By on August 6, 2011

At Volkswagen, the sales chief sits right next to God, or the CEO. Now imagine a sales chief that suddenly find himself with the title “Vice President of Customer Experience” and most likely with the responsibility to increase customer satisfaction like tomorrow – what would you do in his shoes? Polish your resume. This is what Mark Barnes likely is doing right now.

Having joined Volkswagen of America 4 years ago, Barnes is COO and head of sales. Not for much longer. Barnes will be replaced by GM veteran Frank Trivieri, effective Aug. 15. Automotive News [sub] says. Trivieri was brought in by  Jonathan Browning, CEO of Volkswagen of America, himself a GM alumn. Trivieri was general director of sales for General Motors of Canada, Ltd.

Browning does everything to talk up the new job to which Barnes has been demoted: “We know we need a systemic approach to better manage the entire customer experience within VW. Now that we’ve put actions in place to address the customer voice in the product development process, and built a strong quality organization, this is the next step in improving the foundation of our business.”

Great. We hear Barnes’ new responsibilities will include the Volkswagen Academy for dealer training, and customer activities ranging from the consumer affairs hotline to loyalty programs.

Get a new job, Mr. Barnes! When next year’s J.D.Power study comes out, your derriere will be on the line!

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25 Comments on “Volkswagen Of America: Barnes‘ New Job Not Noble...”


  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    I wonder how long it will take for VW to catch whatever these GM guys are infected with..

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      Haven’t you seen the new Jetta and Passat? I’d say VW is already infected.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @dwford….Wait a second, VW has had quality issues, long before the GM people came along. I was under the impression that Jetta sales were on the upswing. Was it not VW’s idea to bring out a stripped down Jetta with a Hyundai price tag? With great results eh?

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        dwford – I will give you the Jetta (although it is selling well and all retail). But the Passat from all accounts is not stripped out by any means, just competitive on price. Full independent suspension, quality interior plastics etc – so not fair to lump it in with the Jetta. Gives Hyundai some more competition – enjoy.

      • 0 avatar
        Strippo

        The *new* Passat is stripped out. I’m sure @dwford is referring to the 2.5L-powered 2012 version.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Strippo – really? From what I have read it is competitively equipped with it’s major competitors. Does that make it stripped out. I wish people would stop comparing it to it’s euro predecessor which was $7K more (in part for manufacturing costs and exchange rates). Euro mid-size sedans are typically in the high $20K’s or more – Honda Accord (aka Acura TSX), Opel Insignia (aka Buick Regal), VW Passat – I will be interested to see how Ford does with the Euro Mondeo/Fusion combination next year.

      • 0 avatar
        Strippo

        Right. They stripped the Passat down from what it was to a bland, me-too midsizer motivated by a more primitive base engine than the rest of the pack employs. We don’t seem to be disagreeing here.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    It seems the loyal VW customers are the ones who do their own service and who have been lucky enough not to have been told that their unexpected problems unexpectedly aren’t covered under warranty. The former is a franchise problem; the latter is probably more a mix of franchise skepticism of the customer and corporate skepticism of a particular franchise. Whatever the reason, I’m finding it easy to refrain from pulling the trigger on a Golf TDI for my 85 mile daily commute. I’d feel like I only have myself to blame when the hpfp blows and I’m told the $8000 repair is on me even though I did nothing to cause the failure. I don’t know how a Customer Relations Czar fixes that.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      @ Strippo – Could you enlighten us on why it costs $8K USD to replace a fuel pump on a vehicle that sells for $28K?

      • 0 avatar
        EEGeek

        It’s not just the pump. A grenading HPFP spreads small bits of metal throughout the fuel system. Everything has to be cleaned and/or replaced, fuel tank to injectors. For more info see http://forums.tdiclub.com/showthread.php?t=286380 — the estimate there is $7-10K.

        From what I can tell, the newer cars have improved from when the problem surfaced in 2009. Another thread on a tdiclub forum suggests that Bosch has improved the metallurgy of the parts. I wouldn’t let fear of the fuel pump deter me from buying a TDI.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      EEGeek – I checked out your link. This one is and will be a costly problem for Wolfsburg for the next couple of years. A bullet proof extended warranty is necessity in this case.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      This is why I’m keeping my ALH TDIs. And why there’s no way in hell I’d buy a 2012 Passat brand new. It could be a great, problem free car. But to me, an all new car in an all new plant means that I’ll let others test and find the bugs in the 2012 Passat (aka Ameri-Passat Beta 1.0). The HPFP failure reports are lower than they once were, but there’s still the potential of a fuel system failure with the CR engines. At least when the injection pump failed in my 2003 Jetta, it was “only” $1000 for a rebuilt pump from DFIS and labour.

  • avatar
    spyked

    Not sure what this guys new job really is. VW is on a sales roll around the world. They are consistently making better cars in each segment in which they compete. And they have some of the most loyal customers on the planet. Sounds like they couldn’t “fire” this guy so they are hoping he will quit. Happens everyday.

    I’m frankly worried about what GM people will do to VW. We saw what GM people did to SAAB – the other affordable Euro brand. :(

    I know VW Group is watching VWoA like a hawk. Hopefully.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      What? Two GM guys in the US have come over – how does that adversely affect VW like GM did to SAAB? VW is based in Germany with a German top executive group, so these two are minor. The US is minor in the scheme of things to VW – 350-400000 sales out of around 8 million. Even if VW gets to the planned 800,000 units that will still be around 10% of the total, important but not exactly crucial.

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    okay,
    1) both those guys are dorks. From listening to them speak, I don’t know that I’d trust either of them with a loaded handgun or a ham sandwich.

    2) If the JSW problem rate is 1 per vehicle, that means that there are 19 other owners of 2010 vehicles out there with trouble free cars, because mine sucked

    3) they’re right that diesel wagons just make sense. My JSW had EVERYTHING it needed to be a perfect car, but the friggin thing never worked right.

  • avatar
    forraymond

    Has anyone who ever worked for GM ever done anything that did/does not suck?

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      I have no doubt that there’s a lot of GM employees who are competent, enthusiastic, and have done their jobs daily in a ‘not suck’ manner. Unfortunately, damned few of them have ever risen high enough in the hierarchy to make a difference.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        John DeLorean made it pretty damn high. And what happened? He set up Quality Assurance Centers to tweak the cars before delivery. Dealers were thrilled with the substantial improvement in assembly quality. And top GM brass hung him for the “unnecessary” expenditure. The last thing VW needs is somebody to mandate more cost cutting.

      • 0 avatar
        mpresley

        G2H:John DeLorean made it pretty damn high.

        That’s what a suitcase full of coke will do for you.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Yes…. With 36 + years on the assembly floor I know hundreds,maybe thousands of folks that came to work and give %100 every day.

      I include hourly,salary, skilled trades,and upper and lower management people.

      I will challenge anybody,that has ever set foot inside a modern auto production facility to deny it.

      In no uncertain terms, I will inform such people that they don’t have a clue what thier talking about.

  • avatar
    dadude53

    GM People at VWoA.Reminds me of James Mclernon, first manufacturing president of the VW Westmoreland plant in `78.Virtually killed the Rabbit by softening it way beyond it`s original German appearance.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    It might be popular to throw stones at a GM transplanted manager, but TTAC is that the auto industry has lots of cross-pollination.

    My concern is that Mr. Barnes’ job is all uphill. I’m convinced that the widespread nature of VW’s quality problems means that the trouble is rooted in design issues, not workmanship. This will take years to undo, and I doubt that a “customer satisfaction” manager can effect change in the design center.

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