Volkswagen drives toward sales goals

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While most of the auto industry struggled last year, Herndon-based Volkswagen Group of America Inc.  (VWGofA)  quietly increased its market share by nearly 21 percent.

Its brands, which include Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini, now account for nearly 2.9 percent of all U.S. auto sales, up from 2.4 percent in 2008.  “We’ve just really been very aggressive in our goals and we have products that really are appealing to American consumers right now,” says company spokeswoman Sheriece Matias.

Founded in 1955, VWGofA is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, the largest automaker in Europe and the third largest in the world, behind Toyota and General Motors. 

VWGofA moved its headquarters from Michigan to Virginia in September 2008. It has 2,500 employees, including nearly 400 at its Herndon office, and an 800-dealer network. The company is building a $1 billion, 265,000-square-foot factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., Volkswagen’s first new American production facility in 20 years. Production is scheduled to begin in 2011.

Some of the company’s sales momentum is the result of its decision to strongly market its TDI clean-diesel technology. This coincided with a growing recognition among American consumers of the benefits of diesel-fueled vehicles, says Matias. Volkswagen and Audi officials boast that their cars can stretch fuel budgets without compromising performance or safety.

“Our cars kind of match the way most Americans drive, in that they provide extremely high fuel efficiency on the highway and competitive fuel efficiency in the city, and they’re built extremely well,” says Matias. Four of the Volkswagen models, for example, recently received Top Safety Pick awards for 2010, the highest ratings possible from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Volkswagen of America, a division of VWGofA, sold more than 213,000 cars last year, including more than 108,000 Jetta models. Another division, Audi of America, sold more than 82,000 cars last year and raised its share of the luxury car market from 7.1 percent in 2008 to 8.6 percent in 2009. In January, sales for both units continued to rise, with Volkswagen of America up 41.4 percent and Audi up nearly 38 percent from the same month last year.

VWGofA has set a goal to sell 1 million Volkswagens and Audis by 2018.

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