2012 Volkswagen Passat
It’s no secret auto giant Volkswagen is still a small fish in the all-important U.S. market, but the automaker is determined to alleviate the issue, going so far as to develop distinct models aimed squarely at American customers.
Volkswagen’s sales tally for the U.S. in 2010 topped just 256,830 vehicles, whereas its global tally reached more than 6 million. Moreover, sales of its SUV models in the U.S. topped just 25,659 in 2010 when Americans bought up more than 3.3 million SUVs and crossovers during the year. Certainly, the automaker has a lot of ground to cover.
Now, with Volkswagen pushing its own aggressive strategy to triple its U.S. sales by 2018, the same year CEO Martin Winterkorn wants the automaker to be the world’s biggest, the pressure to gain sales in the U.S. is now more important than ever.
However, VW does have a few aces up its sleeve.
The first is a key strategy to start building vehicles American customers want. It started with the 2011 Jetta
, which kept a distinct German flavor in its styling but was specced and priced lower than its predecessor.
This brought customers to dealerships who previously considered the brand too expensive--and it’s working. Volkswagen managed to move 17,105 Jettas in the U.S. in the month of June alone.
The second key strategy was to build a plant in the U.S. By building locally, the automaker not only benefits from lower currency fluctuations, but it also gives consumers the image that VW supports America, fully putting it in the heart of mainstream consumers.
This new plant in Tennessee will start churning out a new generation 2012 Passat
, which like the Jetta, has been specced lower than the previous model and is now right in line with its Toyota Camry and Honda Accord rivals in terms of price.
It goes on sale this fall.
As revealed during a recent interview with Terry Johnsson, Volkswagen’s U.S. sales chief, the Passat will be followed by a new SUV, most likely larger than the Tiguan but still considered small to mid-size. It is expected to arrive sometime next year. If the strategy proves successful, this will be followed by a larger SUV, likely with third-row seating.
Importantly, both models will be priced below their respective comparable current offerings, the Tiguan and Touareg. However, product characteristics should ensure they remain true VW vehicles.
Further down the track, all future VWs sold in this country will be developed more so with the U.S. customer in mind, with everything from dimensions to drivetrains and interiors being put under the spotlight.
The U.S remains the most transparent market in the eyes of Volkswagen, and the one toughest to crack, but with customers responding well to the new Jetta, and the same expected for the upcoming Passat, it looks like Volkswagen is finally on a winning strategy.