SAN FRANCISCO â Keen to avoid missteps,of America is marching deliberately toward its 2018 U.S volume goal of 800,000 sales.
âThere wonât be a massive change,â President and CEO Jonathan Browning says of 2011 plans for VWAâs 582-store U.S. dealer network.
It will grow to about 600 sales points by yearâs end, he tells journalists at the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention here.
Post-2014, expect ânormal evolution,â Browning says following the VW franchise meeting. âWe have to build the capacity, build the performance in to drive the growth.â
Based on Wardâs data, VWA dealers averaged 441 new-vehicle deliveries in 2010. That number will have to approach 500 if the auto maker hopes to achieve Browningâs previously stated 2011 target of 300,000 sales.
Dealers are bullish. Shannon Harper, business manager of Harperin Knoxville, TN, says the 500 mark is doable.
âEveryone has high aspirations for the brand,â he says following a franchise meeting described by many as cordial and upbeat.
But expansion beyond 600 stores seems inevitable. Delivering 800,000 new vehicles would call for a per-store average of more than 1,300. When the U.S. market hit its peak in 2000, the industry-wide per-store average was in the 700-unit range, according todata.
Browning says VWA dealers are demonstrating commitment to the brand with a âsignificantâ amount of investment. More than 20 sites were upgraded last year.
âWeâve got a lot of refurbishment going on right now,â he adds.
In June, VWA expects to show dealers âpreviewâ models of the all-new Passat midsize car. Pre-production units will roll off the line before the second quarter at the auto makerâs new plant in Chattanooga, TN.
Retail-market production is slated for summer, leading to showroom deliveries in early September.
As with VWAâs dealer strategy, âItâs a very measured, steady ramp-up of activity,â Browning says.
âWeâre taking a step at a time,â he says. âWhen you consider we are still ramping up our Jetta activity, and then Passat, this is a new level of activity for VW in the U.S. market, in terms of the recent past.â