Despite giving the old college try for decades, Volkswagen is still confounded by the lack of cachet their namesake brand holds among the hearts and minds of many an American. With VW of America CEO Jonathan Browning stepping down and returning to the United Kingdom at the end of this year, the Wolfsburg automaker hope one of their own, successor Michael Horn, will be able to finally crack the code of success in the United States.
Volkswagen AG has set a goal of selling 800,000 units in the U.S. by 2018 with a strategy of four vehicles built to American tastes. With eight consecutive months of losses due to poor sales of the current lineup, the automaker has their work cut-out for them. According to insiders and U.S. dealers, Horn’s experience with the culture on the German side could be just what is needed to help determine a proper course of action with the American market.
In addition to knowing how to communicate to his bosses in Wolfsburg in a manner Browning never could, Horn also brings product development experience to the table, helping to launch the Touraeg and Phaeton as head of sales and marketing of VW’s premium units. The aforementioned strategy has already been implemented in part, with redesigns of both the Jetta and Passat, but no green light has been given to the remaining two vehicles, a compact and a midsize SUV. Horn’s voice could make all the difference in bringing the SUVs to market, especially if they are aimed at Toyota and Honda customers instead of BMW and Lexus.
For now, Horn and VW of America COO Mark McNabb will together oversee the launch of the next-generation Golf and its variants in the automaker’s Puebla, Mexico factory. The hatchback will go on sale this coming spring.