Plans to reposition the U.S. brand downmarket with lower prices could make it happen.
Once upon a time in America – specifically the late 1960s and early 1970s – Volkswagens were plucky, inexpensive runabouts with a character that was completely different from anything else on the road. It was also a time when the automaker enjoyed its greatest market share on U.S. shores, nabbing five percent of new car sales in 1968 and 1970. Today, VW’s cut isn’t even half of that despite a lineup that offers much more than Beetles and buses.
It’s also rather telling of Volkswagen’s evolution as a more upscale brand for U.S. buyers, and frankly, how those buyers haven’t necessarily responded positively. Things were ticking upwards for VW – the brand had three percent of the U.S. market in 2012 – but then Dieselgate happened and well, you know the rest.
Now that U.S. sales are starting to rebound, Volkswagen is getting vocal about revisiting the glory days with a five-percent share. A pair of reports from Automotive News outline a couple different strategies to make that happen, spelled out by VW brand CEO Herbert Diess and VW North America boss Hinrich Woebcken. As expected, an onslaught of new SUVs and electric vehicles are part of the plan and we’ve already seen that with future offerings like the I.D. Crozz. Another part of the plan is to continue rebuilding confidence in the post-Dieselgate market, and we’ve seen that as well with the company’s six-year / 72,000-mile new car warranty.
The other part of this strategy, however, seems to take a lesson or two from the good old days when a new Beetle was roughly $1,700. VW won't be selling a anything that cheap obviously, but taking the American division down a rung or two in the price department could give buyers more incentive to part with their hard-earned cash. That’s what Woebcken believes anyway, and we’ve already seen price cuts on vehicles like the new Tiguan. Still, a $30,000 SUV is a long ways off from a $2,500 Kombi.
If the grand plan succeeds, VW hopes to have its five-percent share in 10 years. The way technology is progressing right now, who knows what that automotive landscape might look like.