Vinay Shahani got his first taste of Volkswagen as a boy. He became enamored with a silver, early 1980s-vintage Scirocco with a black interior owned by a neighbor.
He is unsure of the car's model year, but Shahani says the sporty coupe made a big impression.
"I remember the stance of that car and thinking, 'Wow, it's nothing like any of the domestics are building,'" he said. "From that point on, I really held Volkswagen in high esteem."
Today, Shahani is Volkswagen of America's vice president of marketing and is launching a family of Golfs that eventually will include at least six variants. Last year, Shahani scored big with ads for the redesigned Golf GTI that ran during World Cup soccer tournament broadcasts. The male-dominated audience was a perfect fit for the hot hatchback, he says.
In the first quarter, sales of the Golf and its derivatives in the U.S. were up 139 percent.
Shahani also is laying the groundwork for critical launches, including a new midsize crossover in 2017.
Since joining VW in November 2013, he has given dealers a bigger role in crafting sales events and local marketing areas added authority to promote hot-selling vehicles. At headquarters, Shahani has installed a process that allows the marketing and product planning teams to work together earlier to plan vehicle launches.
"There are a lot of things we're putting in place so that when we do have these products, we have the marketing infrastructure to really capitalize on them," he said.
The son of a Ford engineer, Shahani earned a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Michigan, interning at Ford during summers. After a four-year stint in management consulting, he received an MBA from Stanford University. He joined Nissan in 2004 and held a variety of posts until VW came calling.
"Volkswagen is such a likable brand," he says. "We have a huge enthusiast following. You want to keep these people engaged with the brand because a lot of them are young men -- young men who can't even buy a car yet.
"It's about cultivating that relationship so that when it becomes time to purchase a car, we're at the top of the list."
-- Ryan Beene