Volkswagen dealers want more. More New Beetles. More Passats. More Jettas. While they're at it, they want leather upholstery, sunroofs and automatic transmissions, too.
That was the message dealers gave factory representatives at the VW make meeting. Apparently, the factory is listening.
Gerd Klauss, Volkswagen of America Inc. president, said U.S. VW dealers have been allocated 70,000 New Beetles, 100,000-plus Jettas, 70,000 Passats and 20,000 Cabrios in 1999. Klauss said that should help satisfy dealers and give the company a healthy sales increase over 1998, when VW dealers sold 219,679 cars and trucks.
'These are good strong numbers,' Klauss said. 'We want to grow to at least 260,000 this year, but that's a minimum target. For 2000, we want a minimum of 300,000, and we want to stretch much higher.'
Klauss said VW has been working with its plant in Puebla, Mexico, to find ways to meet dealers' demands for more upscale options and a better mix of colors.
Dealers at the meeting said they would like to have more of the hot-selling New Beetles, but having more demand than supply is not that bad.
'No, I don't have enough Beetles, but that's OK - we want to be one short,' said Mike Sullivan, owner of VW of Santa Monica Inc. in Santa Monica, Calif., as he left the meeting.
Said Bob Lew-is, president of Bob Lewis VW in San Jose, Calif.: 'It's a problem we've created because of our own success.'
Wayne Williams, president of Williams AutoWorld (VW-Audi-Porsche-BMW-Subaru-Mercedes) in Lansing, Mich., said he has more than 200 orders for New Beetles but expects to get only 75 to 80 this year.
Still, he said he and other dealers are pumped because they believe VW has the product, the marketing strategy and the commitment eventually to sell 500,000 vehicles in the United States.
'This is a franchise that is on the move again,' said Williams, who is the NADA line representative for VW.
Klauss said Volkswagen AG is careful with New Beetle allocation because it wants to gauge European response to the vehicle and because it does not want to oversupply the market. 'It is our magnet for the brand,' he said.
This was the first make meeting VW dealers had with Klauss, who took over as president of Volkswagen of America in January.
Said Sullivan of Klauss: 'He's enthusiastic, approachable and believable.'