LOS ANGELES –remains focused on improving quality after a number of setbacks this year in the fickle U.S. market, a top executive says.
VW Group of America President and CEO Jonathan Browning tells WardsAuto that the auto maker is more or less on target for 800,000 U.S. deliveries by 2018. But VW’s success in the U.S. isn’t based on numbers alone.
“We’re not just focused on volume growth; we’re focusing on growing in a sustained way,” he says on the sidelines of the Los Angeles auto show. “That means making sure we have the right quality and the right customer satisfaction in the market as well.”
The German auto maker was stung when it placed 31st out of 34 brands measured for initial quality in a recent J.D. Power and Associates survey released in June. It also has been besieged with numerous warranty claims and negative customer-satisfaction reports, both of which have receded lately.
“The warranty data shows a positive number in the U.S. in reducing the number of claims, and we’re also seeing customer satisfaction increasing, so that’s a very important combination,” Browning says.
The Jetta and Passat remain VW’s flagships in the U.S. Both were redesigned for this market with less of a European feel, though some critics mocked cosmetic changes such as larger cupholders for Americans.
“I think that’s old history, to be honest. What people understood is that we’re offering a broader array of products now in the U.S. market,” he says, noting the range of powertrains and trims for the two models.
“This growth plan is all about making us more accessible to the broader market and bringing in new customers as well.”
Browning welcomes the growth of diesel-powered vehicles in the U.S. market, a niche in which VW has been prominent for years. Chevrolet Cruze and Jeep Grand Cherokee oil-burners arrive in 2013.
“I think we’ll continue to see diesel expand,” he says. “It’s important with the likes of Chevrolet bringing a Cruze with diesel to the market. It’ll bring more customers considering diesel, and it’s a very important part of our growth and our planning.
“If you look at the diesel share of the market in total, we have a very substantial piece of that. As more people expand their offerings of diesel, we’ll see the total market share of diesel grow. I welcome that.”