Volkswagen will add dealers in U.S.
PARIS -- Volkswagen expects to add up to 15 new dealers by year end in the United States, bringing the brand's dealer count to 615 in the country.
"We are adding very selectively and there are a number of changes buying and selling, but the main focus is seeing the throughput increase," said Jonathan Browning, CEO of Volkswagen of America, at the Paris auto show last week.
He said about 91 percent of VW's dealers were profitable through July compared with 89 percent in 2011 and 83 percent in 2010.
"This is the first phase of growth through the existing dealer body," he said. "Later on, we will see that footprint expand."
Meanwhile, Browning said sales of Volkswagen's Passat sedan built in the United States hit a one-year historic high of 79,000 vehicles through Sept. 16.
"Passat has resonated in the marketplace because of the configuration, size, content and value," Browning said.
The redesigned Passat went on sale a year ago when production began at VW's factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Passat's previous U.S. sales record was 77,523 units in 2001.
Passat sales are expected to continue at a brisk rate because VW has increased production capacity in Chattanooga by 10 percent for the 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder model. Diesel has accounted for about 20 percent of the Passat sales mix, and that is expected to increase to 30 percent in the fourth quarter, Browning said.
Browning would not predict VW brand sales for 2012 but said growth will continue at "a very significant double-digit" pace. In the first nine months, the VW brand sold 323,089 vehicles, up 37 percent from a year earlier.
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