VW bets US will fall for its first electric vehicle and the MQB architecture image

The e-Golf is the automaker’s first electric vehicle and the first U.S.-bound car to use VW’s new MQB architecture. Even though it shares the body with the current Golf model, the electric drivetrain is the one VW will sell in California and the other states that require EVs late next year.

VW expects the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to rate it at 100 miles on a full charge. It’ll take about eight hours to charge the e-Golf from empty with a 240-volt charger, but an 80% charge will only take 30 minutes. Top speed will be 85 mph (136 km/h). VW will announce prices next year, not long before e-Golfs go on sale.

The MQB vehicle architecture is at the heart of nearly everything the VW and Audi will do over the next decade. It’s supposed to be a revolutionary set of parts and structures that can be used in vehicles ranging from subcompacts to midsize cars. It will also underpin compact crossovers to six- or seven-passenger family vehicles.

If VW can use a single architecture to produce really good vehicles in that many different market segments, it will dwell in savings in engineering and manufacturing costs. On the other hand, if MQB stumbles or fails, VW has a crisis on its hands. Nearly every volume vehicle the VW brand will introduce for the next decade relies on MQB. The architecture must also prove it can support Audi luxury cars and crossovers.

The first test comes when Audi launches in the US the A3 compact sedan, convertible, plug-in hybrid, S3 performance model and Q3 compact SUV next year. The A3 sedan will compete with the new Mercedes-Benz CLA compact sedan and other small luxury models to come.

“It’s an interesting addition,” IHS Automotive senior analyst Stephanie Brinley said of the A3, which is somewhat smaller than the CLA. “As luxury cars like the Audi A4, BMW 3-series and Mercedes C-class have gotten bigger and more expensive, it’s opened the door for models just below them.”

Audi expects the 2015 A3 to outsell the current model, which is available only as a hatchback. Audi sold just 7,205 A3s in 2012. It hopes to reach 30,000 a year with the new model. A3 prices will start at $29,900 for a front-wheel drive model with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission and 1.8-liter 175 hp engine. Diesel and 2.0-liter gasoline engines and Quattro all-wheel drive will also be available.