Volkswagen of America Inc. will leap into four new product segments by the end of 2007, part of an all-out effort to rebuild the VW brand in the United States.
Long-suffering dealers will get a convertible, a small SUV, a minivan and a big luxury coupe.
The plans were unveiled to dealers July 15 by Wolfgang Bernhard, the energetic former Chrysler group COO who now heads the global VW brand in Wolfsburg, Germany.
Bernhard brought down the house at the annual dealer meeting in Dallas, taking the wraps off three vehicles and showing pictures of a fourth.
The four models on the way are:
1. A 2+2 convertible with an electric foldaway roof that would be a halo vehicle.
2. A small SUV to compete with the Jeep Liberty and Honda CR-V.
3. A seven-seat minivan - a year after VW killed plans to build the Microbus minivan.
4. A four-door "coupe" similar to the Mercedes-Benz CLS that would be placed above the Passat sedan.
All four vehicles will be introduced by the end of 2007, says Bob Grace, chairman of the dealer council and owner of Southpoint Volkswagen in Baton Rouge, La.
"The dealer group is fired up," Grace says. Bernhard "gave us a no-nonsense view of his vision to bring us to a full-range franchise in a couple of years."
VW division's U.S. sales have been on a sharp decline, falling 15.4 percent in 2004 and down 23.5 percent during the first six months of this year. The company is in the midst of replacing or doing face-lifts on all its major vehicles.
Bernhard took over as head of the VW brand this year and has made the United States a priority. VWoA boss Len Hunt says Bernhard plans to bring exciting vehicles to North America and brought the proof to Dallas.
"Bernhard was just spectacular," Hunt says. "He was the star of the show. He was very frank with the dealers. He made a commitment to North America that was very genuinely put across."