Special Coverage

Greater L.A. Auto Show

LOS ANGELES – Volkswagen Group of America Inc. CEO Jonathan Browning is going to bat for the auto maker’s dealers and customers, as promised.

One quarter of the VW-brand vehicles sold last month in the U.S. were equipped with the brand’s trademark TDI diesel engines, Browning tells Ward’s here on the sidelines of the L.A. Auto Show.

But dealers say they could have sold more if they had the product to sell.

“Globally, we’ve been short,” he says. “We’ve been trying to improve the supply. That’s what we’re working on.”

When Browning took the reins of VWA in September, he vowed to advocate for the U.S. market in his dealings with Germany-based parent, Volkswagen AG.

“It’s encouraging to see the U.S. market continue to progressively accept diesels as part of the mainstream market,” he adds, appearing confident his lobbying efforts will pay off in 2011.

“We’re expecting (VWA sales) to grow ahead of the industry,” Browning says, declining to reveal precise targets.

American consumers bought 22,530 VW cars and 5,682 light trucks last month for sales increases of 14.9% and 44.9%, respectively, compared with like-2009.

VWA uses the L.A. show to unveil its all-new C-segment VW Eos hardtop convertible. Scheduled to reach showrooms next spring, it features new sheet metal, new color options and new features such as keyless entry and start.

Eos volumes are low, but the car remains a key part of a “product offensive” VWA is rolling out to achieve full-year U.S.-market sales of 800,000 units by 2018, Browning says.

“The Eos is a nice piece to that overall mixture of the more rational products and the more emotional products,” he adds.

Through October, VWA has sold 6,080 units of the car – the only hardtop convertible in the market with a sunroof – compared with 6,388 in like-2009, for a 4.8% drop, according to Ward’s.