VW's U.S. sales sink to 5-year low; Audi extends record streak
WASHINGTON -- Volkswagen’s U.S. sales fell 15 percent last month, the embattled brand’s third-straight monthly decline, while sibling brand Audi kept up its own streak, recording its 61st straight monthly U.S. sales record.
VW’s car-heavy lineup suffered broadly, knocking January’s sales down to 20,079, its lowest monthly total in five years.
VW continues to wrestle with environmental regulators over a plan to fix some 482,000 2.0-liter diesels with illegal emissions software after an earlier plan was rejected last month by the California Air Resources Board. VW’s 2016 diesels remain grounded.
In a statement, VW of America COO Mark McNabb attributed the January decline to “the seasonal nature of the fleet business.” He said VW dealers’ retail business improved last month, even with a winter storm that dumped heavy snow across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic late last month.
A VW spokesman declined to provide a breakdown between retail and fleet, but said fleet sales declined “significantly” in January.
Passat midsize sedan sales plummeted 43 percent despite the arrival of an updated 2016 model late last year. Jetta compact sedan sales slipped 1.7 percent while sales of the Golf compact car family fell 4.9 percent.
The Tiguan compact crossover, one of VW’s two crossover models, was a lone bright spot for the brand, gaining 72 percent to 2,528 units. VW’s other crossover, the Touareg, dropped 27 percent.
VW’s declines were deepened by a freeze on sales of diesel-powered models, now entering its fifth full month. Those models accounted for more than 20 percent of VW’s sales last year. VW imposed the freeze after the EPA announced VW’s diesel emissions violations in September. Since then, VW’s sales have declined 9.7 percent.
Nearly 16 percent of VW’s January 2015 sales were diesels, according to the spokesman.
Audi growth continues
At Audi, strong demand for the redesigned Q7 crossover boosted sales 2.7 percent and propelled the brand to its 61st straight month of record U.S. sales — 11,850 units in January. Q7 sales more than doubled to 2,336, a record for the nameplate.
“The new dynamic Audi Q7 produced an unprecedented level of demand right at launch,” Audi of America COO Mark Del Rosso said in a statement. “With benchmark models such as the Q7 and the all-new A4 coming this spring, we believe that our sales momentum will continue unabated this year.”
The Q7 helped offset lower sales of some of Audi’s other top sellers, including the Q5 compact crossover, down 8.1 percent; the A4 sedan, off 15 percent; and the A3 compact sedan, down 9.9 percent.
Audi is also grappling with a sales freeze for its diesel-powered cars and crossovers, though it’s less affected than VW because diesels account for fewer than 10 percent of Audi’s U.S. sales, according to the company.
Audi on Tuesday submitted a plan to U.S. regulators for how it will fix more than 80,000 vehicles powered by its 3.0-liter diesel V-6 engine.
U.S. and California regulators said in November that the 3.0-liter diesels contained three emissions control software devices that weren’t disclosed as required by law. One of the three is classified as an illegal “defeat device” under U.S. emissions regulations.
Affected models include the diesel versions of the Audi A6, A7 and A8 sedans and the Q5 and Q7 crossovers, along with Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg.
Audi said in November that it planned to revise the 3.0-liter engine’s emissions software and submit new applications for U.S. government emission certification.