VW aims to sell 500,000 vehicles in U.S. this year
Browning says this year's continued recovery in the U.S. won't be as robust as what had been expected a year ago.
NEW YORK -- Volkswagen Group of America hopes to sell 500,000 vehicles in the United States in 2012, which would be the highest level in at least 39 years.
Jonathan Browning, CEO of VW Group of America, revealed the target speaking today in New York City.
Topping 500,000 would mark a 13 percent increase over 2011 and give the German automaker three straight years of double-digit U.S. sales gains. It would also put VW halfway to its goal of selling 1 million vehicles in the United States by 2018.
"It's a pretty steep challenge we've laid out," Browning said. "But it's certainly something deliverable with the right actions, the right preparation."
Last year's sales of VW, Audi and Bentley models rose 23 percent from 2010 to 443,840. That followed a 21 percent gain in 2010.
VW will release a refreshed version of the CC this year, along with all-new Jetta hybrid. The company will also record full-year sales for the redesigned Passat and Beetle, which hit showrooms in September.
The company expects its U.S. sales operation to be profitable for the second consecutive year in 2012, Browning added.
"We see continued recovery in the U.S. but at a slightly slower (rate) than we would have said a year ago," Browning said. Volkswagen, which opened a $1 billion factory in May in Chattanooga, Tenn., had previously earned a profit in the country in 2003.
The company is making an aggressive push into the U.S. market as it seeks to overtake General Motors and Toyota Motor Corp. to become the world's largest automaker.
Of the 1 million U.S. sales planned for 2018, 800,000 would be under the VW brand.
Slow, steady growth
VW executives say they expect the U.S. industry to end 2012 with light-vehicle sales of 13.5 million to 14 million. The 2011 total was 12.8 million.
"We see the industry continuing this relatively slow steady growth in the U.S. to get back in the medium term to 15-15.5 million," Browning said.
With the Chattanooga plant operating, Browning said the company would like to build more than 70 percent of its North American-sold cars locally as a way to shield against volatility in the exchange rates. He didn't offer a timetable.
He also reiterated his hopes to put a large SUV into production but the company has yet to firm up plans.
For now, VW wants to focus on growing sales and market recognition of its core, high-volume models such as the Jetta and Passat, Browning said.
But heading into this year, VW's inventories remain constrained on dealer lots. The company is still working to match production levels with rising demand for its cars in showrooms.
"We're not obsessing about milestones or volumes," Browning said. "The focus is on these enablers of growth rather than just the sales totals."
VW last topped 500,000 U.S. sales in 1971. Sales reached 509,207 that year before dropping to 480,689 a year later.
Bloomberg contributed to this report.