“We’ve got tremendous momentum in the market place,” Jonathan Browning, chief executive officer of Volkswagen Group of America said.
Sales for the first seven months of the year are outpacing the market with a 22 percent rise to nearly 150,000 vehicles and are expected to continue to grow as the German automaker expands its offerings.
Lower base prices – with the Passat, Golf, Beetle, and Jetta now starting at under $20,000 ($14,164) – have dramatically expanded VW’s reach.
Last year’s Passat only competed in about seven to eight percent of the midsized car segment, Browning said in an interview on the sidelines of an automotive conference in Traverse City, Michigan.
“The new Passat with the price range and the product offerings will actually compete in more than 70 percent,” he said. “It’s a steep change in terms of the access to the market.”
While VW has received some criticism in the automotive press for the somewhat stripped-down base models, Browning insists that VW has not “diluted the heart of the brand.”
“The DNA is the same, the engineering is the same, the quality is the same,” he said. “Even the entry level Jetta, if you drive that on the highway enthusiastically, it’s a vehicle that feels planted on the road and has all those qualities that make a VW a VW.”
And since VW still has plenty to offer passionate customers with the means to pay a premium it has managed to keep its median transaction price “essentially unchanged,” he said.
VW aims to be the world’s leading automaker by 2018 and to expand its global sales to 10 million vehicles annually.
The United States figures prominently in those plans, with sales goals of 800,000 VWs a year – up from 213,000 in 2010 – and 200,000 Audis, more than double the 83,000 sold last year.
“Selectively, we may see some opportunities for new products like the Golf R that really reinforces the qualities of the brand,” Browning said.
“The first job is to really go deeper into the segments.”