By on March 7, 2016

2016 Volkswagen Passat, Image: © 2015 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

The good news? Volkswagen of America sold more new vehicles in February 2016 than the company managed to sell in January 2016.

The bad news? Improving upon January’s results was a given. February volume was significantly stronger across the industry, just as it always is. Even as industry-wide sales grew 17 percent compared with January, Volkswagen sales grew 11 percent. And while the industry surged to its best February results since 2001, Volkswagen brand sales still fell to the lowest February total in five years.

As passenger car sales dipped ever so slightly in February, sliding by just about a half a percentage point compared with February 2015, Volkswagen’s car volume was down 20 percent. After claiming a disastrously low 1.75-percent market share in January 2016, the Volkswagen brand contributed only 1.66 percent of the auto industry’s total volume in February 2016.

The diesel emissions scandal, which erupted last September, was not the beginning of Volkswagen’s U.S. sales troubles. Volkswagen’s February sales have fallen in three consecutive years, sliding 29 percent since 2013. But with the brand’s dealers severely limited in terms of a product lineup, a reputation tarnished by cheating — there’s apparently nothing worse — and a pregnant pause before new in-demand vehicles are launched, these winter blues are not the end of Volkswagen’s U.S. sales troubles, either.

Regardless of timing, the sight of Volkswagen’s February sales results are uncomfortable to behold. Here’s a model-by-model perusal across the Volkswagen spectrum.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Classic, Image: Volkswagen of America

If the original New Beetle was a harbinger of success in the late ’90s, its successor’s surprisingly effective launch in late 2011 was not. Two-door hatchbacks with limited flexibility and styling, which were all the rage when a Clinton was in the White House, are not the type of cars a brand can rely on for volume.

Combined sales of the Beetle Coupe and Beetle Convertible in February 2016 were chopped in half, falling to only 912 units, just the second (and second consecutive) three-digit sales month since the car was launched in September 2011.

2016 Volkswagen CC, Image: Volkswagen of America

This has nothing to do with diesel unavailability. The CC was never marketed in the United States with a diesel engine. Instead, the CC is simply ancient. CC sales began in late 2008. An average of 2,146 CCs per month left dealers between 2009 and 2012. CC volume plunged 40 percent to 251 units in February 2016.

2015 Volkswagen Eos Final Edition, Image: Volkswagen of America

Why was the Eos’s previously terminated lifespan temporarily extended through the 2016 model year? Duh, in order to take the extremely lucrative Floridian fight to the Buick Cascada. (Not really.) Volkswagen sold 110 copies of the Eos in February 2016, a 7-percent year-over-year drop equal to eight lost sales. Oh, and Buick reported 495 Cascada sales in February; 583 to date.

2015 Volkswagen Golf family, Image: Volkswagen of America

If the Beetle, CC, and Eos are scarcely consequential examples of Volkswagen’s downturn, the Golf lies at the heart of the matter. Total Golf family volume was down 7 percent in February, a stark contradiction given the 5-percent uptick achieved by America’s compact car market last month. But the bulk of the Golf’s volume continues to be produced outside of the presumed core of the Golf lineup. Three-quarters of total Golf volume in February was generated by the GTI, Golf R, e-Golf, and new Golf SportWagen.

Only 887 “conventional” Golf hatchbacks were sold in February, a 46-percent year-over-year decline.

Context? Uncommon cars that were more commonly acquired in February include the Mitsubishi Mirage, Toyota Prius V, Nissan Armada, Land Rover LR4, Lexus RC, Ford Taurus Police Interceptor, and yes, the Volkswagen Beetle.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, Image: Volkswagen of America

Volkswagen’s best-selling model lost 13 percent of its February volume. Granted, a chunk of those lost sales were of the wagon variety. (The Golf Sportwagen’s February 2016 performance was 7 percent better than the Jetta SportWagen’s February 2015 performance.) Jetta sedan volume slid 8 percent to 9,375 units last month. Given the outright loss of TDI sales, this isn’t a disastrous result for a five-year-old car. Incentives help.

2016 Volkswagen Passat SEL Exterior High Angle, Image: Volkswagen of America

Volkswagen reported 4,380 Passat sales in February 2016, a 31-percent drop for America’s tenth-best-selling midsize car. Passat sales were in perpetual decline before the TDI failure last year. February sales in 2013 were down 8 percent, February 2014 volume then fell 7 percent, and Passat sales fell 10 percent in February 2015. Put these figures together and you see that Passat sales last month weren’t simply down 31 percent compared with February 2015; Passat sales were little more than half what they were four years ago. Volkswagen is currently on pace to sell fewer than 50,000 Passats in America this year, down from more than 100,000 in 2012 and 2013.

