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Volkswagen
Volkswagen AG, or VW, is an automobile manufacturer based in Wolfsburg, Germany. It forms the core of Volkswagen Group, one of the world's four largest car producers.
Volkswagen in the Twenty-First Century
Volkswagen began introducing an array of new models after Bernd Pischetsrieder became Volkswagen Group CEO (responsible for all Group brands) in 2002. The current Volkswagen Golf was launched in late 2004, came runner-up to the Fiat Panda in the 2004 European Car of the Year, and has so far spawned the new generation SEAT Toledo, Skoda Octavia and Audi A3 hatchback ranges as well as a new mini-MPV, the Seat Altea. The fifth-generation Golf was introduced in Europe in late 2003, and the GTI boasts a 2.0 L Turbocharged direct injection engine. The fifth-generation Golf, now with the Rabbit name once again, went on sale in the U.S. and Canada in June 2006. (The GTI version arrived in North America four months earlier.) Volkswagen of America decided that returning to the Rabbit nameplate will help the Golf's sales in these two countries. The fifth-generation Jetta, and the performance version, the GLI, are also available in the United States and Canada. The sixth-generation Passat and the fifth- generation Jetta both debuted in 2005, and VW was soon looking to expand its lineup further by bringing back the Scirocco by 2008. Other models in Wolfgang Bernhard's (Volkswagen brand CEO) "product offensive" include the Tiguan mid-sized SUV in 2008 and a Passat Coupe. In November 2006 Bernd Pischetsrieder announced his resignation as Volkswagen Group CEO and will be replaced by Audi worldwide CEO Martin Winterkorn on January 1, 2007. Winterkorn is credited with making Audi a challenger to the dominance of BMW and Mercedes and his design-led strategy has led to Audi being considered one of the most important brands in the world. It remains to be seen how Winterkorn's focus on design shapes the Volkswagen brand's future.
In North America, VW faces unexpected challenge to maintain its relevance. After rising significantly between 1998 and 2001, though, VW's North American sales began to fall sharply leading to a 2005 loss of roughly $1 billion (U.S.) for its operations in the U.S. and Canada. The reliability of the company's cars appears to bear some of the responsibility for this situation. By 2005, its models sat near the bottom of Consumer Reports reliability ratings, and J.D. Power and Associates ranked VW 35th out of 37 bands in its initial quality survey. Attempts to enter a new market segment also compromised Volkswagen's standing in North America. In 2002, Volkswagen announced the debut of its Phaeton ("Fay-ton") luxury car, which was critically acclaimed but not well received in the marketplace. VW announced its discontinuance in the U.S. market for the 2007 model year, mainly due to the disappointing sales there and the need for major investments in the car's line of engines (W12 and V8) to meet new emission requirements. Also, Volkswagen has faced harsh criticism that the Phaeton had used up money that was better invested in their smaller cars.
Volkswagen is still in a better position in North American market than it was in the early nineties, when its U.S. sales plummeted to 49,533 units in 1993. (By contrast, 224,195 cars were sold in the U.S. in 2005.) The company hopes to remain competitive in the U.S. and Canada with several new models. The fifth-generation GTI has generated interest among the VW faithful with its "Make friends with your fast" and "Unpimp My Ride" advertising campaigns. And although its reliability remains to be determined, the GTI was named by Consumer Reports as the top sporty car under $25,000. Even more encouraging was Volkswagen's performance in the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study. Volkswagen scored highest among "nonluxury" brands, finishing fourteenth overall with strong performances by its new Jetta and Passat models.
Volkswagen has also added the Eos, a sport coupe with a convertible hardtop, to its U.S./Canadian lineup as well. The Rabbit, GTI, are also being made in Germany and the Eos in Portugal for the North American market. These production points are used instead of producing in the VW's Mexican factory in Puebla, where Golfs and Jettas (1993 to 1998) were produced and also replacing the Brazilian factory in Curitiba where Golfs and GTIs were produced (1999 to 2006). The fifth-generation Golf, sold in North America as the Rabbit.
Volkswagen is counting on better workmanship from its German plants to improve the reliability of its North American lineup, and it is also competitively pricing its Rabbit, with a base model starting below the average cost of a new automobile. Volkswagen's relations with its unions and its relationship with the government of the German state of Lower Saxony, which owns stock in VW, remain impediments to further progress. But under Wolfgang Bernhard, the Volkswagen Group executive in charge of the VW brand, the company has recently been a greater interest in the North American market rather than treating it as an opportunistic afterthought. As of October 2006, the strategy seemed to be paying off, as VW's U.S. sales for the first ten months of the year were up over the period from January to October 2005 by nearly 10 percent.
