An industrial engineer by training, Woebcken says he has a personal affinity for the U.S. after spending his senior year in high school as an exchange student in Rochester, N.Y. His family has moved to a home in suburban Washington from Germany.
"We have a short- and midterm view, and as we speak we are working on a strategy for where the brand wants to be in 2025," Woebcken told reporters last week at VW's engineering and planning center here. "We are pretty much done."
He declined to discuss the plan in detail before its scheduled release this fall, but said VW would pivot near term to SUVs and all-wheel-drive offerings before an electric vehicle push to begin in 2020, which will include North American production of EVs, he said.
In general, he said VW would field vehicles in large mainstream segments with prices and content to compete for volume with larger mainstream brands. At the same time, its lineup will be complemented by high-performance and more European-style vehicles where it can seek more premium pricing, Woebcken said.
Near term, VW hopes to make a splash in key mainstream crossover segments with two models launching next year: the midsize crossover built at VW's plant here and the long-wheelbase Tiguan compact cross-over, made in Mexico.
Those models, along with the Golf Alltrack, a more rugged Golf wagon with awd arriving stateside this fall, will give VW a short-term boost to aid its recovery from the scandal. A redesigned Jetta compact sedan will then arrive in 2018, he said.
"We will gain market share out of this," Woebcken said.
While he declined to discuss sales goals, Woebcken made clear that growth in the U.S. is essential for VW. Through June, its U.S. market share stood at 1.7 percent, down from 2 percent last year.
"We want to build the brand story to a level that this brand is not seen as a niche player anymore," Woebcken said. "It's not a matter of surviving, it's a matter of being relevant."