2016 Volkswagen Touareg, Image: Volkswagen of America

Volkswagen’s SUV strategy appeared to be working for a brief moment. Nearly 28,000 Touaregs were sold in 2004. But the brand’s upmarket predilections didn’t match consumer desires, and Touareg volume declined. Touareg sales are down 15 percent this year but slid only 2 percent in February. At only 403 units, February 2016’s Touareg performance is compared to February 2015, when Touareg sales had fallen to a 52-month low, well in advance of the diesel emissions scandal.

2016 Volkswagen Tiguan, Image: Volkswagen of America

Sadly, Volkswagen’s bright light is the brand’s low-volume compact crossover. Yes, Tiguan sales are improving markedly, shooting up 78 percent in February after successive increases in each of the previous 11 months and an all-time monthly record in December. But the Tiguan, set to be replaced soon by an already revealed model, remains an exceedingly low-volume utility vehicle by the standards of its competitors.

Volkswagen reported only 3,245 Tiguan sales in February – top-selling competitors from Toyota, Honda, Ford, and Nissan all topped the 20,000 sale benchmark last month.

[Images: Volkswagen of America]

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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45 Comments on “Apparently Volkswagen USA’s Fall From Grace Hasn’t Reached Its Sales Nadir Yet...”

  • avatar

    I was very close to pulling the trigger on a new SportWagen when they had $2k of Loyalty Cash on the hood. Because I couldn’t get one optioned how I liked, I didn’t. Now I’m glad I didn’t; owning a rare car has a bunch of practical disadvantages that I didn’t really want to deal with.

  • avatar

    I was very close to pulling the trigger on a new SportWagen when they had $2k of Loyalty Cash on the hood. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a model with a 6.2-L supercharged HEMI or 7-hundred-and-seven horses under the hood.

  • avatar

    I want to replace our current fleet (Civic & Rabbit) with a GTI and new Tiguan so bad, but between bad reliability reports on the GTI and this whole scandal I just can’t pull the trigger. Real shame as I love the MK7 Golf; it’s easily the best car in its class.

    • 0 avatar

      The Tiguan is far too much money unless it’s in most basic format. And it’s outclassed by every other competitor! It’s quite aged as well now – basically the same as what, 08?

    • 0 avatar

      The new GTI is so, so tempting. Test drove one for the second time this weekend. No salesman onboard, took it out for almost an hour, wife and I both loved it. Sales manager was in full-blown “what can I do to get you in this car today” mode when we returned. There’s no doubt it’s a great value for the performance/utility, but I’m still on the fence for a host of reasons.

      Tiguan is an absolute antique at this point, though. Unless they’re shoveling money at you, I wouldn’t go anywhere near it until the MQB based model shows up in a year or so.

    • 0 avatar

      Go drive a WRX (preferably one with the short shifter which is a poplar option fitted to many of the cars on local lots).

      From all the comments about the car I didn’t think I’d like it but I loved it. It’s a very engaging car to drive and the interior of the 2015/16 while not quite up to GTI standards is a nice place to be.

      The WRX, and for that matter the entire Subaru brand, holds value very well and should be solid maintenance wise.

      Drive the WRX and the GTI back to back. Like i said, I thought it would be a clear win for the GTI. Imagine my surprise when the WRX turned out to be the clear winner.

      Not that the GTI was bad. It’s a very good car but the Subie is very captivating and begs you to be driven. The GTI is a bit more mellow.

      I’d be interested in hearing what you think about both cars after you’ve test driven them.

      • 0 avatar

        Funny you mention the WRX. Drove the GTI on Saturday, fully intended to drive a WRX on Sunday afternoon. Local Subaru dealership had 12-5 clearly posted on both their website and the stencil on their door. Dealership was locked and dark when I got there around 1, no sign or anything. Still intend to drive it, but that particular dealership has probably lost my business for wasting my time.

      • 0 avatar

        WRX is a great car, but from what I hear insurance rates on them can be rather high.

      • 0 avatar

        Just had one in the shop. 2015 with the lowering kit, stiff springs adjustable stabilizer bars. I had to put the car back to stock. My friends mother is 50, she bought the car on a whim. After I got the car finished I took it out and was very impressed. The stiff solid ride is complimented by a great manual transmission. The engine is perfectly matched to gear ratio. It’s the best driving car I’ve had the chance to hammer on a bit. I’ve driven new mercedes, bmw, audi, vw, nissan, lexus, etc.. The wrx is by far a better driving car. It’s solid feel and powerful acceleration is really easy to use. Very enjoyable car to own. I almost bought one just based on test drive. I’m not really a fan of the dash. The seats are nice!

