Fans of Volkswagen products who hoarded canned goods and ammunition in anticipation of the VWpocalypse – the launch of “Americanized” versions of the Jetta and Passat – may be unhappy with how their new product lineup is shaking out. But the market is responding favorably. The Volkswagen Jetta outsold the Hyundai Elantra in January (the two finished 11th and 10th in 2011 respectively) and the Passat spends half as much time on dealer lots compared to the industry average.
The United States has long been the key to Volkswagen’s goal of becoming the largest, most profitable automaker, due to its size and Europe’s increasingly unstable future. Domestic production and the “prestige” associated with German vehicles is helping Volkswagen, but their strategy of unseating Honda, which seems to be predicated on the company continuing to falter, may be flawed; the 2012 Civic, which has been pilloried in the automotive press, outsold the Jetta by a 2:1 ratio in January. Both models have endured criticism from the automotive press, though consumers have yet to adjust their buying habits accordingly. Honda’s poor showing in 2011 (with market share dropping from 11 to 8 percent in 2011) was attributable to disrupted production in Japan and Thailand, but those issues should sort themselves out in 2012.
An Automotive News article on the topic suggests that one way VW may be able to make up some market share is through the sale of TDI diesels if gas prices hit $5/gallon. But with diesel market share resting comfortably at 0.5 percent in 2011, it looks like TDIs will have a negligible impact on VW’s sales.