Isn’t it weird?  After a decade of trying, the brand collectors have become thoroughly disheartened. Ford spins out Jaguar, Land-Rover, Mazda and Aston Martin and tries its best to bin Volvo. GM shuts brands, sells brands and tries its best to bin Saab, Vauxhall and Opel. Daimler gets rid of Chrysler Jeep and Dodge to a gullible hedge fund.

The landscape is littered with the wreckage of deconsolidated, sub-scale orphans.

Then up pops Volkswagen and says: we’ve got Porsche and we will have a portfolio of 10 brands. What’s more, the assembly of the first nine brands has been a fabulous success. The best financial model in 2009 appears to be…in favour of the brand collector.

Sergio Marchionne, the maverick chief executive of Fiat, knew this already. His analysis has been the same but was expressed differently. He has always said that to be able to fund new model development, a car maker needs to be making 6m units a year. So desperate is he to secure that position that he has wormed his way into the bankrupt Chrysler and will try to turn Fiat, Alfa, Lancia, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge into a VW-type group of brands with global sales.


VW showed some figures yesterday that gave some insight into its superiority. In every month of this year it has outperformed the global car market – sometimes by an impressive margin.

In February when the market was 22% down, VW was only 8% down. In June the market was nine per cent down and VW was up six. The net position was that VW was only 4% down year on year.

The entrails of the accounts for the first half of the year shows where the money came from and who the good guys were. Audi was the hero and made more than half of the EUR1.2bn of operating profit. The VW brand made a quarter of the Audi number. Skoda made half the VW brand tally.

Thereafter it was red ink other than in the commercial vehicle division. Seat is still struggling, having never been much of a contributor, but with holidays and property sales bombing, there is little surprise that Seat’s domestic market in Spain can barely raise a laugh.

Bentley is a serious hardship case. It lost EUR114m in the period which means if you buy a Bentley now you get it at half the manufacturing cost.

Unsurprisingly, Bugatti and Lamborghini were also in the cack, but we can only guess at what share of the half billion lost in the division called ‘Other’ they were responsible for.

Interestingly, VW is going to make the magic 6m cars this year, and that in the worst trading environment that anyone in the middle of their careers has ever seen.

There was always a danger that the financial director, Dieter Potsch and the marketing VP, Detlef Wittig, would get all puffy-chested about that. But so obvious is VW’s success that they could afford to be understated in their appraisal.

“We are getting closer to our competitors,” Wittig observed. The analysis of this remark is that while VW sold 3.1m cars in the period, only GM at 3.5m and Toyota at 3.6m did better.

Given that GM is still on the down slope and may well be shorn of Opel and Vauxhall by the year end, and given that VW – soon to be swollen by Porsche figures – has its strongest growth in Toyota’s back yard of Asia Pacific, you would be wrong to bet a cent against VW being victorious in the world rankings next year.

Rob Golding