The introduction of the new Jetta will be followed by a new mid-size sedan designed to rival the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord in price, sales volume, and performance. The next-generation Beetle will follow the new mid-size sedan.
Browning, 51, was initially hired by VW to improve coordination of the automaker's international sales companies. He was previously vice president of global sales, service and marketing at GM. His appointment ends a 2 1/2 month leadership vacuum and coincides with the final phase of the introduction of a new Jetta compact, VW's best-selling American model. VW is also preparing to open a factory in Tennessee to build the new mid-size sedan -- its first car built exclusively for the U.S. market.
Volkswagen, once America's top-selling import brand, is heading for an eighth annual loss in the United States. Reviving U.S. revenue and profits is essential to CEO Martin Winterkorn's goal of surpassing Toyota Motor Corp. in size and profitability by 2018. He also wants to almost triple VW's share of the U.S. market to 6 percent by 2018 and boost deliveries to 1 million, including the Audi luxury unit.
Browning reiterated today that VW hopes to be profitable in the United States by 2013.
U.S. is key
“The U.S. is one of the key aspects of Volkswagen's strategy going forward,” said Mike Tyndall, a London-based automotive specialist at Nomura Securities. “It's a market that's been underperforming and that they need to crack.”
Browning said dealers will play a strategic, integral role in helping VW meet the sales and profit targets. He cited as an example Volkswagen's desire to get dealers to improve their used-car business.
"They're fully aware of it," Browning said. "They're fully on board."
"Volkswagen will play an even stronger role in the important U.S. market going forward," VW's sales chief Christian Klingler said before introducing Browning. "We used to be too cautious here in the United States. We are going on the offense."
Klingler added that Browning "is an acknowledged expert on this market, its customers and its sales structures."
The U.S. "will always be one of the largest and most important markets for automobiles," Klingler said. "Volkswagen and Audi will become leading brands in the USA ... It's not a dream. It's a plan."
Browning, an Englishman, is a former chairman of GM's U.K.-based Vauxhall division and was the chief of Jaguar under Ford Motor Co. He worked for GM from 1981 to 1997 and returned in 2001 after his stint at Ford.
He resigned as head of GM's global sales, service and marketing in the summer of 2009 and left the company in October “to pursue other interests," GM said at the time.
VW unexpectedly named Mark Barnes and Michael Lohscheller on June 24 to run the U.S. operations on an interim basis, saying at the time it was holding contract talks with Jacoby. Jacoby, a VW veteran of 25 years, last month took the helm at Volvo, the Swedish automaker that's now owned by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.
Next month, VW will start selling a new Jetta, VW's first model altered specifically for the U.S. market. In the first eight months, VW boosted U.S. deliveries by 21 percent to 172,747. Jetta sales increased 7 percent to 76,338 cars, accounting for 44 percent of the total. Other models that posted gains included the Tiguan, Passat CC and Rabbit.
Browning will also have to capitalize on the $1 billion plant Tennessee plant scheduled to begin production in the third quarter of 2011, and lift sales by designing more models for the United States.
By 2013, VW wants 85 percent of vehicles sold in the United States to be produced in Chattanooga and in an existing factory in Puebla, Mexico, where the carmaker plans to invest as much as $1 billion over three years.
Bloomberg contributed to this report.>