        • 0 avatar

          “The stiff solid ride is complimented by a great manual transmission. The engine is perfectly matched to gear ratio. It’s the best driving car I’ve had the chance to hammer on a bit. I’ve driven new mercedes, bmw, audi, vw, nissan, lexus, etc.. The wrx is by far a better driving car.”

          That’s good, because none of those lower case words you said are comparable in mission or design to the WRX.

  • avatar

    It’s been so long since I’ve seen a new model Touareg. I forget it exists.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I mean, aside from the Golf family—which, even then, still has to attract a certain kind of customer—Volkswagen’s lineup is the weakest it’s been in years. Yes, the Passat was just face-lifted and updated for MY2016, but the Accord, new Malibu, Fusion and Camry are all much better choices depending on what’s important to you. Ditto for just about every other car in their lineup. The Beetle is irrelevant, the CC is actually based on the B6 Passat that’s ten years old now, and any notions of the Touareg can quickly be put to rest by a mid-level Grand Cherokee.

    • 0 avatar

      +1. The only reason to stray outside the Golf/GTI is a very low price.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        True. And the dealers in my area are only discounting the base or near-base cars. Base-model Volkswagens can be pretty sad-looking. But when it’d cost every bit of $30K to get into a Passat 1.8T SEL, why you wouldn’t choose just about every other competitor first is beyond me.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree the Golf lineup, and maybe also the new 1.4 Jetta, is the only compelling reason to consider VW at this point, but CR recently reported the 2015 Golfs were much worse than average. I can’t figure out if there are problems with the 1.8 liter gas engine, or if the respondents slammed the car because they are so angry at VW for the TDI mess.

    • 0 avatar


      You left out the Jetta. While on an aging platform, it is one of the better competitors in the segment from a price/feature/performance perspective, and I’m actually taking a look at them now on a whim (partly based on Jack’s review of the 1.8T Sport variety).

      In particular, it does several things better than the Mazda 3 I currently commute in (fit car seats, trunk space, NVH), while maintaining a close approximation of the same fun-to-drive quality. The sport trim in particular is essentially the only model in its class that gives you a manual with leatherette seats. Plus it does a solid upper-30s mpg-wise

      If you bring price into the equation, the $22k sticker is an $18.5k advertised price at most of our local dealers, with one going as low as the upper 16s. I know looking at comparables you’re not getting a civic or a corolla anywhere near that, especially with that feature set. maybe a focus, but that doesn’t have the rear seat room to fit a rear-facing car seat easily.

  • avatar

    The Jetta should have been new and on the new chassis platform by right now at the latest. No wonder about these numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      No, even by their ordinary timeline, they’d still have another year or so. But now that they no longer have the TDI to fall back on, and with competitors like the Cruze and Civic becoming far better as of this year, Volkswagen probably *wish* they had a new Jetta ready in order to stay competitive.

      The Tiguan is probably the model most in need of an immediate redesign. We’ve seen the new version, but smaller crossovers is where all the growth is happening, and VW’s entry is just about the least-alluring in the segment for most customers. It’s actually subcompact and has no larger of a cabin than a standard Golf hatchback when you measure it out…which makes it grossly overpriced as well.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m one who always thought that the current Tiguan was garbage, but I REALLY like what I have seen of the new MQB version that will be out in November. In my mind it’s probably one of the best looking small CUVs out there, and it should definitely be larger than a Golf inside. After all, they’re rumored to have a version with a 3rd row coming.

        Too bad I’ve been bitten by purchasing a TDI back in 2012. The lack of communication and excess of foot-dragging by VW has me swearing off the brand altogether. I suppose that’s at least a small loss for them, as I was cross-shopping Passats back in September and considered waiting for the new Tiguan this year.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          The new one’s a bit larger, but still on the smaller side of compact. The three-row version of the Tiguan will be a variant with added length behind the C-pillar (sort of like the shorter Hyundai Santa Fe Sport versus the longer Hyundai Santa Fe).

          Much like you, I think my current Volkswagen will be my last, simply because they have little that interests me at this point. If I want to stay at the same level as my current car, I’ll probably switch over to Subaru or some of Ford’s sportier offerings. Or I might go for a luxury car next time (I do kinda miss the X5).

      • 0 avatar

        Yes you are right, I looked at the timeline. I seems forever though. I had a 2006 Jetta 2.0T which they started to decontent the following year, and then they replaced the car with the current Mk6 model which was worse/cheaper.

  • avatar

    Wouldn’t know it by going to the VW dealers in Portland. I was ready to pay cash for a Golf R at MSRP, but neither of the dealers were willing to budge from their $5K over MSRP asking price. And it’s not like the dealerships were over-run with customers either.

    Took my cash to BMW instead.

