A few months ago, Volkswagen’s 2018 goal of world domination was in gripping distance. In a record run, and helped by tsunamis and floods, Volkswagen had finished 2011 as world’s second largest automaker after GM and before Toyota. Overtaking GM was seen as a matter of short time. Six months later, the advantage is slipping away. A visibly rattled Volkswagen now musters all energy to stay in the race.
Volkswagen’s new Hoffnungsträger, freshly-minted China chief Jochem Heizmann, plans to build and sell 4 million cars in China by 2018, he told the German magazine Focus. Last year, Volkswagen sold 2.3 million units in the Middle Kingdom. Heizmann’s conservative predecessor had budgeted 3 million units until 2018. To a delighted board, Heizmann now promises a million more.
Every unit counts in the race to the top. Volkswagen redoubled its efforts to buy U.S. truckmaker Navistar. According to Financial Times Deutschland, Volkswagen is interested in taking over Navistar. Navistar is a bargain, its stock lost half its value in four months. Navistar would round-out Volkswagen’s SCANIA and MAN offerings. MAN already makes engines and components for Navistar. There could be a bidding-war: Fiat is also said to be interested in Navistar. Volkswagen however has the bigger war chest.
Volkswagen will most likely finish the year ranked third. It will have to work hard on not to slip further. Home market Europe, where Volkswagen sells around half of its global volume is a mess. Other markets, or new brands will have to make up for the losses at home if Volkswagen’s Strategie 2018 is supposed to succeed. A reinvigorated Toyota and a disencumbered GM will do everything to keep VW in its third place.