VW Boss Disses U.S. Market, Dithers on Product Strategy

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
vw boss disses u s market dithers on product strategy

VW's announced a new North American factory and whittled down the short list of locations in Alabama, Tennessee and (yeah right) Michigan. Volkswagen has only one problem with its U.S. market strategy, which calls for sales of 1m units per year: "we need models for the US market." Yes there is that. In an interview with Auto Motor und Sport, VW works council boss Bernd Osterloh says that picking the right models for the American market is a far more important (undecided?) issue than the American factory's location (yes way). That said, Osterloh claims the decision is not urgent; VW's Mexican facilities can begin production of the new, as-yet-undecided American models before the new factory is online. Osterloh calls the U.S. market a herausforderung (loosely translated as a pain in the ass) for the entire industry. Apparently VW doesn't even have a coherent diesel strategy for their deeply respected American consumers. For a German firm, that's saying a lot. Machts schnell burschen!

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  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on May 17, 2008

    Good comments Johnny Ro! I have never related to the average American driver very well. I had a series of Mustangs ('64, '66, '81). The two last cars were six cylinders. Everyone commented on how I ought to switch to a V-8 and all I could think about who big the engine was 3.3L and how little power it made (90 HP in the '81!). I liked the six but wanted a DOHC six with side draft carbs mated to a good 5 speed. The funny thing was that I knew nothing about BMWs at that point (I was 16-18 years old). The size was okay and the weight was okay but it was the tractor technology that I had out grown. I appreciate them for what they were worth now better. When I switched to VWs it was b/c I was in Italy and VWs were common and familiar b/c friends had them in the USA. The Beetles were huge by comparison to some of the Fiats and I found a driver car and parts car for a good price. My mother lamented from 5,000 miels away about how unsafe they were until she and Dad visited. It was then that they came to know what a REAL compact car (microcar) is. I was facinated by what the VW engineers had done to make it "live" and "last". Neat package too. And it seemed so much more advanced than the Mustangs though it wasn't. Tiny engine and yet it made enough power (1.2L = 40 HP) without a radiator. Enough that I towed a Bronco II 30 miles for a repair... VWs cars continue to impress me. Small packages, well built, good details, and a hoot to drive and own. Of course their base car is still pretty simple compared to the VR-6, turbos and DOHC engines. I just wish their quality was better. I defended my VW Cabrio a few weeks ago on TTAC as a good car with minor problems. I retract that statement as my a/c has failed and my power steering pump has begun to whine. Oh and my shifter bushings failed suddenly giving me twice the shifter movement as before. I still like the car, would buy another but if I relied on a mechanic to keep my car running it would cost more than the space shuttle to own. FWIW I have never recommended their cars to "normal" people who have to pay for everything. The a/c problem is a leak in the evaporator. ~$150 to repair myself. Shifter bushings are $25. Power steering pump is less than $75.

  • SAAB95JD SAAB95JD on May 17, 2008

    I have to take exception to what people are saying here: the NEW 2.0 TDI that VW is bringing into the US is the "BlueMotion" technology that cleans the exhaust at least as well or better than most gasoline engines... that combined with the fact that they use much less barrels of oil per year compared with gasoline engines. Better for the environment! The fuel cost offset in my area (Chicago) is not as bad either. Diesel is $4.79, but I filled up my Saab with premium gasoline (required) today at $4.65 at the same station!

  • Anuerysm_Boy Anuerysm_Boy on May 19, 2008

    I guess I must be one of the rare "lucky ones" -- while my '79 Rabbit was indeed an electrical POS, the 4 other VWs that I have owned since then have been very good cars. My current '00 Passat wagon has been, hands down, the most reliable car that I have ever owned (granted, that includes a list of several German cars, and one 1966 Renault, so I'm jaded). And yes, I use an independent Bosch Service certified mechanic (located a few blocks from home), and I know where to get fairly-priced parts on the Internets. Class-leading safety and entertaining driving dynamics keep me coming back to the brand -- and I'm jonesin' for a new TDI Jetta SportWagen (since VW doesn't see fit to bring a TDI Passat wagon to the USA).

  • Lewissalem Lewissalem on May 19, 2008

    Bernd, Oh right, it's our fault that: Your overall brand reliability ranks near the bottom of Consumer Reports latest testing. You take to long to get product to market (Where is the Tiguan? Every single company has a CUV on the market) Your products are consistently thousands more than your competitors. The dealer repair experience is less than satisfying. All three of my VAG products have had electrical problems, mostly related to power windows. You try to move the brand upmarket for some drug-induced reason, when the brand stands for affordable German engineering in this market.