  • avatar

    Thanks, Tom, for including a healthy ration of facts vs. spin here.

    It truly is a dark era when I can walk into a VW dealership and see nothing I want. I’ve owned at least a dozen VW/Audi products over my own era, wandering away to SAAB and Subaru but always coming home again. But the only appealing car they sell today is the Tiguan, and I already own one. It’s the wife’s car, our Family Truckster, and it does a good job at that. They’re seen all over Denver.

    The Tiguan’s late-life market success might be unprecedented. It’s booming because other comparable VW choices have disappeared. They’re become the obvious alternative for the frustrated Sportswagen buyer, who might settle for a car that feels bigger, offers more ground clearance and a bit more power for a similar price.

  • avatar

    I love how the CC looks, but the interior and feature set are just awful, and by the time you option one to any credible level you’re knocking on the door of a CPO A7. I think it’s due for a redesign, though, isn’t it?

  • avatar

    Apparently it’s news that a company that was selling 20% diesels has lower sales while they continue to be unable to sell diesels. Wow, who would’ve thunk?

    • 0 avatar

      Indeed, any performance better than an overall 20% drop should be considered a win for VW at this point. Apparently the consumer isn’t avoiding them as part of some public shaming, diesel customers just aren’t able to buy their diesels.

      Is the CC still for sale in the same format in Europe, or did they get a new one?

  • avatar

    For a while I thought a lightly used CPO MQB Golf might be a good idea, but then I got my meds refilled. I’m all better now.

    (Seriously, the new Golf is a frickin’ GREAT car…too bad VW blew it with the diesel issues.)

  • avatar

    I’m one of those February GTI sales. I started out as a GSW TDI customer, and I waited months for the chance to test drive a manual GSW TSI with no luck before I realized I’d rather just have a GTI anyway.

  • avatar

    We bought a 2016 Audi A3 Quattro and a 2016 Golf R in February. Both dealerships were hopping with activity. My friend handles F&I at the VW dealer, and sates that sales have been fine overall, and that the dealer isn’t hurting.

  • avatar

    Come on TTAC, you can do better analysis than this. First off, the Jetta vs Golf Sportwagen thing is a name change, so lumping that vehicle in with either the Jetta or the Golf just confuses instead of informing.

    Secondly, did VW’s total sales decline more than the amount which would be expected from the diesel models being off limits? In other words, has the diesel scandal reduced sales of gasoline powered VWs?

    Finally, no mention of declining VW sales is complete without talking about VW’s terrible reliability reputation for the past several decades along with VWOA’s generally inhospitable attitude towards affected customers.

  • avatar

    One big issue is availability of certain models and feature sets. If you want a GSW with a moonroof, dealers only have one or two as compared to 10-12 S models. If you want something other than a black interior, you’re out of luck.

    Outside of the Passat/Jetta models, this issue percolates throughout the model lineup and is true of the Golf as well.

    Obviously some of this is due to having to transition away from the TDI engines…as is the reduction in sales. I suspect they just don’t have the manufacturing capacity for the TSI engine to make up for the shortfall of TDI engines.

    Note, although occasional anecdotal evidence still exists to the contrary, VW reliability has improved and is more or less average in the industry…which by today’s standards is pretty damn good. But the reputation still hurts.

  • avatar

    VW’s February sales really are sad. Of course they tried to spin them as doing great in the press release by talking about how many Tiguans they’ve sold, which is pretty much meaningless compared to the volume of CUV sales for other brands that have modern vehicles to offer.

    I read yesterday that there is the chance that the EPA might reject 2017 certifications for VW if they don’t get the TDI mess cleaned up soon. I don’t know how likely that is to happen, but it’s something I hadn’t even thought possible.

  • avatar

    “One big issue is availability of certain models and feature sets. If you want a GSW with a moonroof, dealers only have one or two as compared to 10-12 S models. If you want something other than a black interior, you’re out of luck.”

    GTL is right about this. I have a 16 GSW SE tsi, in white with the HID light package. It is a fantastic car that feels like it was machined from a piece of billet. The problem was finding one available to buy. I finally found one in Ontario CA 100 miles from my home in Thousand Oaks CA. Now get this….that is 100 miles across an area that has 18.5 million people. Every dealer I spoke to during my search said their biggest problem was getting enough cars, especially the new GSW.

  • avatar

    I agree that VW needs to come out with a new model, sooner rather than later. We bought 2 new 1.8 TSI Jetta SEs in late 2013 and had ZERO issues with them. I drove one to 35,000 miles before trading it in on a ’16 GTI, and the other one we still have that is at 31,000 miles currently. Neither them nor the GTI have been to the dealer for anything other than scheduled maintenance. My friend with a Chevy Cruze on the other hand…

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