By on July 7, 2017

VW of America Werner Eichhorn - Image: VolkswagenOne month ago, former Hyundai Motor America sales vice president Derrick Hatami departed Hyundai and ended up in a similar role at Volkswagen of America: executive vice president for sales and marketing.

Hatami moved into his new office on June 12, 2017. Less than two months from now, and two years after Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal erupted in September 2015, Hatami’s new boss will move into his new office. Imported from Skoda, Werner Eichhorn moves to Volkswagen’s North American region as the chief sales and marketing officer.

Together with Hinrich Woebcken, who became CEO of Volkswagen in North America in April 2016, seven months after #dieselgate broke, Hatami and Werner Eichhorn form the nucleus of an all-new sales team at Volkswagen of America.

And not a moment too soon.

Compared with a year ago, Volkswagen’s U.S. sales are notably higher in 2017. Through the first-half of 2017, Volkswagen volume is up 8 percent, a positive sign in a market that’s fallen 2 percent from record 2016 levels.

But Volkswagen is far, far, far removed from its goals of 800,000 U.S. sales in 2018. And only compared with 2016, when Volkswagen was suffering a severe drain on its reputation and a severe shortcoming in terms of inventory — many of its cars couldn’t legally be sold — does 2017 appear positive. Relative to the first-half performance of Volkswagen prior to the diesel emissions scandal, in 2013, 2014, and 2015, for example, Volkswagen sales this year are down 22 percent, 10 percent, and 8 percent, respectively.

Of course, if Volkswagen was ever serious about that 800,000-unit sales goal, the company hasn’t considered it realistic for some time. As early as 2014, then CEO Michael Horn told The Detroit Bureau, “The vision is right, long-term. But timing is the huge challenge.”2018 Volkswagen Atlas grey on roadVolkswagen is, however, poised to make major in-roads in the latter-half of 2017. And those in-roads won’t be located merely as a result of year-over-year figures that reflect a comparison with the doldrums of 2016, when Volkswagen’s U.S. volume fell to a six-year low (and the U.S. auto market soared to new heights.)

The launch of the three-row Atlas, Volkswagen of America’s first three-row utility vehicle and the continent’s first three-row Volkswagen since the Dodge Grand Caravan-based Routan died in 2014, is already spurring sales. In June, for instance, the Atlas outsold Volkswagen’s two existing utility vehicles, Touareg and Tiguan, combined, and accounted for nearly one in ten Volkswagen sales.

Later in 2017, Volkswagen will also launch the new three-row, second-generation 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan, a right-sized alternative to the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, and Toyota RAV4.

Perhaps not unwisely, Volkswagen will allow the old Tiguan, to be known as the Tiguan Limited, to hang around, providing dealers with an alternative to subcompact crossovers before Volkswagen launches the T-Roc.2018 Volkswagen Tiguan red - Image: VolkswagenThus, Volkswagen will finally have a meaningful SUV lineup, a boon to the brand’s fortunes that will coincide with the early part of the Eichhorn/Hatami era. It will be difficult for the duo to not improve Volkswagen’s sales.

Already, we’ve seen signs of tacit approval at rival automakers stemming from Volkswagen’s post-emissions handling. Vinay Shahani, a former Volkswagen marketer, was poached in May by Toyota.

As for Werner Eichhorn, his more than 35 years in the Volkswagen Group has included stints at Audi, FAW-VW in China, Volkswagen sales and marketing in the brand’s home market, and as sales and marketing board member at Skoda. Werner Eichhorn now takes over in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico for sales, after sales, and customer experience for the Volkswagen brand.

[Images: Volkswagen]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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9 Comments on “Volkswagen of America’s New Sales and Marketing Chief: Skoda’s Werner Eichhorn...”

  • avatar

    I wonder if he’ll be arrested on some trumped up charge like all the other VW exec’s who find their way to US soil.

  • avatar

    Someone needs to check that poor dude for a pulse.

  • avatar

    You would give him all the information, but he would torture you anyway.

  • avatar

    I’ve never seen a Skoda. My impression form the European websites, especially the British ones, is that it is a tier 2 or 3 econo box with relatively decent quality but very undistinguished engineering. How does that background qualify someone to sell VWs in a North American marketplace which is intensely competitive and, in the case of VW, self-poisoned?

    • 0 avatar

      Skoda these days is pretty much VW with a different badge. Given that they are now largely Volkswagens, that means a person coming from Skoda would at least have a good understanding of what a VW is, since that’s largely what Skoda is.

    • 0 avatar

      hamish –

      Actually, across much of the continent Skoda is considered the “prudent” buy, more akin to a Toyota or Honda in brand image: nothing necessarily exciting, but a good value with good packaging.

      I think it speaks volumes that they’re bringing Skoda people to VWOA. I suspect the goal is to not replace the VW brand with Skoda in the US, which would be silly, but to take the marketing and product matrix success they had with Skoda in Europe and bring it here.

  • avatar

    I was on the VW website looking at the ’18 Tiguan…my dealer tells me the factory rep showed the sales team an early production Tiguan SEL and he thought it was really great (of course he did).

    My wife is NOT a fan of her ’16 CR-V and an ’18 Tiguan or Atlas would definitely be in the running as the replacement.

    I wish they would bring some Skoda products to the US market. I might be the only guy in the US who would be geeked-up by that sort of thing, but could you imagine a Skoda Yeti with a free Yeti cooler lashed to the roof rack?!?

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I don’t know how well Skoda will sell in the US. Skoda does sell in Australia, but is has a cult following, especially with the Yeti.

    I did look at a Superb AWD wagon briefly 8-9 years ago. It was very nice in leather. It had a 3.5 litre VW V6. The Superb wagon back then did 6.5 seconds to 100kph. So it wasn’t really a slouch.

    It took out Prestige Car of the year back then in Australia.

  • avatar

    If VW is going to make a comeback in the US, they need to find a niche. The Atlas is doing well, but given how Americans love SUVs, it would be a huge failure if it weren’t.
    VW needs to be the economical, reliable alternative, like it used to. There once was abundant love for VWs; there is now a good measure of suspicion, doubt, disappointment and apathy. They need to be reliable, fun to drive, unique, easy to buy and easy to own, and VW needs buyers to be eager to get a second one. VW used to be that way, then Toyota and Honda became the go-to brands, and Subaru has the brand loyalty that everyone else wants.
    So inject some Skoda into VW, or carry on with the mediocrity.

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