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Diesel Rebound for Volkswagen

Maker moves 100,000 “oil burners” in 2013.

by on Dec.23, 2013

Audi of America CEO Scott Keogh with two of the new diesel models the maker has launched for 2014.

Despite falling sales at its flagship VW brand, the Volkswagen Group of America has defied naysayers who have long argued that U.S. motorists won’t buy diesels – moving more than 100,000 Volkswagen Audi “oil burners” during 2013.

It marks the first time the Volkswagen Group has reached this milestone in a calendar year, according to Mark McNabb, Volkswagen of America’s new chief operating officer.  Volkswagen and Audi currently offer 12 different TDI Clean Diesel powered models in the United States, including three new models launched by the upscale brand for 2014.

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“Selling more than 100,000 TDI Clean Diesel vehicles is a significant milestone for Volkswagen Group of America,” McNabb said. “We’re excited to see the increasing numbers of customers able to enjoy the reliability, durability, fuel-efficiency and power of the clean diesel engine.”

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Volkswagen’s Top US Executive Stepping Down

Browning’s departure comes as maker’s U.S. sales plunge.

by on Dec.13, 2013

VW Group CEO Jonathan Browning -- shown here at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show.

Volkswagen’s top American executive is leaving the automaker — a move that comes at a time the German maker is struggling to reverse an unexpectedly sharp slump in U.S. sales.

The 54-year-old Jonathan Browning’s departure comes just over two years after he took over Volkswagen Group of America at a time when a new plant in Tennessee and a flood of new product appeared to be driving the maker towards an ambitious goal of reaching 800,000 U.S. sales annually by 2018.

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But even as U.S. car sales have surged to their highest level in six years, Volkswagen has reported a 5.2% decline for the year, demand plunging an even more disconcerting 16% in November compared to year-earlier numbers.

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VW Cross Blue Decision on Hold

Maker introduces German apprentice concept to Tennessee.

by on Aug.14, 2013

VW needs a home for the Cross Blue Concept and Tennessee has been considered the most likely production source.

A decision on whether to build a new midsized crossover vehicle at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee may not come until early next year now.

Various company sources caution that the German maker is looking at a variety of options for a production version of the Cross Blue concept, as well as for its plants in both Tennessee and in Mexico. But bringing Cross Blue to the U.S. is considered a leading alternative as it would both increase utilization of the sprawling factory complex and give ready access to what is likely to be the crossover’s largest market.

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Frank Fischer, president and chief executive officer of the Volkswagen manufacturing facility in Chattanooga says he is hoping a decision on the long-delayed plans for Cross Blue will be made soon. But it likely won’t come until late this year or even the first quarter of 2014, he said.

Volkswagen is now fine-tuning the business case for the vehicle, which requires rigorous cost analysis as well as cooperation from marketing, engineering and purchasing.

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Chrysler to Add High-Mileage Diesel for Ram 1500

Ford softening its opposition to diesels, as well.

by on Feb.14, 2013

The Ram 1500 will begin offering a 3.0-liter turbodiesel.

Chrysler will add a diesel option for the Ram 1500 pickup, making it the only automaker to offer the high-mileage technology on a half-ton truck. It could be a significant additional inducement the announcement coming barely a month after the Ram 1500 was named North American Truck of the Year.

But Chrysler may not be the only maker to market a diesel standard-duty pickup for long. General Motors is reportedly considering such an option for its newly redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra models, while Toyota and Nissan may add diesels when their redesigned Tundra and Titan models reach market.

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Meanwhile, diesels are rapidly gaining ground in other market segments. Chevrolet last week unveiled its new Cruze Diesel, the first passenger car model from General Motors’ largest brand to offer the powertrain technology since 1996. Mazda will add a diesel for its new Mazda6 later this year. And even Ford’s long-standing resistance to diesel power in U.S. passenger cars finally may be crumbling.

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Volkswagen Does It, Again – It Just Took 39 Years

Maker continues gaining momentum after decades of trouble.

by on Dec.04, 2012

No longer running on empty. VW is betting products like the new Beetle Convertible will help it continue gaining momentum.

Considering the strong performance by most automakers in November it might be easy to downplay the numbers from Volkswagen AG.  After all, the maker reported a gain of “only” 29% for the month, less than half the increase of little Subaru.

It was, nonetheless, the best VW has done in nearly four decades – since November 1973, to be more precise – when the original Beetle was still the most successful import product in the U.S. market and names like Toyota, Nissan and Honda were barely on the radar for American car buyers.

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Things would change rapidly in the mid to late-1970s. Buoyed by the sudden surge in demand for high-mileage products in the wake of twin Mideast oil shocks, Japanese makers rapidly gained traction. VW tried to fight back with the little Rabbit but its early success was short-circuited by higher prices and lower quality, twin problems that nearly sank the German maker.

