Volkswagen's long-term dream is to return to its glory days from 50 years ago, when the German mass-market brand sold more than half a million vehicles in the U.S. and commanded a share as high as 5.8 percent.
But on the way to that lofty goal, a few hurdles remain — including one that the brand is on pace to clear this year.
Volkswagen's U.S. sales were up 6.1 percent through July, to 215,796, while the industry as a whole is down an estimated 1.6 percent, according to reported results and estimates compiled by the Automotive News Data Center.
If its sales trend continues, including August results due this week, Volkswagen will be on track to top its U.S. sales for 2014 — the year before its costly diesel emissions scandal, when it sold 366,970 vehicles in the U.S. In 2018, Volkswagen's U.S. sales totaled 354,064 vehicles.
Also helping dealers is the growth of Volkswagen's Certified Pre-Owned program, up 16 percent through July to 64,000 vehicles, after experiencing a 26 percent increase in 2018. The automaker's program was rebranded in April 2018 after years as Volkswagen WorldAuto Certified.
Despite its recent success, Volkswagen of America unexpectedly parted ways last month with Derrick Hatami, its executive vice president of sales and marketing, as well as Jim Zabel, the brand's senior vice president for marketing. Both departures were announced in a press release about the hiring of former Kia and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executive Saad Chehab as Volkswagen's senior vice president of marketing. Hatami had been hired from Hyundai in 2017 by former Volkswagen of America CEO Heinrich Woebcken, and was in place when Woebcken was replaced last fall by Audi of America President Scott Keogh. Zabel had followed Hatami to Volkswagen from Hyundai.