind tunnel.

A world premiere in 2011: XL1 production vehicle

Volkswagen presented the first drivable one-liter concept car to the public in 2002. The L1 prototype showed just how far a combination of consistently applied lightweight design, advanced engine technology and low aerodynamic drag could reduce fuel consumption. Among other features, the slippery shape with a Cd value of 0.159 was reached by using two seats positioned in tandem behind each other and a width of only 1.25 m. No rear-view mirrors were used. Instead, cameras provided a rear view for the driver. Even though the prototype and its successor, produced by VW in a small series from 2014 onwards, were certainly not family cars, the vehicle was fully equipped for everyday use, with an 80-liter cargo space, ESP, ABS and a variety of safety systems.

Into the future with the Wind Tunnel Efficiency Center

As a result of higher speeds and more stringent requirements, especially in the field of aeroacoustics, wind tunnel 1 was reaching its limits in the new millennium. The solution led to a major construction project; work on the new Wind Tunnel Efficiency Center started in 2014.

The new facility doubles the number of wind tunnels in Wolfsburg from two to four.

Source: Fritz Deufel Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH

In addition to the two existing wind tunnels, two new facilities were built within an area of 8,800 square meters. The objective was clearly defined. The new wind tunnels were to allow research and development work for further reductions in fuel consumption and COemissions across the vehicle fleet. In addition, the operating range of vehicles with conventional and electric powertrains was to be further improved. And the new wind tunnels themselves were to be especially energy-efficient and environmentally compatible.

The construction work took slightly less than four years and, by the fall of 2017, it was clear that the goal would be reached. One of the world’s most advanced wind tunnel centers has been created in Wolfsburg. The new facility allows wind speeds of up to 250 km/h and temperatures of up to 60°C. Advanced technologies such as a high-precision flat belt balance allow vehicle movements to be simulated as if they were on the road – for vehicles with power outputs up to 1,000 kW.

So the evolution of wind research continues. From Eiffel’s free fall, we have moved on to the search for the perfect sound. At least in terms of volume, the special acoustic insulation of the new aerodynamic/aeroacoustic wind tunnel calms the artificial hurricane to an almost silent breeze. Not only is it possible to reduce the noise level in the surroundings of a vehicle; the volume inside the vehicle itself can also be minimized. At a wind speed of 160 km/h in the aerodynamic/aeroacoustic wind tunnel, the volume is about as loud as in an office. People who are working on the future have earned a little rest.

More Stories abount the Wind Tunnel:

Aerodynamics and customers benefits

Factsheet

Volkswagen Sales in U.S. Rebound After Diesel Scandal

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/01/business/volkswagen-sales-diesel.html

LANSING, Mich. — There were times last year when Jeff Williams wondered how his Volkswagen dealership was going to bounce back from the diesel-emissions scandal that had rocked the German automaker and badly tarnished its image in the United States.

After Volkswagen admitted that it had used illegal software to cheat on emissions tests, and the company was hit with a federal investigation and lawsuits from customers and dealers, many American consumers turned their backs on the brand.

“We literally had weeks when no one came in looking to buy — nobody,” Mr. Williams recalled. “I had four salespeople. I had to cut down to two.”

But now it seems Volkswagen has turned the corner in reconnecting with customers. October figures released Wednesday showed that sales of VW-brand vehicles leapt 12 percent from a year earlier, to 27,732 vehicles, even as overall new-car sales fell 1.3 percent to 1.354 million cars and light trucks.

The Road Back

Volkswagen’s sales have been rising over the last year, largely recovering from the 2015 disclosure of its diesel-emission deception.

OCTOBER

2016 24,779

2017 27,732

+12%
SEPTEMBER

2016 24,112

2017 32,112

+33%

Volkswagen has now reported a year-over-year sales increase in 11 of the last 12 months. So far this year, its sales are up 9.4 percent — more than any other nonluxury auto brand, according to the research firm Autodata.

VW sales have still not returned to the level achieved before the diesel scandal erupted two years ago, when American dealers were selling more than 30,000 cars a month. But the resurgence is striking in a year when car sales nationwide are declining.

Mr. Williams’s dealership, in Lansing, sold 20 new VW cars last month, up from just nine in October 2016. “I’m back to three salespeople, and I’m about to add another,” he said. “We are on people’s shopping lists again.”

Volkswagen’s Audi luxury brand also continues to grow. Its sales climbed 9.6 percent in October from a year earlier, to 19,425 vehicles, and were up 6 percent in the first 10 months the year.

Although its United States sales are rising again, Volkswagen is still working through the impact of the diesel scandal. It has agreed to pay $22 billion in settlements and fines in connection with the matter, including $4.3 billion to settle a case that was brought by the Justice Department. It also agreed to compensate American customers and buy back or fix the diesel models equipped with the illegal software.