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Mazda Taking SkyActiv Diesel to the Track

Maker hoping to win on Sunday, sell on Monday.

by on Jun.04, 2012

With its 2-stage turbo, the Mazda SkyActiv-D race engine should make about 400 hp.

Mazda is hoping that old motor sports adage, “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday,” still holds.  Aware it will have plenty of convincing to do when it launches its new SkyActiv diesel next year the maker plans to turn to motor sports to get its message across.

A beefed-up version of the production SkyActiv-D, as in diesel, making somewhere around 400 horsepower will make its debut in the months ahead as part of the 2013 Grand Am GX Class.  The new GX series has been designed specifically to spotlight advanced and clean engine technologies.

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“We’re hoping this will help (showcase) diesel attributes for those people who hadn’t considered them before,” explained John Doonan, Mazda North America’s Director of Motorsports.

It’s not the first time Mazda has taken to the track with non-traditional powertrain technology.  It was the first Japanese automaker to win at the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans, in fact, using its trademark rotary engines – which still run in a number of race circuits today, even though Mazda will soon pull the Wankel rotary from production.

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VW Facing Serious Challenges Even as Sales Soar

Maker rolls out 100,000th Passat from Chattanooga plant.

by on Jun.01, 2012

A VW Passat body under inspection at the maker's Chattanooga plant. Quality will be critical to meeting VW's ambitious growth target.

Half empty or half full?  When it comes to Volkswagen, Jonathan Browning is looking at the glass from both angles.

By most measures, it’s been a particularly good week for the German maker.  With sales for last month up 28.4%, VW is today reporting its best May since 1973.  That news comes less than a day after the 100,000th new Passat rolled off the Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

There are plenty of other reasons to be in a positive frame of mind, starting with the growing number of potential buyers who are now aware of products like the Passat, as well as the newly updated Beetle, the recently redesigned Jetta and the expanding line-up of Volkswagen diesels.

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Nonetheless, the British-born Browning, CEO of the Volkswagen Group of America – which includes Audi and Bentley, as well as the VW brand – also sees quite a few reasons to worry whether the maker is operating “at a level that will support our growth.”

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New Volkswagen Midsize SUV “Under Discussion”

Maker considering range of additional products, including Polo and Up! to support soaring U.S. sales.

by on May.30, 2012

VW Group CEO Jonathan Browning -- shown here at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show -- wants more product in the U.S. line-up.

With U.S. sales expected to increase by as much as 30% for May Volkswagen is looking at all its options to keep that momentum going – including the addition of all-new products to its American line-up.

The maker could start importing several models not currently sold in the U.S., said Volkswagen Group of American CEO Jonathan Browning.  But the executive says the more likely move would come with the addition of an all-new midsize SUV now “under discussion.”

“A midsize SUV would be a great opportunity for us,” Browning said following a speech to the Detroit Automotive Press Association.

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The vehicle would slot into the line-up between the compact Tiguan and the full-size Touareg sport-utility vehicles.  It might be developed as a joint project between the U.S. and “another region around the world,” Browning hinted, but he stressed that the American market would take the lead in the vehicle’s development.

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VW Adding Another 800 Jobs in Chattanooga

Maker struggling to meet booming demand.

by on Mar.22, 2012

Workers assemble a 2012 VW Passat at the maker's assembly plant in Chattanooga.

Volkswagen will create another 800 jobs at its new assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee as it pushes to meet soaring demand. That comes on top of previous plans that will now bring a total of 1,000 new workers to the factory that opened only last year.

The Chattanooga plant is the first the German maker has operated in the U.S. in a quarter century and is a critical part of the maker’s commitment to boost sales to record levels by 2018.  But equally significant has been VW’s decision to develop cars specifically for the U.S. market for the first time, including the new Passat sedan being produced in Tennessee.

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Sales of the new Passat got off to a fast start for the 2012 model-year, helping Volkswagen score its best monthly volumes in four decades in February.

“This is a clear sign that the plant ramp-up has been successful and is a validation that the Passat is of the highest quality,” said Frank Fischer, CEO of the Chattanooga operation.

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VW Inching Towards Profitability in the States

2011 sales should hit 300,000 despite slow U.S. recovery.

by on Sep.29, 2011

The new U.S. version of the Jetta has been instrumental in VW's American revival.

Long operating deep in the red, Volkswagen’s U.S. sale unit is on track to turn a profit for the first time since 2003, according to the German maker’s top American executive.

“This is our expectation,” Jonathan Browning, Volkswagen Group of America’s president and chief executive officer told reporters after an appearance at the Society of Automotive Analysts’ annual strategic planning summit.

VW’s luxury arm, Audi saw its North American sales operations become profitable last year, Browning added, in the face of steady growth in demand.

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“This is a very narrow definition of profitability,” Browning cautioned, noting that it doesn’t include financial statements from the company’s parts distribution network, nor does it include the share of corporate overhead allocated to North America by VWGoA’s parent company in Wolfsburg, Germany.

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