Apparently Volkswagen USA's Fall From Grace Hasn't Reached Its Sales Nadir Yet

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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  • TOTitan TOTitan on Mar 08, 2016

    "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.

  • Amancuso Amancuso on Mar 09, 2016

    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...

  • Lou_BC I had a 2010 Ford F150 and 2010 Toyota Sienna. The F150 went through 3 sets of brakes and Sienna 2 sets. Similar mileage and 10 year span.4 sets tires on F150. Truck needed a set of rear shocks and front axle seals. The solenoid in the T-case was replaced under warranty. I replaced a "blend door motor" on heater. Sienna needed a water pump and heater blower both on warranty. One TSB then recall on spare tire cable. Has a limp mode due to an engine sensor failure. At 11 years old I had to replace clutch pack in rear diff F150. My ZR2 diesel at 55,000 km. Needs new tires. Duratrac's worn and chewed up. Needed front end alignment (1st time ever on any truck I've owned).Rear brakes worn out. Left pads were to metal. Chevy rear brakes don't like offroad. Weird "inside out" dents in a few spots rear fenders. Typically GM can't really build an offroad truck issue. They won't warranty. Has fender-well liners. Tore off one rear shock protector. Was cheaper to order from GM warehouse through parts supplier than through Chevy dealer. Lots of squeaks and rattles. Infotainment has crashed a few times. Seat heater modual was on recall. One of those post sale retrofit.Local dealer is horrific. If my son can't service or repair it, I'll drive 120 km to the next town. 1st and last Chevy. Love the drivetrain and suspension. Fit and finish mediocre. Dealer sucks.
  • MaintenanceCosts You expect everything on Amazon and eBay to be fake, but it's a shame to see fake stuff on Summit Racing. Glad they pulled it.
  • SCE to AUX 08 Rabbit (college car, 128k miles): Everything is expensive and difficult to repair. Bought it several years ago as a favor to a friend leaving the country. I outsourced the clutch ($1200), but I did all other work. Ignition switch, all calipers, pads, rotors, A/C compressor, blower fan, cooling fan, plugs and coils, belts and tensioners, 3 flat tires (nails), and on and on.19 Ioniq EV (66k miles): 12V battery, wipers, 1 set of tires, cabin air filter, new pads and rotors at 15k miles since the factory ones wore funny, 1 qt of reduction gear oil. Insurance is cheap. It costs me nearly nothing to drive it.22 Santa Fe (22k miles): Nothing yet, except oil changes. I dread having to buy tires.
  • AZFelix 2015 Sonata Limited72k when purchased, 176k miles currentlyI perform all maintenance and repairs except for alignment, tire mounting, tire patching, and glass work (tint and passenger left due to rock hit). Most parts purchased through and repairs during three years of ownership:Front rotors and all brake pads upgraded shortly after purchase.Preparing for 17th oil change (full synthetic plus filter c.$50), one PCV valve.Timing & accessory belts, belt tensioner.Coolant full flush and change.Fibrous plastic material engine under tray replaced by aftermarket solid plastic piece $110.One set of tires (c.$500 +installation) plus two replacements and a number of patches due to nails, etc. Second set coming soon.Hood struts $30.Front struts, rear shocks, plus sway bar links, front ball joints, tie rod ends, right CV axle (large rock on freeway damaged it and I took the opportunity to redo the rest of items on this list).Battery c.$260.Two sets of spark plugs @ $50/set.Three sets of cabin and engine filters.Valve cover gasket (next week).Averages out to c.$1400 per year for the past three years. Minor driver seat bolster wear, front rock chips, and assorted dents & dings but otherwise looks and drives very well.
  • 3-On-The-Tree 2014 Ford F150 Ecoboost 3.5L. By 80,000mi I had to have the rear main oil seal replaced twice. Driver side turbo leaking had to have all hoses replaced. Passenger side turbo had to be completely replaced. Engine timing chain front cover leak had to be replaced. Transmission front pump leak had to be removed and replaced. Ford renewed my faith in Extended warranty’s because luckily I had one and used it to the fullest. Sold that truck on caravan and got me a 2021 Tundra Crewmax 4x4. Not a fan of turbos and I will never own a Ford again much less cars with turbos to include newer Toyotas. And I’m a Toyota guy.