All told, Volkswagen used the illegal software in some 11 million cars worldwide, including about 600,000 sold in the United States. Affected models included the diesel-powered versions of some of the VW brand’s most popular cars, such as the Golf, Jetta, Beetle and Passat. Certain vehicles sold by Volkswagen’s Audi and Porsche brands were also equipped with the illegal software.

As of August, Volkswagen had repurchased or modified more than 308,000 vehicles in the United States equipped with 2.0-liter diesel engines, at a cost of $6.4 billion, according to an independent auditor monitoring the process. Roughly 200,000 claims for buybacks remain to be processed. The company had also repurchased about 35,000 vehicles with 3.0-liter engines, out of a total of 53,000 claims filed.

Photo

An advertisement for the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan above older Tiguans at Mr. Wiliams’s dealership.CreditRachel Woolf for The New York Times

While reporting a drop in earnings last week — a decline largely due to diesel settlements — Volkswagen acknowledged that the damage from the scandal was “nowhere near an end.” Diesel cars have been a bigger part of the company’s product mix in Europe than in United States, handicapping a worldwide recovery.

In one good sign on Wednesday, Volkswagen shares climbed to 167.85 euros on the Frankfurt stock exchange, finally exceeding the price at which they were trading before the diesel scandal.

Volkswagen isn’t the only automaker facing challenges. General Motors shares slumped this week after Goldman Sachs analysts downgraded the stock and gave it a “sell” rating over concerns about the company’s prospects in 2018. The investment bank said it now favored shares of Ford Motor stock over G.M.’s.

Volkswagen’s revival in the United States is being driven by two new sport-utility vehicles that arrived in showrooms this year. Even before the diesel problems, VW’s United States sales had been declining since 2012 as consumers, spurred by low gasoline prices, flocked to S.U.V.s and turned away from sedans and compact cars. VW, like other automakers, was caught off guard and scrambled to beef up its S.U.V. offerings.

One of the new S.U.V.s, the Atlas, is a full-size model that enables VW to compete with big sellers like the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot. The 2018 Tiguan is redesign of an existing model. It comes with extra roominess to appeal to American car buyers.

“We can now target the heart of the S.U.V. market,” Hinrich J. Woebcken, president and chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America, told reporters last month. “We are at a fundamental turning point for the brand and our strategy for our American customers.”

Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at Edmunds.com, an auto information website, said VW “is not completely out of the woods,” but noted that American consumers had a history of forgiving automakers who had erred. G.M. faced heavy criticism and investigation after it was slow to recall faulty ignition switches that were eventually linked to fatal crashes.

“Americans follow something for a certain amount of time, but won’t turn their backs on a brand like VW for life,” Ms. Caldwell said. “Eventually they forget or forgive.”

For Volkswagen, keeping up the growth in the United States won’t be easy. The VW brand still lacks a compact S.U.V. for the American market, and the next two new models are sedans, the kind of cars fewer and fewer consumers are buying. One is a redesign of the Jetta compact, and the other a new full-size car called the Arteon. Both are due next year.

The slowdown in overall car sales may also pose a headwind. The industry is likely to report a decline this year after seven years of growth and record sales of 15.5 million cars and light trucks in 2016.

To help lure customers, VW has extended the warranty it offers on its 2018 model to six years or 72,000 miles, double what it previously offered.

“This country always loves the comeback story, right?” Mr. Woebcken said. “That’s what American people love, and they love to give people a second chance.”

VW, Google announce quantum computing partnership

Source: https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/vw-google-announce-quantum-computing-partnership/

Volkswagen and Google are teaming up on quantum computing, with the goal of creating smarter cars and better infrastructure. The two goliaths plan to focus on three areas of research: traffic optimization, machine learning processes and the development of new materials and structures with an eye toward improved electric car batteries.

The German automaker is having workers at its IT labs in San Francisco and Munich partner with Google scientists to develop new simulations and algorithms on Google’s universal quantum computing platform. Such computers execute calculations at much higher rates of speed than traditional binary digital systems.

In one such project, VW and Google plan to use quantum computing to augment existing research on traffic optimization by incorporating new variables, all in the name of shortening vehicle travel times. In a statement, VW pointed to factors like available EV chargers, empty parking spaces and urban traffic guidance systems as factors that could be used to cut commute times when calculating drive routes.

Such research will likely focus not only on supporting individual drivers, but also urban traffic planning as a whole.

VW and Google aim to develop better EV batteries with quantum computing.

