VW's Ferdinand Piech: "We Only Understand the United States to a Certain Degree so Far."

vws ferdinand piech we only understand the united states to a certain degree so far

1974 Audi photo

The United States was supposed to be an important part of the Volkswagen Group becoming the world’s biggest automaker by 2018, with sales of 800,000 units in the U.S. by then, but it’s finding the U.S. market a tough nut to crack. “We understand Europe, we understand China and we understand Brazil,” VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech told Bloomberg this month. “But we only understand the United States to a certain degree so far.”

VW is currently being outspent on advertising in the U.S. by a two to one margin compared to its competitors and it has gaps in its lineup when it comes to appealing to American consumers. The volume VW and Audi brands both lost U.S. market share in October, according to analysts.

VW had doubled its U.S. sales, based on strong sales of the Passat, redesigned and contented specifically for the U.S. market but the Passat has stalled along with the rest of the lineup. Through the first 9 months of 2012, VW brand sales were down 3% in a market that, overall, grew 8%.

VW has spent $691 million on advertising for the U.S. market so far this year, less than half of that spent by GM, Ford or Toyota.

The German automaker has also been slow to the SUV and CUV party, two critical segments in North America. A U.S. style SUV based on the Crossblue concept will likely not make it to the market until 2016. Currently VW has nothing in between the compact Tiguan and the Touareg, which is more expensive than the Lexus RX.

Join the conversation
6 of 153 comments
  • Marcelo de Vasconcellos Marcelo de Vasconcellos on Nov 05, 2013

    I don't think VW gets Brazilians all that well. They did way back when there was no competition and the Beetle ruled the streets. Since the 90s VW has been playing catch up and is very slow to react to others' moves. Colors in a metallic finish on small cars? Late. 4 doors on small cars? Late. After switching over to 4 doors, keeping on offering 2 doors as a cheaper option? Late. Offering more content for less price? Late. The only thing they have done that the market laps up recently is offer bigger wheels on the cars and they were the first in flex cars. Seems there's some arrogance going on here too and a degree of do what I say sonce I know what's best for you going on here too.

  • GaryM GaryM on Nov 05, 2013

    Lightbulb is right- most people buy cars the same way they buy appliances and really don't care much about performance. I buy VW's because they are fun to drive, something you can't say about the majority of cars on the market. My '13 GLI is fast, loaded with features and handles beautifully. My wife's '11 Tiguan is fast, comfortable, responsive, is incredible in snow and the base "S" model has most of what you need at a price competitive with CR-Vs and RAV4s.

    • Tostik Tostik on Nov 06, 2013

      All European cars have that fun to drive quality. It's what they bring best to the table in the car market.

  • Mjal Mjal on Nov 05, 2013

    I just bought a '13 VW CC 6-spd manual and absolutely love it. It's the first German car I've bought new after many years of Japanese sedans. I carefully shopped it against the Mazda6 and Honda Accord (4cyl Sport) and felt the VW was more comfortable, faster, quieter (especially against the Mazda), and better finished. The overall feel of the car just felt, to me, more premium than either of those sedans. The two Japanese cars did handle better, but the VW excels at highway cruising. Now, I'm keeping my fingers crossed on the reliability front. For a discounted price of a little over $27K, though, it feels 9/10th's as good as my brother-in-laws A7, which stickers for $75K.

    • Tostik Tostik on Nov 06, 2013

      Just had a Mazda6 as a rental. I thought it was a piece of junk. OK, maybe a very reliable piece of junk, maybe. The seats were terribly uncomfortable, the suspension was way too stiff, but still managed to lean in a hard turn--a signal accomplishment by Mazda in suspension systems. But I would have to say the transmission shifting was perfect--it always gave you the gear you needed. I hope your VW CC is a lot better than the Mazda6.

  • RHD RHD on Nov 11, 2013

    What a terrific thread. If VW is reading this, they had better take it to heart. Hey, guys, this is tens of thousands of dollars of free market research being done for free here. You could make (literally) millions by taking into account what people are telling you. Most of my points have been made by others, so I'll just add that Americans don't speak German, we speak English (and to a lesser extent, Spanish). "Fahrvergnugen" is a big, long, nonsensical work that doesn't mean anything to almost all Americans. All it does is emphasize that VWs are German cars, which we already know. "Das Auto" does the same - it tells us nothing - while bringing to mind "Das Boot" and similar ideas which have absolutely nothing to do with cars. A slogan has to emphasize some real or perceived quality of what you are trying to sell (look at Pepsi, Coca Cola and McDonald's slogans, for example.) Honda's used to be "We keep it simple". That did not apply to the underhood vacuum lines, but it was friendly, clean and added to the commonly held idea that their cars were economical and dependable. I grew up in VWs, and my first car was a VW. Now I don't have any reason to go near a VW showroom. Maybe you could give me a good reason to do so, and eliminate the reasons why I would want to stay away.