Volkswagen plans to nearly double sales in the US within the next five years as part of its plan to be the world’s top automaker by 2018.

The company has just recorded a third successive double-digit sales increase in America which has seen registrations double to a total of 438,000 last year. The 2012 increase was 35% following rises of 26% in 2011 and 20% in 2010.

But the target is to take this to 800,000 by 2018, with Audi chipping in with another 200,000 sales for a tally of 1m.

“Historically we have under-performed (in the US),” said the British CEO of Volkswagen America, Jonathan Browning. “In 2007 we asked ourselves what it would take for a step-change and our thought process was that we would not get where we wanted to be if we continued to behave as we did.”

That led to a decision to add the factory in Chatanooga, Tennessee, to the plant VW already had in Mexico. Now VW sources three out of every four cars it sells in the US from its factories in North America. A new engine plant in Mexico is about to open.

But that alone will not help VW achieve its ambitious goals, Browning admitted.

“The four most important sectors in the US are compact sedans, which we cover with the Jetta; medium sedans, where we have the new Passat; compact SUVs like the Tiguan; and medium SUVs, which is where we have a gap,” he added.

VW is showing the CrossBlue concept at Detroit which, given a positive response, will go into production to address the medium SUV issue. And Browning is confident VW can increase its share in each of the other three major market sectors to get closer to the 800,000 target.

“We sell 30,000 Tiguans in a market sector worth 2m cars a year, so there is huge potential there,” he said. VW also plans to add diesels to the Tiguan line-up in America. “There is lots we can do,” he added.

At Detroit VW is also hinting at how it could expand the US Passat range with the Passat Performance Concept.