We knew it wouldn’t be easy for them. We knew it would get worse before it got better. But did you know it would be this difficult for Volkswagen of America to sell cars, and did you know it would get this bad this soon?
And could it get even worse?
Volkswagen brand sales in the United States tumbled 15 percent in January 2016, a year-over-year loss of 3,425 units. With barely more than 20,000 total sales, January 2016 sales fell to a 60-month low. Not since January 2011, when Volkswagen sold only 18,401 vehicles in America, has the company generated so little showroom activity.
Of course, five years ago, the market was much smaller. Volkswagen’s share of the market in January 2011 was a respectable – for Volkswagen’s U.S. operations – 2.2 percent.
Five years later, Volkswagen’s share of the industry’s volume slid to just 1.7 percent.
Only three years ago, Volkswagen grabbed 3.1 percent of the market in January 2013. Three months later, however, the long downward slide began. Between April 2013 and September 2014, Volkswagen sales would fall every month.
Those 18 months of decline had nothing to do with the inability of the brand to legally sell diesel-powered vehicles. Generally, TDIs accounted for approximately one in five Volkswagen sales.
The month the scandal broke, last September, Volkswagen sales rose 0.6 percent. (Sort of.) An even more modest 0.2 percent uptick in October, when the scandal was fully erupting, occurred as incentives shot through the roof. By November, the free fall was underway. Sales plunged 25 percent, a loss of nearly 8,000 sales compared with November 2014. During the last month of 2014, Volkswagen’s U.S. volume was down 9 percent. Compared with December 2012, when Volkswagen reported its best December results since 1970, the brand’s market share fell 1.4 percentage points.
Back to the most recent results: The first month of 2016 was the lowest-volume January in the soon-to-be-discontinued Eos’s history with only 123 sales. Beetle sales fell below 1,000 units for the first time since September 2011, the month in which the current generation Beetle was going through the final phases of its launch sequence. Volkswagen pushed only 708 wagons: 706 Golf SportWagens and two remaining Jetta SportWagens. That was an improvement compared with January 2015, when Volkswagen was approaching a Jetta/Golf wagon transition, but just half the total achieved in January 2013.
January was the fifth four-digit sales month for the Jetta in the last 67 months. Touareg sales fell to a 63-month low. For a third consecutive month, Volkswagen sold fewer than 4,000 Passats. The three-month total between November and January was down 54 percent.
The Golf’s 5-percent decrease would almost be a bright light — the Golf’s daily selling rate was up 3 percent — if the Golf was a significant player in the small car arena. But the Golf’s compact car market share didn’t climb to 3 percent in January.
Similarly, the Tiguan continued to report improved results. Vastly improved results, in fact. January volume jumped 72 percent. But since Tiguan volume shot to a record high in October and broke that record in December, availability for discounted, outdated Tiguans isn’t great. Moreover, even in its best months, the Tiguan remained a bit player in the small SUV sector.
Never available in North America with a diesel in the first place, the surging Tiguan isn’t to blame for Volkswagen’s dilapidated January state. Rather, the brand’s top-selling cars, which were recently sold in diesel form, have simply lost those diesel sales. Passat, Jetta sedan, non-GTI/R/E Golfs, and wagons collectively plunged 20 percent last month.