By on August 3, 2016


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 burners 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.

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49 Comments on “Volkswagen’s U.S. Hopes Might Ride on This Man...”

  • avatar

    Is it still 800,000 cars per year in the U.S. by 2018? Lol.

  • avatar

    Maybe buy him a razor first.

  • avatar

    “Hey did you hear they got someone to be the new scapecoat for the latest US failure?”

    “Oh, yeah? Who’d they get this time?”

    “The usual: SGG”

    “Oh, Some German Guy”

    • 0 avatar

      Eh. ANY uptick will be attributed to him… but gutter performance can be blamed on dirty diesel. Besides, there are finally some product in the horizon. Not as bad as it looks. But i have no experience in management.

  • avatar

    Lookin’ like a blue-eyed Jon Lovitz.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Is he in charge of “product and marketing” or “product marketing”?

    If it’s the former, he has a chance at success. If it’s the latter, he’s more at the mercy of the Fatherland.

  • avatar

    VW’s hopes ride on much more than just one man. They need better product, better prices, better dealers, better marketing and a much better reputation.
    GM is still suffering from the Vega and the X-cars (and at least half of everything else they have built in the last 55 years). It will take at least another decade for all that to be put far enough in the past.
    VW gave themselves a huge black eye, on a worldwide level, in the age of the Internet. There is an awful lot of work to do, more than one single man could possibly fix.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      To be fair, the US market is pretty small compared to VW’s worldwide presence. Perhaps the rest of the world isn’t as exorcised as the US appears to be (and rightly so, IMO).

      To my point above ^^^, if he has no actual control over product, then he already has one hand tied.

  • avatar

    IMO Volkswagen should target Acura and Volvo as a “semi-premium” brand. Trying to take on Honda/Toyota/Nissan/Hyundai as well as the domestics directly with the Jetta, Passat, and Tiguan is just not working, and it’s never going to work. People buy their cars in the mainstream segments, and they expect them to last with the bare minimum of maintenance. A mandatory 60K DSG service for $600+ is not going to go over very well with those folks.

    At Acura and Volvo prices, you’re going to get a lot more renters rather than buyers, and so reliability out of warranty is much less of a concern. Saab was starved and incredibly mismanaged, but I think there’s room for another player in that segment with some actual development dollars that’s not run by Spyker. Kill off the mediocre US market Passat and give us back the one that you sell in Europe. Kill the Beetle. Make the CC into a proper flagship instead of left over moldy bread from 2009. Push the Jetta upmarket so that it can compete with the ILX and take over the space vacated by the Verano. There’s some room under the A3 to do that. The alternative is to be destroyed by the Civic. If you want to try and sell cheap cars, have Skoda do it. I am completely unconvinced that VW NEEDS to sell cheap cars here though. They certainly aren’t any good at it.

    • 0 avatar

      “At Acura and Volvo prices, you’re going to get a lot more renters rather than buyers, and so reliability out of warranty is much less of a concern.”

      This is why my brother has leased VeeDubs in the past. Ask him about the typical VW gremlins and he would just shrug his shoulders… he never experienced any. Well that’s because he didn’t own the car long enough and any problems that did pop up with handled via warranty. However that recently changed: he loves his Golf R so much he is buying and keeping this one! Plus its already been heavily modified for track day duty.

      I do agree if Skoda comes in this will allow VW to move another notch up market. Audi can move even higher and Porsche… well sky’s the limit already.

      • 0 avatar

        I see your logic but I don’t understand how realistically simply adding another brand elevates the existing ones. If this were true, then GM could relaunch Oldsmobile and suddenly Cadillac moves up a rung? Doubtful.

        • 0 avatar

          I think VW should give up on selling $17K bargain basement Jettas entirely. Let the Japanese and Koreans fight that battle. VW will always lose that battle because they can’t match the reliability of Toyonda and to a lesser extent Nissan, and they can’t offer a Korean matching warranty because 1. it would bankrupt them and 2. they can’t have a warranty longer than Audi’s.

          The idea is that if for whatever reason HQ *insists* on trying to compete in the lower mainstream segments, have Skoda do that.

        • 0 avatar

          If the new Oldsmobile was at the current Cadillac levels, and Cadillac was then moved up a notch, with higher caliber cars and higher quality materials and such from where they are now, that would work.

          He’s saying let Skoda chase the Kia Forte and Chevy Cruze. Then VWs products would theoretically get nicer, no more decontenting models, no more old platform Jettas, stop all the ‘built-to-a-price;’ everything gets a more premium flavor with nicer materials, smoother and more powerful engines, latest tech, etc.

          Make it like a Buick to Skoda’s Chevy and Audi’s Cadillac. Not saying make it appealing to old people, I mean a step in between basic Skoda and premium Audi.

          • 0 avatar

            I just don’t see folks equating VW with near-luxury or entry-premium. Then again, they aren’t doing well in the crowded mainstream market, either (not in the US, anyway). While Skoda could be brought in as a lower tier player, they really aren’t “that” much less expensive than their VW platform mates. Maybe the alternate-Volvo angle will work, but only if a truly competitive SUV is brought to the party, and the same goes for Skoda. I am seeing quite a few Yetis (Yetii??) here in Serbia and think that might work in the US…

        • 0 avatar

          No, Buick moves back up to the low priced Cadillac, but like the Buicks of yesteryear, it needs to use the same platforms as Cadillac, but with understated styling.

          Olds was a step up from Pontiac which was a step up from Chevrolet, but they all used the same platform, with different engines and modestly different sheet metal (’55s to ’70s).

