Despite disappointing U.S. sales, the Volkswagen Group delivered a record 10.14 million vehicles globally in 2014, a 4.2 percent gain from 9.73 million in 2013, the company announced Sunday. It marked the first time that VW's global sales exceeded 10 million vehicles, according to the company. The total includes commercial vehicles.
VW's past failings mean it will miss an 800,000 U.S. sales target for its core VW brand for 2018, according to researchers IHS Automotive. They see 547,000 sales of VW-brand cars by then, from last year's 367,000, missing the goal by about a third. IHS forecasts include VW's plans to overhaul the Tiguan compact SUV in 2015 and add a coupe-style version as well as a long-wheelbase model that may offer a gasoline-electric hybrid version.
Big goal stands firm
The SUV blitz is part of the $7 billion in North American investments Volkswagen plans to make by 2019 to fund new vehicles, production and technologies, Winterkorn said.
In July, VW announced plans to open a 200-engineer North American vehicle design and development center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to develop vehicles suited for North America.
And VW executives are banking on the overhauled crossover lineup to fuel a turnaround starting in 2016, and followed by a redesigned Passat midsize car expected to arrive in 2018 as a 2019 model.
For now, crossovers remain a big vulnerability in Volkswagen’s U.S. lineup, which is dominated by cars. Its two current crossovers -- the Tiguan and the Touareg -- have been hampered in the marketplace by their steep sticker prices and intensifying competition.
Meanwhile, its two best sellers -- the Jetta compact and Passat midsize sedan -- also saw sales slip last year, putting Volkswagen well behind the pace for its onetime target of selling 800,000 vehicles in the U.S.
Despite the setbacks, Winterkorn reaffirmed the VW Group’s U.S. sales target of 1 million units by 2018, with the fast-growing Audi and Porsche brands likely picking up much of the VW brand’s slack.
In addition to hinting at a new model, VW’s Cross Coupe GTE concept foreshadows the next phase in VW’s design language.
“The Cross Coupe GTE is the ambassador of a new design language developed by Volkswagen for the U.S.,” Klaus Bischoff, VW’s chief designer, said in a statement released ahead of the Detroit auto show. “Numerous details hint at how we envision a future production SUV model for North America.”
Bischoff said the concept combines high efficiency and “powerful design” with the space, performance and comfort that American drivers seek. It follows two earlier concepts heralding the midsize crossover bound for Chattanooga and “increases the momentum toward series production,” VW says.
The interior features a 10.1-inch touchscreen mounted in the dash that houses a new VW infotainment system that can be controlled using gesture recognition technology, a feature that Volkswagen showcased earlier in the month at the international consumer electronics show.
Under the hood of the Cross Coupe GTE is a plug-in hybrid powertrain that combines a 276-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 engine with front- and rear-wheel electric motors that generate a combined maximum of 355 hp while returning a VW-estimated 70 mpg-equivalent fuel economy rating (3.4 liters per 100km), the company said.