HERNDON, Va. -- With a full-year of sales of the new Jetta and a new mid-size sedan coming later this year, Volkswagen expects its U.S. sales to increase to 300,000 units and Audi sales to rise above 100,000 vehicles, Jonathan Browning, CEO of the Volkswagen Group of America, said today.
Last year, VW sold 256,830 vehicles in the United States, up 20 percent from a year earlier. Audi sold 101,629 units, up 23 percent.
In a briefing with international journalists at VW's U.S. headquarters here, Browning forecast U.S. industry sales would increase to 13.1 million units in 2011, up from 11.6 million last year.
The rebound in sales, he said, will be triggered by slow economic growth, and an ongoing shift “to more efficient technologies and generally a trend toward downsizing triggered by fuel prices,” said Browning.
By 2018, VW expects the U.S. market to grow to 15.1 million vehicles and its VW brand sales to rise to 800,000, and Audi to increase to 200,000.
VW is expected to release information on the new mid-size sedan being built at its new factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., this evening. The car won't be unveiled until Monday at the Detroit auto show.
The new sedan – aimed at the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord - will be a crucial element in VW's growth plans, said Browning. In addition to being designed and engineered to appeal to a broader group of Americans, the new sedan is expected to be competitively priced.
VW also thinks it can squeeze more sales out of its Tiguan compact SUV. “We are still scratching the surface,” Browning said.
Last year, VW sold 20,946 Tiguans, up 51 percent from a year earlier.
Browning said VW is still studying whether to add an SUV larger than the Touareg to reach more American customers.
“A larger SUV with three rows of seats above the Touareg could be a promising addition to the brand's U.S. lineup to attract a broader range of customers,” he said.
Volkswagen does not offer a light truck with seating for seven, though the Audi Q7 has seven passenger seats.
Browning said VW will not build or import a light truck for the United States. It has been rumored that VW would add SUV production at the new plant near Chattanooga, where annual capacity could be expanded to as much as 500,000 units, said Frank Fischer, director of the Tennessee plant.
A large sedan is also a possibility for the future, Browning said.
“We have to make sure we deliver competitive pricing with content designd for the U.S. marketplace,” he said.