Maintaining profit margins and getting good quality products were on the minds of Volkswagen of America dealers at a packed make meeting at the NADA convention. At least 250 dealers attended the session.
'Dealers wanted to make sure that the company is building the right stuff,' said Al Gossett, VW Dealer Council chairman. 'We believe they are.'
Dealers were told that a new Web-based vehicle-ordering system will be tested and rolled out this summer. Audi dealers will get it first. Currently, VW dealers must order their vehicles through a regional VW representative.
Gossett said dealers look forward to the ordering system, but it will not work unless they can get the product they want without restrictions, such as on color and automatic transmissions.
VW has traditionally had a 50-50 mix of manual and automatic transmissions. But more buyers want automatics, and VW hasn't been able to meet demand.
VW told dealers the problem should be fixed by June, when it will deliver a mix of 70 percent to 75 percent automatic transmissions.
Dealers also want metallic paints, but those are more than a year away.
Gerd Klauss, president of Volkswagen of America, said 30 dealers have the exclusive Volkswagen Marketplace dealerships, and that will increase to 150 by the end of this year and to 270 by the end of 2002. The 270 exclusive dealers will represent 70 percent of VW's sales volume in the United States, he said.
'Dealers doing these marketplaces are excited,' Gossett said. 'When you break out a dealership in this manner, you will improve sales. Volkswagen is helping dealers out, putting money where their mouth is.'