Eight Consecutive Months of Volkswagen Sales Improvement Ends in July 2017 - Crossover Volume Still Very Low

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

After steady declines even prior to the diesel emissions scandal of nearly two years ago, Volkswagen of America took another serious hit in 2016 — the best year on record for the auto industry. Compared with 2012, Volkswagen volume sank by 85,000 sales last year.

But by the end of 2016, Volkswagen’s U.S. sales volume was beginning to rise again. True, that rise was in comparison with a true low — Volkswagen sales in the final one-sixth of 2016 were up 22 percent year-over-year but were 17-percent lower than in the same period of 2012 — but Volkswagen was bouncing back.

The bounce back continued through the first half of 2017, with Volkswagen sales through June up 8 percent despite the market’s 2-percent downturn.

Perhaps July was just a blip on the radar. But Volkswagen’s eight-month streak of improvement screeched to a halt last month as the U.S. auto industry reported its most significant losses of the year, and as Volkswagen’s new SUV lineup continues to dip its toes in American waters.

The Tennessee-built Volkswagen Atlas, according to Volkswagen, is still ramping up production. Though Automotive News reports 23,950 were built by the end of June, only 5,329 copies of the Atlas had been sold in the U.S. by the end of July. In fact, July’s U.S. sales total fell to 1,306 units, the lowest-volume month to date; 46-percent lower than June.

But it is early days for the Atlas, and even earlier days for the new Tiguan. While sales of the old Tiguan plunged 56 percent to 1,484 units — remember, old Tiguan will live on — sales of the new new Tiguan totalled 593 units in its first month on the market.

Even with the discontinued Volkswagen Touareg reporting a 54-percent jump to 475 units and new products coming onstream, Volkswagen’s SUV/crossover volume rose only 5 percent to a modest 3,858 units in July, not nearly enough to overcome Volkswagen’s passenger car losses.

The good news for Volkswagen? The brand’s SUV/crossover volume will surely rise. The second bit of good news? Volkswagen’s car lineup isn’t losing sales nearly as quickly as the car market overall. July’s 7-percent drop among Volkswagen’s cars was nothing compared to the 15-percent drop experienced by the U.S. auto industry’s overall car sector. Year-to-date, while U.S. car sales are down 12 percent overall, Volkswagen’s car lineup is actually up 7 percent, boosted by wagon volume.

42 percent of the Golfs sold in America during the first seven months of 2017 were SportWagens and Alltracks. With modest Beetle and Passat rebounds and only a slight Jetta downturn, Volkswagen is the rare breed in 2017 to produce overall gains because of cars, rather than in spite of them.

Sustaining such a quirky growth strategy is not tenable, of course, not in these prevailing market conditions. But Volkswagen intends to sell a much greater number of utility vehicles in the near future. And if Golf wagons keep selling in decent numbers? You won’t hear us complaining.

[Images: Volkswagen of America]

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

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  • Matt3319 Matt3319 on Aug 10, 2017

    Next May/June a shiny new GTI manual w/LEDs will be sitting in my driveway. Might see how the lease numbers go. I don't drive much so may consider leasing again. Leased a Toyota Corolla SE for my daughter. It's a CVT 2017 and it's super cheap at $209/taxes for 3 years. May actually buy it if my daughter can be responsible with it. It will run forever with basic maintenance. Maybe my current 5 year old son may get it. It's certainly possible.

  • Random1 Random1 on Aug 10, 2017

    Of course we all know VW's reputation for quality, but the VWs I've owned have all been remarkably reliable, and I've had a couple of notoriously "bad" models. '91 Jetta, and the first B5 Passat Wagon('98 maybe?). No VWs for years in between, but now I have a '15 GTI and '14 Touareg. I can count the number of non-maintenance dealer visits on all those cars compbined. It's 2. I sold the Passat w/only 60k miles to join the minivan world, but the '91 I gave to a young relative with 245k miles on it. What's the best/most accurate source for reliablity ratings? I don't have a CR subscription, so that's out.

  • 285exp I have been assured that EVs don’t require maintenance, so this seems pointless.
  • Slavuta "The fuel-economy numbers are solid, especially the 32 mpg on the highway"My v6 Highlander did 31 over 10 hour highway trip
  • Aja8888 As I type this, my 4 months old Equinox's Onstar module that controls the phone is broken. Yep, 4 months (never worked right from day one). Replacement will be a REFURBISHED unit since no new ones can be obtained (from China?). I really don't miss the phone via Bluetooth. And I have a great Garmin that I have used for years for trips which has free lifetime maps and traffic.
  • Bd2 There's a reason why talented American execs have been leaving Stellantis in droves.Tavares seems intent in following "Le Cost Cutter" Ghosn into driving his company into the dirt, whilst "justifying" his ever expanding compensation.
  • Bd2 Too bad gm didn't make the C8 better looking to begin with...