Dealers voiced complaints and questions about Volkswagen of America Inc.'s efforts to raise dealer standards at the make meeting. But Frank Maguire, Volkswagen vice president for sales and marketing, told dealers that there will be no changes in the brand standards program this year.
"If anything," he told them, "in 2004."
VW has been coaxing its dealers to improve the way they operate and the look of their dealerships. The standards range from how fast a service department completes an oil change to whether computers are available in customer waiting areas. Dealers who voluntarily meet the standards are rewarded with additional cars.
"I know guys are jumping through hoops to meet brand standards," Maguire told the dealers after taking questions on particulars of the program.
"Maybe we have to take another look at them. If there is anything we are being arrogant or stupid on, then you need to let us know."
The company also said it would hold a 45-day selling event this spring in an effort to rev up sales. That decision was spurred by what officials called disappointing results in January.
Al Gossett, owner of Gossett Motor Cars in Memphis, Tenn., and former dealer council chairman, said the factory told of plans to boost incentives on older models to support the spring sale.
Details were not given during the make meeting, but Gossett said he expected them to include $500 cash-to-consumer incentives, a new lease program and possibly more attractive offers through Volkswagen Credit.
The franchise has two major new models coming this year.
The first is the Touareg SUV, due in May. The second is the Phaeton luxury sedan, which will go on sale late this year.
Volkswagen officials also told dealers that the company has created a U.S. "quality leader" post to combat persistent vehicle quality problems. Volkswagen said it is adding U.S. staff to work on quality issues and improve communications between Volkswagen's factories and the U.S. retail network.