By on March 14, 2018

Image: Volkswagen of America

Volkswagen doesn’t make much of a fuss about becoming the world’s largest automaker these days, mainly because it’s already cleared that hurdle — and in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal, no less. In the United States, however, one long-helg goal remains elusive: reaching a 5 percent market share.

While the automaker claims its top priority is shoring up its U.S. business with new, Americanized product, old dreams die hard. VW still wants the kind of market share it enjoyed in 1970, but it’s not even halfway to reaching that goal.

Volkswagen brand chief Herbert Diess told journalists at VW’s Wolfsburg, Germany HQ Wednesday that the automaker “intends to become a leading volume provider and aim for around 5 percent market share” in the U.S., Automotive News reports.

It’s not the first time Diess laid out the company’s American intentions, but his latest proclamation allows a touch of doubt to creep into the timeline. Last summer, as VW ate up just 1.9 percent of the U.S. market, Diess said, “We can’t win America over in two years time. It’s a 10-year plan.”

Today, with VW market share having passed the 2 percent barrier, the exec remains confident that 5 percent isn’t a pipe dream. “It is possible and we believe we are able to achieve it,” Diess said. “We think we have a very solid product portfolio tailored for the U.S. We have a new marketing team that works hard on the brand experience and the brand. We believe that it’s possible — not in a short while, maybe in a 10-year plan.”

So, we’ve moved from reaching 5 percent by 2027 to “maybe” reaching it by 2028. Hardly a big deal, as sales targets often take a backseat to more pressing issues. VW received a fair bit of criticism for chasing worldwide volume in the lead-up to the emissions scandal instead of keeping an eye on its bottom line (or its ethics).

As AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan points out, 5 percent of the U.S. market translates into roughly 800,000 units, which was former VW Group CEO Martin Winterkorn’s target for 2018, way back in 2011. The closest VW has come to reaching that goal in the U.S. was in 2012, when market share briefly poked above 3 percent. Brand sales then fell each consecutive year before rising again in 2017. While new crossovers helped turn the tide (and remain a huge part of the brand’s U.S. strategy), last year’s sales volume represents a 22.7 percent drop from 2012.

If buyers take to electric vehicles, Diess claims VW is in a good position to clean up in that segment. There’s four models arriving between 2020 and 2022. “Customers are willing to switch over to electric vehicles if the price is right,” he said.

February sales in the U.S. rose 6 percent, year over year, while sales over the first two months of 2018 show a 5.6 percent increase over the same period in 2017.

[Image: Volkswagen]

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19 Comments on “The 5 Percent Solution: Volkswagen’s Not Giving up on Its U.S. Market Share Dream...”


  • avatar
    dividebytube

    These days the only way they could hit 5% is to have a broader offering of CUVs. One for every segment (or even subsegment).

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Jumping from 1.9 to 5 percent in 10 years is 10% growth per year. That’s not gonna happen, and even if it did, from whom would they take it – Buick?

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis

      Volkswagen is talking about bringing back the Fox. I think their planning to battle Hyundai.

      • 0 avatar
        Johnster

        If Volkswagen is talking about bringing back the Fox, it is probably a good thing. OTOH, Hyundai’s products have improved an awful lot in the years since they competed with the VW Fox with their Excel. I don’t think that VW can hope to match the long-term reliability of Hyundai.

    • 0 avatar
      The ultimate family-friendly hybrid vehicle is finally here.

      98.1% of car buyers buy something other than a Volkswagen.
      They have a very steep and tall mountain to climb.
      Maybe they can try selling us some SOLs?

  • avatar
    slap

    1970. Before Ford, GM, and AMC tried to make small cars, and before the Japanese brands got significant market share.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    the average American drives a lot more miles than the average German. so reliability is even more important versus at the limit performance-handling.

    I’d bet that the average American is a lot fastidious about car maintenance than the average German.

    The average American drives on third world roads compared to Germany.

    The average American drives on nothing but straight lines and right-angle turns compared to the average German.

    I know this is blasphemy, if VW wants to hit that 5% it needs to make jettas and tiguans more like a toaster.

    there’s a reason why civics and corollas outsell jettas. it isn’t handling. and there’s always audi for performance

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    It’s just BS posturing. The US is an OK “side hustle” for VW that they would’ve abandoned long ago (definitely right after Dieselgate), if it wasn’t for Mexico, an extremely lucrative place to build, sell and export from.

  • avatar
    HahnZahn

    Wow, just 1.9% currently? Last time I looked they were tied with Subaru – I’m guessing Subaru has pulled ahead a bit.

    But it’s an interesting metric – there must be wide swaths of the country where people just don’t drive VWs. Seems like here in SoCal, I see plenty, and same for the DC area when I was stationed there a few years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      @HahnZahn – Subaru is just a bit ahead of VW. 648k Subaru’s sold last year and 339k VW’s. If VW buys or merges with Mazada, combined they’d sell more than…nope, wrong. 339k VW’s plus 289k Mazda’s are still less than Subaru.

  • avatar

    Keep the trucklets coming and you’re there.

    I find it hilarious to remind my neighbor that the Atlas is on the exact same platform as his wife’s TT and his A3.

  • avatar
    phila_DLJ

    Photo comment: the new Jetta has too many character lines on the hood. Almost looks like a Crossfire hood!

  • avatar
    incautious

    With VW’s still “perceived” durability and a dealer network that thinks it’s a Ferrari dealer when it comes to charging for out of warranty service, VW still has a long way to go. Plus being way behind the eight ball with what the US consumer wants. The Atlas and the redesigned Tiguan are steps in the right direction, just 5 plus years too late. A better warranty on the 2018’s helps, but that dealer network makes me cringe. People now a days want no drama with automotive ownership, how else can you explain why so many people are buying Toyota’s. I have a A5 cab which cost’s 55K, when it came time to buy an SUV I passed on the Q5 and the Tiguan and bought a Toyota Venza because of all the above.

  • avatar
    TW5

    At some point VW needs to admit to themselves that they aren’t interested in the US market.

    The 20 best-selling vehicles in America are among the most reliable available for sale, and they generally have excellent powertrain durability. VW has known this for ages. They don’t care. Furthermore, VW has known for decades that SUV’s and CUV’s were making waves in the US. VW made little or no effort to capitalize on long-term US trends.

    One of the most iconic vehicles in the US is the Beetle, but it’s getting scrapped because they discovered Americans don’t like unreliable handbags.

    They got caught cheating diesel regs. The more or less tried to fabricate a reliability track record with the 100,000 mile vehicles commercial.

    VW will never improve until they understand that failure to sell in North America means you can’t make cars. No one runs their vehicles harder in extreme climates, with less tolerance for maintenance, than Americans. If you can sell here, you can build real cars.

    • 0 avatar
      TDIandThen....

      I put a deposit on a Golf R, and then the gassing-monkeys scandal happened last month. Best car, worst corporate culture. I declined delivery and my dealer was kind but surprised. I can’t be alone. MX-5, here I come.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    The row upon row of white Jettas is a turnoff. The Americanized VWs are so bland, they make the Camry look attractive.

  • avatar
    TDIandThen....

    I put a deposit on a Golf R, and then the gassing-monkeys scandal happened last month. Best car, worst corporate culture. I declined delivery and my dealer was kind but surprised. I can’t be alone. MX-5, here I come.

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