Volkswagen Wants to Build More R-Badged Vehicles, but America Won't Pay Up

People don't want to pay premium-bracket pricing for a Volkswagen-branded car.

Kyle Cheromcha

Volkswagen's premium cream of the crop performance cars are outfitted with the automaker's infamous R-badge to signal their exclusivity. Buyers know that when buying a Golf R, for example, they will receive something more premium and sporty than a base-trim GTI. During the Geneva International Motor Show, VW held a media round-table discussion where the idea of expanding the line of R cars was introduced. It's something that Volkswagen wants to toy with, but the company doesn't know if the cars will actually sell.

Consumers want the features that Volkswagen's R-badged vehicles have to offer but they might have trouble leaving dealer lots. The biggest factor, explains Volkswagen board member Jürgen Stackmann, is price.

“The U.S. market is extremely price-sensitive when it comes to volume brands. The R concept adds four-wheel-drive, a lot of technology, and a big engine. Put that into the American system, and it would take the price into premium territory. Premium prices are usually only paid for premium brands,” said Stackmann during the press event. “I think there is demand, but the will to pay for this demand is quite limited.”

The price jump is quite high between the Golf GTI and the Golf R. Presently, U.S. buyers can spend $27,595 on a base Golf GTI or pay a premium of 46 percent to upgrade to the performance-oriented Golf R for $40,395. In 2018, Volkswagen sold only one Golf R for every five Golf GTIs delivered to a customer.

Perhaps buyers would be more interested in an R-trimmed electric car. Stackmann later confirmed that there will be R cars across its ID electric models. Of course, the price premium of EVs helps to justify the cost of a more sporty vehicle—this makes the largest inhibitor for Volkswagen-branded EVs not cost, but range.

If Volkswagen does choose to pursue additional R-badged vehicles in the future for the United States, they'll likely be based on the Jetta or Tiguan. Sadly, it doesn't appear to be on the horizon any time soon, and if one ever arrives, it's unlikely to feature a manual transmission.