By on September 13, 2010

Historically, Volkswagen has given the U.S.A. much more attention than their sales deserve. The U.S. are considered key to VW reaching their goal of becoming Nummer Eins auf der Welt (I’m sure Herr Schmitt will correct my German – he sure did.). Trouble is, their US head, Stefan Jacoby, deserted to left to work for Volvo and Geely. This means they needed to find someone new. And they may have just done that.

Bloomberg reports that on today VW will announce that Jonathan Browning, a former GM executive will be named head of VW’s US unit, said ” said a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified before an official release.” Naturally, VW declined to officially comment. The post of head of VW America will be a very challenging one. Not only is there the pressure from Wolfsburg to make US sales top 1 million a year (good luck on that,) but there’s also the launch of the new Jetta, a car which is considered key to VW America’s sales, and the building, opening and running of VW’s new flagship plant in Tennessee. Quite a lot of work to be done there. So, what do we know about Mr Browning?

Browning had been hired by VW in June to improve coordination of the carmaker’s international sales companies – a challenging job.  Jonathan Browning worked for GM since 2001 (and before between 1981 and 1997) as vice president of global sales, service and marketing. Three areas in which GM was weak. And what did he do between 1997 and 2001? He was at Ford, as Managing Director of Jaguar. Oh dear. I hope the Chinese division stays strong.

PS: And just this minute, Volkswagen announced in Wolfsburg that “Jonathan Browning (51) has been named President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America effective October 1, 2010.”

Two interesting statements:

  • “The USA will always be one of the largest and most important markets for automobiles,” Christian Klingler commented, adding that this offered the Volkswagen Group significant growth opportunities.
  • “The Board Member for Sales reiterated the target to sell 200,000 Audi brand models and 800,000 Volkswagen brand models in 2018.”

To reach that  goal, Volkswagen needs a Browning.  Maybe even a BAR.

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9 Comments on “VW Pulls A Browning...”

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Hmmm, I’m not sure Brits have a talent for gun humor :).

  • avatar
    Tricky Dicky

    Shame Herr Schmidt didn’t correct your English in this post either Cammy :-o
    Please don’t let the standards drop, otherwise they’ll start claiming an advantage in the field of humo(u)r.
    Auto headhunters are going crazy in Europe trying to get people to sign up for roles in the US with VW….

  • avatar

    Oh good – another longtime GM manager hired for a key job.  Let’s hope for VW’s sake that this works out better than the Robert Eaton hire at Chrysler some years back.

  • avatar

    I don’t understand the appeal of past GM leaders.  Seriously, does this guy have any tangible successes under his belt?  If so, are they anywhere near the scale of what VW will need.
    The appeal of hiring an outsider is there, but I sure hope that someone in Wolfsberg is asking some tough questions about this choice.  I’d think they’d need a Ghosn type.. someone who’s been groomed for this type of operational and sales leadership role to take the helm.

  • avatar

    If the goal is simply to sell a million cars, and if the cheapened down Jetta is going to be their “key” player, then VW might as well pack up and leave the US tomorrow (is today too soon?).  Maybe they’re after the rental car market.

    Nowhere did the original article mention anything other than increasing sales.  Nothing about increasing quality or dealer experience.  And they want 85% of sales coming out of the Tennessee plant?

    Just what the US needs, a new Jetta (recently panned in the WSJ, by the way) whose chief selling features are hard plastics and drum brakes, a Chevy Impala clone made in TN, and let’s not forget the Phaeton, which is supposed to be arriving, too.  These people are either high, or have utter contempt for the US market.  Stefan Jacoby got out while the gettin’ was good.

  • avatar
    George B

    In my opinion Volkswagen isn’t being held back in the US by their US executives.  Their stubbornness looks German to me.  Their cars are interesting, but they carry a relatively high cost of ownership in both money and time spent on repairs.  Free oil changes and lower prices/cheaper plastic don’t solve their main problem.  Simply match the Hyundai 10 year drivetrain, 5 year other stuff warranty and more buyers will be willing to take the risk.
    Sad to see nice interior removed from the Jetta, but still willing to test drive a GLI with soft touch plastic and IRS.  Might be an interesting sleeper with good performance upgrade potential. The combination of GLI good stuff and diesel engine would also be interesting.

  • avatar

    Hmmm, I’m not sure Brits have a talent for gun humor :).
    No worries if it weren’t  Brownings fitted on the Spitfires, we could all have been Deutsche sprechen by now.

  • avatar

    So I wonder how long this guy will last? Seems like there’s been a lot of turnover for the head of VWoA in recent years.
    What VW needs in the US is a competitive line of vehicles with diesel engines as well as efficient gas engines offered for every model. Which means the Polo needs to come over, as well as something like the Amarok and they need to dump the Routan and either sell a van that isn’t secretly a Chrysler, or else forget about vans completely in the U.S.
    I can see the Jetta selling, but to average people looking for cheap transportation. Enthusiasts won’t likely buy a Jetta that’s cheapened compared to the previous generation. If the Jetta and the NMS car from Chattanooga do increase sales, they need to get their act together for the reliability and service side. I was thinking the other day about the NMS, and how you’d probably have to be insane to buy a brand new car from a brand new factory that’s run by VW and located in the U.S. Just look at the Westmoreland Rabbits. I really hope the NMS will be problem free since it’s now about 30 years since the Rabbit fiasco. But we are still talking about VW!

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