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US/GERMANY: VW plans car designed for US

By just-auto.com editorial team | 13 September 2007

Volkswagen plans to design and build a mid-size car for Americans, as part of efforts to make a comeback in the US market where it was once a strong contender, a newspaper reported on Thursday.

The Detroit News said the new car it dubbed the Toyota Camry-fighter, and the new Tiguan small SUV launched at Frankfurt this week, were crucial to VW plans to triple US sales in the next decade to 1m vehicles - 800,000 VW brand cars and trucks and 200,000 Audi.

The automaker also aims to stop losing money in America by 2009, but its primary objective is to re-establish a strong presence, the new US operations chief Stefan Jacoby was quoted as saying.

"The United States is now our highest priority," he told the paper in Frankfurt. "We are strong in Asia, especially in China, we are strong in Europe and we are strong in South America. But one of our weakest areas worldwide is the United States."

The report said VW maintained a strong brand image in the US but sales there were now about half the 1970 peak of almost 570,000.

The paper said that while Japanese rivals developed cars like the Camry for the US market, VW offered vehicles designed for Europeans and ended up selling niche models in the US priced incorrectly for their segment.

Jacoby reportedly wouldn't give details about the midsize car VW is developing for the US market but told the Detroit News it would probably go on sale in three to four years.

The Tiguan would be launched in America in the second quarter of 2008 with peak sales expected at 20,000 to 25,000 a year and VW may also later bring in a version of the tiny Up city car concept shown at Frankfurt, the paper added.

According to the Detroit News, Jacoby ruled out pickup trucks for the United States and hinted that US vehicle manufacture was under consideration.

VW operated an assembly plant in Pennsylvania in the 1970s building a Rabbit-badged version of the original Golf but closed it in the 1980s.