Volkswagen had the good fortune of finishing near the top of the 2014 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) for “Automobile and Light Vehicles.” Unfortunately, the strong impression people have of VW’s cars has not translated into sales. They dropped 12.2% in August to 35,181, and they are off 13.4% for the first eight months of 2014 to 244,878.
VW’s U.S. sales are barely above those of Mazda, which usually is considered a third-tier brand. The Japanese company sold 216,974 cars in the first eight months of the year. Even General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) niche truck division GMC sold 328,152 from January through August.
It has to be vexing for VW executives to find their brand tied with Toyota Motor Corp.’s (NYSE: TM) Lexus by the ACSI measures. Lexus is considered the manufacturer of the highest rated brand based on quality sold in the United States. VW and Lexus scored 84 of 100 points in the ACSI research. The leader, Mercedes, was narrowly ahead of them with a score of 86.
VW has been faulted for its limited model line in the United States, contrasted to much a broader one in its home markets of Germany and Europe. Among the small number of American models, sales of the Beetle dropped 41% to 2,905 in August. Passat sales fell 9.8% to 9,190. VW management remarked on some of its successes:
The 2015 Jetta will go on sale this fall. Total Jetta deliveries for August, including SportWagen, accounted for 15,361 units.
The all-new, seventh generation Golf is off to a strong start with the Golf TSI and TDI Clean Diesel models are now more readily available in dealer showrooms.
In other words, next year will be the year when VW turns itself around in America.
Of course, the largest hurdle to VW’s success is not changes in its models, or even an expansion of its model line. Its low-priced and medium-priced cars, which are generally built to compete in the high gas mileage segment, face competition from every major manufacturer that sells cars and light vehicles in the United States. In a market already so crowded, it is hard to image VW can elbow its way in.