Volkswagen

VW and Google will also draw on quantum computing power to expedite research in artificial intelligence and machine learning, both of which are seen as key to developing connected and fully autonomous vehicles. AI research has many uses, and could also be used to develop smarter infrastructure or even new in-vehicle features such as Alexa-like digital assistants.

 

VW is already familiar with quantum computing power — in fact, it claims to be the first automaker in the world to work in this field. In March, VW announced that it had completed a research project using quantum computing to study the optimal traffic flow for 10,000 Beijing taxi cabs.

Which SUV Has the Best Third Row?

Source: https://www.cars.com/articles/which-suv-has-the-best-third-row-1420697648656/

Which SUV Has the Best Third Row?

49-volkswagen-atlas-2018-backseat-interior-third row.jpg
2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

CARS.COM — For popular three-row SUVs, a reason for being is the third row that provides extra seats for a big family, carpooling or the ability to take a bigger group in just one vehicle. So you’d think that automakers would create real seats for real people back there and not just for kids, but that’s often not the case.

The 2017 Three-Row SUV Challenge
Results | Cargo Space | Third Row | Mobile Devices | Video

Our 2017 Three-Row SUV Challenge compared the new 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, the redesigned 2018 Chevrolet Traverse, the refreshed 2017 Toyota Highlander and the 2017 Honda Pilot (winner of Cars.com’s last Three-Row SUV Challenge), all priced less than $46,000 with destination fees. While doing that overall evaluation, we specifically put these SUVs’ third rows to the test to see which was best.

We evaluated each SUV’s third-row access, seat comfort, visibility, Cars.com Car Seat Check scores, and whether it had places for your stuff and power for your devices. Climate controls weren’t rated because these all have tri-zone climate control and vents for the third row.

Note: In evaluating comfort, we had one of three Cars.com editors, all in the neighborhood of 6 feet tall, in each of the three rows — because no one ends up in the back unless the better seats are occupied and third-row comfort can be relative to the compromise you reach with the person adjusting their seat in the second row.

Here’s how the third rows rated:

Access

The Traverse and Atlas have longer wheelbases (120.9 and 117.3 inches, respectively) than the Pilot (111) and Highlander (109.8), and that made the biggest single difference for the entry space between the door pillar and second-row seat, allowing bigger rear doors and less rear-wheel intrusion. All four have second-row seats that slide forward for access to the third row, with Atlas seats sliding about 8 inches. The Atlas’ and Traverse’s second-row seats also tilt up and slide for easier access, even with a forward-facing child-safety seat installed. But the Traverse’s second row does that only on the passenger side.

Winner: The Atlas pockets a win in this category.

Comfort

The big Atlas and Traverse beat the Pilot for overall room in the back, though the Atlas is equipped for just two occupants, while the Traverse and Pilot offer seat belts for three passengers (though the three would have to be much narrower in their jeans than any of the Cars.com editors). All three overshadow the smaller Highlander — which has a more “occasional” back row (though it, too, is optimistically fitted with three sets of seat belts) — and are better choices for your last stop before a minivan.

47-chevrolet-traverse-2018-interior-second row.jpg
2018 Chevrolet Traverse

Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

For seat-cushion comfort and seating height, the Atlas and Traverse finished in a draw, though the Pilot was close on comfort; the Highlander was knees-in-the-air lowest on the seating-height front. The high-roofed Pilot offered the most headroom for adults back there; the Atlas’ and Traverse’s squared-off rear rooflines give them adequate headroom. Those two SUVs also had equally good available legroom for an adult, edging out the Pilot, though the VW test vehicle’s second-row bench meant less flexibility for legroom compromises with third-row occupants than the Chevy’s captain’s chairs (captain’s chairs are offered in the Atlas). The Highlander had the least room for legs, a problem compounded by also having the least space to slide your toes under the seat ahead. The Traverse, meanwhile, had the most extra toe space.

With the Atlas and Traverse close on leading space and seat comfort, the tiebreaker became the unfortunate design of the Atlas’ head restraints. The Atlas, and also the Highlander, use a simpler (and likely cheaper) “clamshell” design for head restraints that push down over the seatback for visibility when the seat is not in use. The Traverse, as well as Pilot, restraints flip down for better rear visibility; we also found them to be more comfortable when in use. The clamshell head restraints must be positioned forward to fit over the seatback when down, but that means that in use, depending on your height, they can push your head uncomfortably forward.

It’s less of a problem in the Highlander because the third-row seats recline a little, which also helps with headroom, but it leaves a tall person’s head uneasily close to the rear glass. The Atlas, however, compounds the problem with much bigger clamshell head restraints that not only push your head forward, but the head restraint’s lower edge pokes some people in the back depending on their height.

Winner: It’s a close call, but the Traverse pulls away with this category, tilted by its better-designed head restraints.

