Call it loyalty. Call it survival of the fittest. Volkswagen of America Inc. dealers have ridden the highs and lows of the brand's popularity in the United States over its 50-year history.
From waiting lists in sales departments to customer lines in service departments to empty showrooms and back again, dealers have learned that holding a Volkswagen franchise is not for the faint of heart.
"Volkswagen dealers are much more passionate and enthusiastic about their cars than other dealers," Larry Holbert, president of Holbert's Motor Cars in Warrington, Pa., told Automotive News. Holbert's family has had a VW franchise for 50 years.
For "a lot of dealerships, it's just a business. But Volkswagen dealers accept the ups and downs because they love the product," says Holbert, who also sells Audi and Porsche.
In the 1950s and 1960s, taking on a VW dealership was a gamble. The first VW retail operations in the United States consisted largely of dealers or service shops already selling or servicing other import makes, or those who just loved the product.
But that gamble paid off quickly. Just two years after Volkswagen began its U.S. operations in 1955, Americans clamored for the Beetle.