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Volkswagen Kills Off Passat in U.S., Sending Another Sedan to the Scrap Heap

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Volkswagen AG

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is phasing out sales of the Passat sedan in the U.S., the latest well-known nameplate to exit U.S. showrooms as auto makers embrace sport-utility vehicles.

The German auto maker said Monday that the 2022 model year will be the final run for the midsize sedan, which has been sold in the U.S. under the Passat name since 1990. VW said it is focused on selling SUVs and the start of U.S. production next year of its new electric model, the ID.4.

Car companies have been paring their lineups of passenger cars in recent years, dropping sedan and hatchback models while adding more SUVs and pickup trucks. American buyers have gravitated to rides that have better utility and allow drivers to sit higher, a shift driven in part by a relatively long period of relatively low gas prices.

The proliferation of so-called crossover SUVs, which are built on a car frame, have allowed auto makers to offer smaller SUV body styles and better fuel efficiency than the larger, trucklike SUVs that surged to popularity in the early 1990s.

Other sedan names that have been sent to the scrap heap in recent years include the Chevrolet Impala,

Ford

Focus, Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200. VW did away with its quirky Beetle small car in 2019.

Sales of the Passat, which competes with other family cars such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, have steadily fallen in recent years along with other sedan models. VW sold about 23,000 Passats last year, down from about 78,000 in 2015, according to research firm Motor Intelligence.

Production of the Passat in Europe will continue, a VW spokesman said.

Detroit’s auto makers have led the trend away from passenger cars, winnowing most models from their lineups as they play to their historical strengths of pickup trucks and SUVs. Ford, for example, recently detailed plans to sell the Maverick small pickup truck, with a starting price around $20,000, the least-expensive vehicle in Ford’s U.S. showrooms.

VW and other auto makers also are rethinking their vehicle lineups as they prepare to roll out dozens of electric models in coming years. VW’s plans for plug-in cars are among the most aggressive of global auto makers.

VW began selling a North American version of its European Passat model under the name Dasher. It was sold under the Passat name in the U.S. beginning in 1990, and over the years was sold as a sedan and wagon.

In 2011, VW began U.S. production of the Passat sedans at its Chattanooga, Tenn., factory. The company said the plant remains busy with production of SUVs, such as the midsize Atlas, and will begin making electric cars.

Volkswagen is investing in electric vehicles more than other legacy car makers in the U.S. WSJ goes inside an engine factory that is being transformed into a battery plant as the German giant looks to change its image and become a rival to Tesla. Photo illustration: George Downs

Write to Mike Colias at Mike.Colias@wsj.com

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