Visibility

With the current fashion for high beltlines, none of these SUVs felt airy in the back. That said, the Atlas and Pilot have relatively smaller pillars behind the rear doors and more glass thanks to an additional fixed panel behind the rear door window. The Atlas and the Traverse, meanwhile, offer extra light from above via moonroofs over the second row, a panoramic moonroof in the Atlas and a second moonroof panel in the Traverse. The Pilot and Highlander had traditional rectangles over the front row.

Winner: The Atlas lets the light into the third row with its panoramic moonroof and additional window panels.

54-volkswagen-atlas-2018-cupholders-interior-third row.jpg
2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

Car Seat Check

Cars.com Car Seat Checks tested the third rows for ease of access and good fit for a forward-facing convertible child seat and a booster seat, grading on an A to F scale. The Atlas got straight A’s for access and for fitting the two types of car seats; that put it on this year’s Car Seat Check Honor Roll as one of only 10 vehicles with all A’s out of 65 tested vehicles from the 2017 and 2018 model years. The Pilot earned a B for third-row access, but A’s for forward-facing convertible seat fit and its set of third-row Latch anchors (the only one among these four) as well as a B for booster seat fit. The Highlander got B’s except for a C with the third-row booster seat. The Traverse’s third row, however, “needs work,” according to our Car Seat Check installation team, which gave the SUV a B for third-row access, a B for forward-facing convertible seat fit and a C for booster seat fit issues. See full car seat details on each here.

Winner: The Atlas makes the grade with its top ratings in Cars.com’s Car Seat Check.

Storage

In three-row SUVs, the passengers relegated to the wayback need places to store their stuff. The Highlander, Pilot and Traverse all have multi-use double cupholders for keeping clutter somewhat controlled. The Atlas also has third-row dual cupholders, but it also has three open cubbies for smaller items.

Winner: Any additional spaces for keeping third-row clutter under control is a win. The Atlas tucks this win into its cubbies.

Power

The Chevy laps the field with a pair of USB charging ports — one on each side of the third row — plus access to a 12-volt outlet in the cargo area, which offers power for various uses, including USB charging with an adaptor; the Traverse was the only one with USB ports in the third row. The VW and Honda also have a 12-volt outlet access. Toyota passengers must make friends with the second row.

Winner: The Traverse is plugged in when it comes to providing charging access in the third row.

Best Overall

The Volkswagen Atlas takes the crown, with the most category wins in this test, and also ranking top in our expert judges’ scoring of third-row comfort in the Three-Row SUV Challenge. But Chevy’s Traverse was a close second in most of these categories, and it edged the VW on comfort and device charging power.

First introduced on the Atlas and Tiguan, new warranty now extends to most 2018 models.

First introduced on the Atlas and Tiguan, new warranty now extends to most 2018 models.

Hoping to win American customers back, Volkswagen is now offering a six-year or 72,000-mile limited warranty on every 2018 model year vehicle in its lineup – minus the e-Golf. A similar offer was first introducedon the the VW Atlas and Tiguan CUVs, but has been rebranded the “People First Warranty” to reflect its broadened appeal. Hinrich J. Woebcken, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America said he thinks this will help increase VW’s U.S. sales numbers.

“We want to grow from a niche player to a volume player in the auto industry,” Woebcken said. “Rather than charging a premium for our product, our new vehicles are now more competitively priced in key segments”

The People First bumper-to-bumper warranty includes powertrain coverage for engines, transmissions, and VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. Compared to most of its mainstream competitors, VW offers coverage for longer and for higher mileage. For reference, Toyota and Ford both only offer a three-year or 36,000 mile basic warranty and five-year or 60,000 mile powertrain warranty. Hyundai and Kia plans offer more time and mileage on their powertrain warranties, but aren’t transferable to a second owner like VW’s. Assuming the car is resold before the warranty expires (six years or 72,000 miles), a second owner can still benefit from the VW warranty, depending on the vehicle’s original sale date.

Although Woebcken admits dealer morale was lacking when he came on board in 2016 (just after the discovery of cheating devices on VW diesel vehicles), he said the corporate-dealer relationship is now “in a really good place.”

“We want to show that we are taking American customers seriously,” Woebcken said. “The dealers are the ones looking into the eyes of our customers, and I want will do my utmost to keep that positive momentum with the dealer body.”

Woebcken also said this new warranty is part of the brand’s plan to “decentralize from Germany and allow more autonomy in the North American region.” One primary example he referenced was the VW Atlas’ name – which was changed to better appeal to the American market.

“What’s so great about this country is that everybody loves a great comeback story,” Woebcken said. “We feel like we are on a very good path in this regard, and if you look at recent sales numbers, it’s kind of proving it.”