Volkswagen has offered a number of its vehicles with an advanced, light duty diesel engine known as the TDI (Turbo Direct Injection). Whilst extremely popular in the European market, light duty diesels do not yet enjoy the same wide acceptance in the American marketplace, despite increased fuel economy and performance comparable to gasoline engines due to turbocharging. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, four of the ten most fuel efficient vehicles available for sale in the U.S. in 2004 were powered by Volkswagen diesel engines. They were a three-way tie for 8th (TDI Beetle, TDI Golf, TDI Jetta) and ninth, the TDI Jetta Wagon. Sales of light duty diesel engine technology are increasing as gasoline prices rise. Products such as the Toyota Prius might have highlighted the economy of non-gasoline engines, but in reality, a Volkswagen TDI engine is often found to be more efficient than the Prius on the highway (although not so when driving in the city). In addition, all VAG TDI diesel engines produced since 1996 can be driven on 100% biodiesel. For the 2007 model year, however, strict U.S. government emissions regulations have forced VW to drop most diesels from their U.S. engine liuneup, but a new lineup of diesel engines compatible to U.S. standards are due for 2008.
Volkswagen long resisted adding an SUV to its lineup, but it finally relented with the introduction of the Touareg in the early 2000's. Though it gained respectable reviews, the Touraeg has been a modest seller at best. Some automotive anaylsts blame the Touraeg's absence of a third-row seat, a popular item even among SUV buyers who do not actually need a third-row seat. The company remains committed to the SUV market, though, and it plans to add a miniature SUV, based on its "Concept A" concept vehicle, soon. On July 20, 2006, VW announced that the new vehicle would be called the Tiguan. One major irony of Volkswagen's current North American lineup is the absence of a minivan, considering that VW is credited for inventing the minivan with its original Transporter, but the firm is currently devloping just such a vehicle for the U.S. and Canadian markets with DaimlerChrysler, with current plans to introduce it some time in 2008. The Touran microvan remains a possibility for the North American market should such a class of passenger vans become lucrative on that continent. So far that has not happened, although the success of the Mazda5 is causing some automakers to consider introducing Euro-style vans such as the Touran into the American market.
One North American lineup change that may happen is a new entry-level model for the North American lineup below the Rabbit, the likes of which Volkswagen has not sold in the U.S. or Canada since 1993. A venture with DaimlerChrysler to produce such a vehicle was considered but dropped as of September 2006. Although North American Volkswagen fans have long held out hope for Volkswagen of America to introduce the Polo there, VW has no plans to do so. If a smaller model below the Rabbit is added to VW's U.S./Canadian lineup, it will likely be another Latin American Volkswagen like the Voyage, sold in North America as the Fox in the late eighties and early nineties.
Current Volkswagen Models
Europe
* Pointer
* Fox
* Polo
* Golf/Golf Variant/Golf Plus
* Jetta
* New Beetle/New Beetle Cabriolet
* Eos
* Passat/Passat Variant
* Touran
* Sharan
* Touareg
* Phaeton
* Caddy
* Transporter
* Multivan
* Crafter
Asia-Pacific
* Gol
* Polo
* Golf/Golf Plus/Golf Variant
* Jetta
* Bora
* Bora HS
* Sagitar
* New Beetle/New Beetle Cabriolet
* Passat Lingyu
* Santana
* Santana 3000
* Passat/Passat Variant
* Magotan
* Touran
* Sharan
* Touareg
* Phaeton
* Caddy
* Transporter
* Multivan
* Crafter
South America
* Fox/CrossFox/Suran (SpaceFox)
* Gol/Parati/Saveiro (Pointer)
* Polo
* Derby
* Golf
* Jetta
* Vento
* Bora
* New Beetle/New Beetle Cabriolet
* Passat/Passat Variant
* Touran
* Sharan
* Touareg
* Phaeton
* Caddy
* Transporter
* Delivery
* Worker
* Constellation
* Volksbus
South Africa
* CitiGolf
* Polo
* Golf/Golf Variant/Golf Plus
* Jetta
* New Beetle/New Beetle Cabriolet
* Passat/Passat Variant
* Touran
* Sharan
* Touareg
* Caddy
* Transporter
* Multivan
* Crafter