          That all ended in the 1970s, when separate “companies” operating independently were brought directly under HQ corporate control. It saved a lot of money, but produced badge engineering.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      The challenge/problem with this approach is that companies like Acura and Volvo actually sell less volume than VW, and Acura has Honda’s coat to hide under.

      Moving upscale, players like Mercedes and Lexus have nearly identical volume as VW, so VW would embark on a very expensive portfolio overhaul with little to gain in US market share.

      I agree with you on the cheap cars, however. Skoda would be better suited for it, but their chance of succeeding in the US is almost nil. Besides, cheap cars need to be positioned as ‘gateway’ cars to higher margin products.

      *Maybe* VW’s newfound EV religion will help to refocus the brand. Killer warranties could help, too.

      • 0 avatar

        What’s wrong with lower volume if you make more money on your cars? Chasing down Toyota is a path to ruin, while Acura is a very soft target. Acura’s sedans are weaksauce, almost all Volvo models are VERY old, and Volvo historically has not had the cash to follow the 7-year model cycles of the traditional luxury brands. That may change though with Chinese ownership, we’ll just have to wait and see if this XC90 sticks around for over a decade like the last one did.

        Hyundai seems to finally want to get serious with the Genesis brand, but it will take them awhile to develop a real product portfolio and build awareness. With the Verano gone, the Buick sedan count is down to two. VW could definitely make a play in that space.

        Imagine a sleek four door that costs a couple grand less than the Acura RLX and eats its lunch. Maybe instead of having it be the “baby CLS,” make it a baby A7 with a hatch. Cant swing $69K for the real deal? How about a future VW CC for $49K?

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Given VWs global success, I’d rather see them go for semi-premium again as well. They had it with the mid/late-2000s Jetta, Passat/CC, and Tiguan and still do with the Golf. Price them reasonably, keep the perceived quality and feature list higher than mainstream, get reliability up to mainstream, and work on building a reputation here slowly. A semi-premium brand with lower sales but higher per-vehicle profits seems like a better model than selling them cheap and deep, but what do I know.

      • 0 avatar

        I’d gladly pay for a mandatory $600 DSG service at 50K, and even another one for $1200 at around 100K for timing system and I’d be ecstatic. BUT, the rest of the freaking car, bumper to bumper, had better not have any of the stupid-az cluster-faq issues VW bakes into their models from time to time. And if it does, I want the dealer to fix it very apologetically, offer me a great cup of coffee, half a donut/cupcake/bagel, a ride to work with a pretty intern, man or woman or an interesting old timer who will assure me that their colleagues will joust it out with VWoA until it’s done and at pick up they tell me it has been taken care of by VW.

        They make some very durable cars (okay humor me for a sec people) that are fun to drive but their reliability sucks.

        • 0 avatar

          Couple of comments:

          DSG service comes at 40k intervals. My dealer charges $350 for this service.
          VW reliability has increased steadily since the awful 2000s. They are listed at number 12 out of 28 manufacturers in Consumer Reports latest numbers and this can also be seen over on True Delta. It will never be at Toyota/Honda/Mazda levels, but it really doesn’t need to be. The issue always is perception in the potential customer’s eyes. I agree going to 10/100k would be a very positive move, but the question always is is: would improved sales offset the increased cost? My guess is no, and I’m sure VWAG has run those numbers many, many times.

    • 0 avatar

      “IMO Volkswagen should target Acura and Volvo as a “semi-premium” brand”

      VW has a brand called Audi that it uses for that purpose. A3, Q3.

      I would suggest that Volkswagen either accept its place as a niche producer for the US market and be the best German car that a sorority girl can buy, or else turn itself into a different, better version of Hyundai. If it wants to do the latter, then that will probably require hiring a bunch of Americans and Asians while firing a bunch of Germans, as it would need to be accompanied by a cultural shift that emphasizes Japanese levels of reliability instead of German levels of obstinance.

      • 0 avatar

        Alright, Plan B.
        We take VW way upmarket and come out with a bunch of high end sports cars to compete with the Benz SL and low end Astons. Maybe stick the engine in the back. Then we launch a couple of SUVs, but they are still really sporty, to compete with the F-Pace, X3M and RangeRover Sport.

  • avatar
    Van Man

    Easy solution to get the old TDI customers back.
    1) Fix the depreciation on all the models – I have 2 Jetta Diesels 2006 and 2013 and have never lost that much money on any of my other vehicles.
    2) Fix the diesel problem once and for all. Don’t walk away because you can afford the lawsuits and settlements with the US Government.
    3) For us “dirty diesel owners” – don’t charge us for all the “nonsense and repairs” when our “engine light turns on” and we go to the dealer to have our cars fixed. They are recalls anyway and should be fixed for free.
    4) Instruct all your dealers to download the latest ECU updates before they start replacing parts.
    The next VW car I can only consider buying would only be a Porsche 911 – at least they seem to hold their value pretty strong and they look great too.

    • 0 avatar

      So, is number three really an issue? VW making people pay for recall repairs?

      Or, you want free repairs for life because…recall? I’m sure recall-related repairs are covered, but if you think all repairs should be free for the life of the car, maybe you’d better take the buyback deal and just worry about how much money you’ll lose on the next car you buy.

  • avatar

    Sales will be “yuge” under this guy.

  • avatar

    There’s something about these German guys from Volkswagen. They’ve all got “Backpfeifengesicht.”

  • avatar

    Can we get the Polo GTI over here? Is that too much to ask for?

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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?

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