IT IS hard to find fault with the sales growth Volkswagen has achieved in the past two years. Yet some VW dealers are staring to complain. They think they are getting too many niche cars from a company that is mastering the art of building a wide variety of models off common platforms.
Usually, dealers plead for more specialty cars. Now that VW can deliver them, some retailers are complaining.
They might have a point. An auto company must do more than pump out products. It must have a plan for selling them.
Volkswagen is driving to be as dominant in Europe as General Motors was for many decades in America. GM got there because it owned the most brands and filled the most product segments.
For awhile, it looked like it would never end. Fifteen years ago then-GM Chairman Roger Smith promised that GM's North American market share would grow even higher.
'How do I know that?' he asked. 'Because we've got the products.'
GM was planning to put a record number of cars into a record number of product niches. And it did, too. Its share has been declining ever since.
Most of those products were uninspired models with too little brand differentiation.
It is far too early to accuse VW of making the same mistakes. Volkswagen has reached its current status not only because it has been buying up brands, but because it has developed some wonderful cars.
But some criticism heard by VW dealers sounds disturbingly like the things that caused GM's market share in America to plunge from 40 percent in the mid-1980s to well under 30 percent today.
Among them: lookalike cars, inconclusive brand strategies and consumer miscalculations.
VW's share isn't falling, it is growing fast. But as it moves to dominate it ought to remember the lessons of GM in the USA. Size - and the sheer number of products you are able to throw into the market - are not everything.