Volkswagen's U.S. Hopes Might Ride on This Man

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
volkswagen s u s hopes might ride on this man

Volkswagen of America has a new head honcho in charge of product and marketing, and he’ll have his work cut out for him.

Today, Volkswagen named Dr. Hendrik Muth as the new vice-president of product marketing and strategy for its beleaguered U.S. division. His job? To sell vehicles. Ideally, lots of them.

Muth, 42, took on the position effective August 1, replacing former product boss Joerg Sommer, who served in that role since 2013.

In a statement, the automaker said, “Muth will oversee all product marketing activities which include the current and future Volkswagen brand vehicle portfolio for the entire U.S.” Muth reports directly to Mark McNabb, Volkswagen of America’s chief operating officer.

Clearly, the bosses in Wolfsburg felt the need for new blood (and fresh thinking) as the automaker tries to emerge from underneath its disastrous diesel emissions scandal.

Muth will be key in helping the automaker roll out its new product strategy — a crossover and SUV-heavy push designed to lure buyers back to the brand. The “clean diesel” era is over, and Volkswagen wants to move away from both oil burner s and headlines about defeat devices.

New products coming down the pipe are all designed to give U.S. buyers what they want. They include a lengthened Tiguan, a three-row midsize SUV, and the all-wheel-drive Golf Alltrack. If Muth can mix the right product with the right messaging (assuming the quality and price are okay), the company’s turnaround could begin before the last diesels return to dealers in exchange for cash.

For the Volkswagen brand, the turnaround needs to happen soon. After sliding steadily since the scandal broke last September, year-to-date sales are down 13.6 percent over 2015 numbers.

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • SteveMar SteveMar on Aug 04, 2016

    Call me crazy, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for VW. Our first new car was a 2000 Passat wagon with a 5 speed. Basic, no options and it was the best car we have ever owned. Really - probably the only person who didn't have major reliability issues during the 8 years we owned the car. We bought it because it felt like an Audi but was priced closer to a Honda. That "premium" feel is actually something I have seen in other VWs and other German cars. And it made VW successful because they actually offered something that made you feel like it was different from everything else driving around. Of course, a lot of folks got burned by reliability problems, but that seemed to pass us by. Flash forward to this summer - we replaced the minivan that replaced the Passat with a 2016 Jetta. And funny enough, I see a lot of the old Passat in the Jetta. It's not fully up to that premium feel, but it's pretty darn close. And, to VW's credit, they abandoned the decontenting that nearly ruined the Jetta when the current version was introduced in 2011. Still, with incentives, I walked out the door with a nicely loaded SEL for the price of a less well equipped Civic or Corolla. My point is this - if I want Honda or Toyota or Hyundai or Ford, I'll buy it. Nothing wrong with them. But there is room in the market for well-designed, sporty and (hopefully) reliable cars that feel a little more upscale. (I know we have Mazda, and, truthfully, I like them and have owned them too.) Not everyone wants what the neighbors drive. VW can speak to that buyer.

  • Ricky Spanish Ricky Spanish on Aug 04, 2016

    Sales are only down 13.6% when 20% of the product mix was diesel, which isn't being sold anymore. I'd call that not bad given the circumstances.

  • VoGo VoGo on Aug 04, 2016

    Diesel shmiesel, VW has been failing and will continue to fail because they just don't get the US market. - Fix your dealerships which are known for fleecing customers - Improve reliability to competitive levels - Release competitive models in the fast growing crossover market It really isn't that hard. Just freakin execute already.

  • Brettc Brettc on Aug 04, 2016

    I just realized after looking at the 2017 VW order guides that you can only get 4Motion in the S trim of the Sportwagen. 4Motion is not available in the SE or the SEL trims. Which means that you can't get an AWD wagon with the lighting package or the driver assistance package, unless you move up to the Sportwagen Alltrack. WTF, Dr. Hendrik Muth?