NEW ORLEANS -- With a lineup richer in crossovers on the horizon and a costly and distracting diesel scandal behind them, Volkswagen dealers are back to focusing on their core business after their make meeting at the NADA convention.
A settlement between VW and its U.S. dealers to cover retailers' losses resulting from the diesel scandal has eased tensions between dealers and the automaker.
"Both the dealer body and the brand are now pulling together with one rope," said Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, after the meeting.
The atmosphere was far different from last year's convention in Las Vegas, when VW dealers found themselves besieged by the automaker's diesel scandal and feeling ignored by Germany as the automaker's management dealt with the scandal.
Michael DiFeo, dealer principal at Linden Volkswagen in Roselle, N.J., and chairman of the Volkswagen National Dealer Advisory Council, said consumer buybacks are going well, with about 20 percent of consumers repurchasing a Volkswagen.
"It's been operating on a dealership level smoother than anyone could have imagined," DiFeo said.
He said the $1.21 billion settlement with dealers, which will pay U.S. dealers an average of $1.85 million each over 18 months, has dealers "very satisfied" and "focused on the new product that's coming," such as the Atlas and three-row Tiguan.
"This taught us a lot," said Alan Brown, former chairman of the VW national dealer council. Brown is general manager of two VW stores in suburban Dallas, which sell between 40 and 70 new vehicles a month, but were built for much larger volumes.
"We're less than a year in, and we've satisfied the dealer network, we're satisfying customers, we're satisfying" environmental regulators, Brown said. The distractions are out of the way and dealers can focus on rolling out VW's expanded lineup of crossovers, he said.
"We didn't want to be juggling all this and be trying to make a splash in the marketplace with these products that we've needed for so long," Brown said. "The timing of this is a tremendous blessing."