WASHINGTON -- Volkswagen of America has something few in the industry can claim: a hot-selling compact car.
Combined sales of the Golf's variants are up more than 150 percent to 44,516 this year through August. That's the highest U.S. total ever for the nameplate. Meanwhile, overall compact-car sales were up just 1.1 percent through August, aided by significant fleet sales.
Golf sales are a fraction of what competitors from Honda and Toyota sold in the same period, and the Euro-tuned hatchback is unlikely to become a high-volume nameplate for Volks-wagen in the long term.
Yet after receiving North American Car of the Year honors in January, the Golf is having an outsize effect on VW's performance in the U.S., and its success is a function of changes in manufacturing and product planning that could ultimately strengthen the rest of the brand's lineup.
The Golf line singlehandedly carried VW to three straight months of sales gains from May to July, while offsetting declines in the rest of VW's sedan-heavy U.S. lineup, which offers little to crossover-crazed consumers.
The sheer variety of Golf models -- it comes in wagon, gasoline, electric, diesel and two high-performance variants -- has attracted a wide range of buyers and healthy profits for Kurt Steger, general manager of Volkswagen of Freehold in New Jersey.
Steger said hot-hatch GTI and fuel-sipping TDI shoppers "are completely different buyers" who have added incremental volume to his store, which sells about 60 new cars per month.
The breadth of choices is made possible by VW Group's MQB platform architecture, which will be applied to most of VW's lineup by the end of the decade. The platform allows VW to build diesel, gasoline, electric or plug-in hybrid variants on the same production line, lowering the costs of selling a wide-ranging lineup. Another variant, the Golf SportWagen Alltrack, which has all-wheel drive and more off-road characteristics, arrives next year.