Charl Bosch
Online Motoring Reporter
3 minute read
29 Dec 2020
2:17 pm

UPDATE: Dummy or reality? Volkswagen Atlas spotted in South Africa

Charl Bosch

Could a right-hand-drive future be on the cards?

Pre-facelift Volkswagen Atlas

UPDATED: Volkswagen has confirmed that the Atlas’ are indeed left-hand-drive Teramonts that have been shipped from Germany for disassembly into semi-knockdown kits (SKD), which will then be moved to Ghana and Rwanda for final assembly and ultimate availability. The automaker also added that neither the Atlas nor the Teramont will be offered for sale locally.

Rumours dating back nearly two years alleging Volkswagen introducing a right-hand-drive version of the Atlas, known as the Teramont in China, could well become a reality after the spotting of several apparent production versions on South African soil.

Along with a version of the previous generation North American-spec Jetta, more than half-a-dozen Atlas’, some finished in Platinum Grey Metallic and others in Pacific Blue Metallic, were seen by The Citizen at the automaker’s holding area outside its factory in Uitenhage.

The spotting comes months after examples of the new Jetta, ruled out for South Africa as a result of being manufactured solely inleft-hand-drive, were seen leaving the Gerotek Testing facility outside Pretoria wearing minor to no camouflage.

Despite receiving a mid-life facelift back in February, all of the mentioned Atlas’ bear a close resemblance to the original, suggesting they could in fact be the Teramonts, which didn’t receive the same visual enhancements.

Seventh generation Volkswagen Jetta

In the United States where it replaced the Touareg in 2017, a year after going into production, the Atlas is powered by a choice of two petrol engines; a 2.0 TSI developing 175kW/350Nm and a 3.6 VR6 rated at 206kW/360Nm. Both units are paired to an eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox with the former having the option of front-wheel-drive or the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system, which the VR6 has as standard.

In China, the Teramont sports the same 2.0 TSI in two states of tune; 137kW/320Nm in the 330 TSI and 162kW/350Nm in the 380 TSI, as well as a market specific turbocharged 2.5 VR6 rated at 220kW/500Nm. A seven-speed DSG and the mentioned 4Motion system are standard across the range.

At present, speculation is that it could be in the country for evaluation purposes in determining whether right-hand-drive availability is plausible, perhaps for the next generation allegedly out in 2022 or 2023, or simply to test new component in a different climate. Given that the spotted models were seemingly not tampered with or disguised, their use as test mules can be ruled-out.

In an interview with Australia’s two years ago, Volkswagen’s Australia Managing Director, Michael Bartsch, said interest in the Atlas had been on the increase after a slow start, as a number of markets, including South Africa, has expressed interest in the Chattanooga, Tennessee build seven-seater.

“Speaking initially (with the existing model) … Africa didn’t want it because they didn’t make it in diesel; UK didn’t want it because it’s too big; and the same goes with Japan. When that car first came out it fell flat. Now everybody’s reconsidering it. England is now reconsidering it, South Africa is reconsidering it,” he said.

“[However], there has to be a business case for right-hand drive. It’s the normal course of business – there are a lot of things in life one would like, but ultimately it has to make business sense, otherwise there’s no point doing it”.

The Citizen has been in contact with Volkswagen regarding the matter.

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