Byron, Minnesota, United States
Volkswagen Group of America has lit oil-burning fireworks to celebrate the sales of more than 100,000 TDI Clean Diesel vehicles in the US between its VW and Audi brands this year. According to VW, that means it is responsible for more than 75 percent of diesel-engined cars and SUVs sold here - perhaps not surprising when the two brands offer a total of 12 diesel models.
What might be surprising is that the number of diesels isn't far off the estimated sales of 90,000 battery electric vehicles and PHEVs, with 15,000 of those accounted for by the Tesla Model S, another 12,000 or so being the Toyota Prius PHEV.
VW's keen to play up the ease of making diesel part of your life, stressing that it doesn't need any change to the refueling infrastructure and that "this is a technology delivering real answers to society's concerns about fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions without compromises."
According to Automotive News, automakers are expected to manufacture 16 million light vehicles in North America in 2013. That's up 500,000 units from last year and marks the largest number since 2002. The prediction comes courtesy of LMC Automotive and IHS Automotive, which point to the improving US economy as a bellwether for total production. LMC Automotive says North America will produce 16 million vehicles while IHS has a slightly more optimistic forecast of 16.1 million units. A total of seven automakers are slated to increase production on the continent this year. Nissan is set to see the largest jump at 20 percent over last year.
Volkswagen, meanwhile, is one of the only manufacturers predicted to scale back production. Analysts expect the German company's output to fall by 23 percent to 170,000 units, thanks in part to slow demand for the Volkswagen Passat and Jetta.
Today in the Tell Us How You Really Feel file we have Bernd Osterloh, head of Volkswagen AG's Group Works Councils and member of the company's supervisory board, labeling the company's US operations "a disaster." Why? Because Osterloh believes VW of America doesn't have the models it needs to be competitive here, hasn't been decisive enough about its plans and German higher-ups still don't understand the US market.
In truth, the top labor rep at the German conglomerate is echoing sentiments we've heard from VWoA executives for years, and there's been the same commentary from dealers: Germany doesn't pay enough attention to what the US market really wants. Even ex-VWoA CEO Stefan Jacoby, who preceded the recently departed Jonathan Browning, said early in his tenure that one of his tasks was to get his German bosses to start delivering what the US market demanded. New CEO Michael Horn is saying much the same thing seven years later, telling Sky News that it has to increase "the speed at which we bring new models to the market and innovation to the market."
Osterloh wants to get "more models" here, including a pickup truck, but we'd wonder if the economics have changed from when Jacoby said they'd need to sell 100,000 per year to make money. Osterloh also wants a decision on where the CrossBlue will be built. Although it looked as if the Chatanooga, TN plant would get the call, the Puebla, Mexico plant is still in the running because of lower operating costs. No matter what happens right now, Osterloh thinks the situation won't get better for another two years when revamped models arrive, but at least the company can start taking the steps for a better US future.