With quality problems dragging down its image, Volkswagen of America Inc. has created the post of quality leader in North America and is beefing up its field staff to sort through problems.
At the make meeting, VW executives answered dealer questions about quality problems by saying a new U.S. staff is being assembled that will be charged with uncovering vehicle problems and correcting them at Volkswagen's factories.
The company has named Stefan Ketter to lead the effort. Ketter was in charge of quality planning at VW's operations in Brazil.
Gerd Klauss, CEO of Volkswagen of America, declined to say how large the quality staff will be, but he said it is being assembled in Auburn Hills, Mich., as well as in VW field offices.
Klauss said representatives from all of VW's factories are being asked to move to the United States to serve the U.S. sales and marketing arm.
"At first sign of a quality issue, they will be able to react quickly to determine our needs and communicate with the factory to resolve the problem," Klauss said.
Volkswagen dealers have been highly profitable in recent years as the franchise's volume had grown tenfold, and J.D. Power and Associates has ranked VW's brand image excellent.
But product quality problems persist. The franchise has ranked below the industry average in vehicle quality for the past 10 years, according to J.D. Power.
"A shorter line of communication will help us now," Klauss said.
He said it has been difficult to translate field information into factory remedies quickly, but he vowed that the new organization will change that.
Said Klauss: "We want the factory people to be here in this marketplace, to understand the market and be able to respond to the customer and the dealer when there is a problem."