Volkswagen AG is attacking two growing markets – cross/utility vehicles and diesel-powertrains – with the world premiere of its Tiguan concept vehicle at the L.A. Auto Show.

A CUV based on VW’s global Golf platform, the Tiguan – expected to debut as an ’08 production model – affords the intrepidness of all-wheel-drive capability and the economic advantages of a 50-state-legal diesel.

Specifically, the Tiguan’s diesel powertrain will benefit from a technology-sharing agreement between VW; its premium sister brand, Audi, and DaimlerChrysler AG luxury marque Mercedes-Benz. The deal, also announced in conjunction with the L.A. show, expands access to Bluetec, the “clean diesel” aftertreatment system developed by Mercedes and making its debut last month on the auto maker’s ’07 E320 sedan.

In 2008, Bluetec will migrate to the Mercedes R-Class, M-Class and GL-Class CUVs.

“The goal of this partnership is to establish the concept of Bluetec as a uniform label for clean and low-consumpton cars and SUVs with diesel engines,” VW says in a statement. “Bluetec denotes diesel (engines) that comply with even the strictest emissions regulations of the U.S. market.”

The agreement does not, however, expand access to AdBlue, an advanced diesel aftertreatment system developed by Mercedes and expected to debut in model-year ’09.

Upon hearing the news about Tiguan, VW dealers are hopeful.

“We’ve sort of been out of the diesel business in the state of Vermont because of the California emissions standards that we follow,” says Mike Mason, sales representative at Walker Volkswagen in Barre, VT.

J.D. Power has forecast global demand for diesel powertrains will nearly double within the next 10 years, while in the U.S., it will more than triple.

But the introduction in 2007 of stricter emissions has forced VW, America’s most successful seller of diesel-powered passenger vehicles, to bow out of that market until January of 2008. That’s when the auto maker launches its first Bluetec-inspired diesl product, a Jetta.

A diesel Tiguan, and other similarly equipped vehicles, will follow. But by then, VW hopes the Tiguan – which takes its name from the words “tiger” and “iguana” – will already have a foothold in the market with a gasoline-powered version.

“We certainly have interest in the Touareg, which is the bigger brother to what that car will be,” Mason tells Ward’s.

Says VW designer Klaus Bischoff, who crafted the Tiguan’s exterior: “It was very important to us to have the car appear powerful. Muscular. For us, that had a higher priority than anything else. An off-roader needs a long hood and an upright position. That lends the vehicle self-assuredness and power.”

Sporting xenon headlamps on either side of a dark-anodized metallic grille, the Tiguan is 173 ins. (440 cm) long, 73 ins. (185 cm) wide and 67 ins. (169 cm) tall.

The vehicle’s interior features a rear bench seat that can be adjusted longitudinally and offers asymmetrical fold-down capability. Configured properly, it can handle cargo up to 8.2 ft. (2.5 m) long, VW says, adding it will reveal more specs in first-quarter, 2007.

Ward’s forecasts that in 2009, CUVs will account for more volume than any other segment in North America, surpassing even pickups.

To this end, VW apparently has begun laying the groundwork for its Tiguan marketing campaign. Ward’s is told that a pair of ad agencies have been inquiring with zoos about gaining access to their collections of tigers and iguanas.

emayne@wardsauto.com