Jens Neumann, Volkswagen AG's chairman for the North American region, was at the 1999 North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this month to help unveil the New Beetle Rsi, a high-performance concept car.
He was interviewed by Staff Reporter Ralph Kisiel. Here are his edited remarks:
Will the New Beetle ever overtake Jetta as the volume leader in the United States?
Jetta will be the volume leader. That's clear. It is an exciting, well-performing car that is fit for a family as well as for young, dynamic people. It's the more rational car, as opposed to the New Beetle. We have really refined it. The Jetta has grown up.
The Golf is a perennial favorite in Europe, so why not in the States?
The Golf is the best-selling car in Europe. But Americans prefer a trunk. It's the most underestimated car I can think of in the North American region. That's why we're offering the Jetta.
Gerd Klauss, former head of Audi of America, just took over as vice president of Volkswagen of America. What challenges does he face?
Our volume target is 260,000 units in the U.S. - from a quality standpoint, to improve the dealer base and to make this a credible and honest shopping experience for everyone, also improve the process of delivering cars on time and built to order.
Customers will get their dream car, equipped with whatever accessories they want, at the time they had imagined.
I realize there have been some deficiencies in the past. This is a very important point and we have agreed on this specific qualitative goal.
Is this transition easier by keeping it within the Volkswagen family?
I'm pleased that we don't have completely new faces, that we have some continuity and that these people still remember how bad off we were. Because that sometimes helps, too. You never want to go back into that rut again.
Will Volkswagen ever bring the Skoda or Seat brands to the States?
They are improving rapidly, but I would not think they are already fit for the U.S. market and the competition here. But I don't want to exclude their potential entry within the next five years. It takes money to make this brand known. So it's a big, big decision we are not willing to take right now. Our growth target can be accomplished with Volkswagen and Audi products.