Maintaining profit margins and getting high-quality products were on the minds of at least 250 dealers attending a packed Volkswagen of America make meeting Sunday.
Dealers were told a new Web vehicle-ordering system will be tested and rolled out this summer. Audi dealers get it first.
VW dealers now order their vehicles through a regional representative.
Gossett said dealers are looking forward to the new ordering system, but it does not work unless dealers can get the product they want without any restrictions — on color or automatic transmissions, for example.
Volkswagen is addressing the problem of not making enough vehicles with automatic transmissions, Gossett said.
Volkswagen, which is enjoying a comeback in the United States, has traditionally had a 50-50 mix of manual and automatic transmissions. But now VW has not been able to keep up with demand for automatics, Gossett said.
Volkswagen told dealers the problem should be solved by June, when it will deliver a mix of 70 percent to 75 percent automatic transmissions.
Gerd Klauss, president of Volkswagen of America, said the number of dealers with exclusive Volkswagen Marketplace dealerships will increase. Currently, there are 30 such dealerships, but that will rise to 150 by year end and to 270 by the end of 2002. The 270 exclusive dealers will represent 70 percent of VW's U.S. sales volume, Klauss said.
Klauss told dealers there must be further investment in buildings, personnel and training.
"We have had phenomenal growth, but that has stressed the system," he said. "Dealers must continue to step up to the plate and get ready now."
Volkswagen will do its part to keep dealers profitable with more new product this year and beyond — including a New Beetle Sport, a turbo "S" New Beetle, a New Beetle convertible, the W-8 eight-cylinder Passat, the luxury D-1 and the sport-utility.