You can count Jeff Williams among the believers.
Not that he doesn't have painful memories of VW's valleys. He was writing service for his dad's Volkswagen store in Lansing, Mich., in the 1980s. To this day, he can recite parts numbers (113857 and 561G and ...) for those window cranks that would routinely come off in owners' hands.
He recalls the battles with the decision-makers in Wolfsburg over simple requests, such as cupholders in cars. Americans wanted them. The Germans wouldn't allow them. You don't drink — anything — when you drive, they would say.
"The biggest issue always has been the disconnect between the U.S. market and the German market," Williams says.
Today, Williams and his brother David are still running Williams Auto World (VW, Audi, Subaru, Hyundai). And he sees a lot of fresh promise with his oldest franchise.
The quality coming out of VW's U.S. plant, in Chattanooga, is far higher than anything built by that ill-fated factory in Westmoreland, Pa., he says. That impression was reinforced in June, when VW clawed its way into an unfamiliar top 10 ranking in J.D. Power's Initial Quality Study.
The automaker has finally fielded a solid lineup of crossovers after relying on sedans for far too long. Right now, in these inventory-strapped times, Williams is selling every Atlas crossover he can get his hands on.
As for electric cars? Their time is here, he says. Williams envisions a prototypical American garage with two vehicles: one that's suited broadly to that family's lifestyle — and an EV for sprinting around town.
And as a bonus, VW has a "tough but fair" U.S. leader in Scott Keogh, who took over nearly two years ago.
In an interview with Automotive News' "Daily Drive" podcast this month, Keogh didn't mince words in talking about the challenges of the past five years.
He seemed grateful just to be in business. He described his company as more humble, less hierarchical and far more transparent than the one crippled by the diesel disclosures and their $33 billion price tag.
"We're a company that wants to take advantage of being given a second chance," he said.