Jonathan Browning promises to be an advocate for American consumers in the board rooms and design studios of Germany-basedAG.
The former Vauxhall Motors Ltd. chairman and global managing director of Jaguar Cars was named today to succeed Stefan Jacoby as president and CEO ofGroup of America Inc.
Browning, whose appointment takes effect Oct. 1, tells a news conference in Washington, he will “ensure the voice of the U.S. market is heard loud and clear” in VW’s Wolfsburg headquarters.
But will VW’s message be heard by American consumers, who have expressed disappointment with the pricey core brand’s quality?
Browning and Christian Klingler, Volkswagen AG management board member responsible for sales, are confident. Quality will not be an obstacle, they say.
“Our goal is very simple,” Klingler adds. “We want to set VW and Audi among the leading brands in this country. It’s not a dream. It’s a fact.”
The U.S., Browning says, is “essential” to the auto maker’s ambition of becoming the global industry’s dominant player.
By 2018, VW wants its core brand and its luxury marque to command annual U.S. sales of 800,000 and 200,000, respectively.
The auto maker has momentum. Through August, Volkswagen-brand deliveries were tracking 21.3% ahead of like-2009, while Audi showed a 25.1% gain, according to Ward’s data.
The U.S. light-vehicle market was up just 8.4% for the period.
Volkswagen and Audi brands also have enjoyed escalating share since 2004. Through August, they held a combined stake of 3.1%, their largest total since 1981.
Klingler says he expects VW’s closer ties with perennial quality leader Porsche AG will lend the necessary tools to mend the reputation of its core brand in the U.S.
Related document: Ward's U.S. Volkswagen Sales and Market Share
While scoring well for image – the ’10 GTI hatchback and Routan minivan topped their respective segments in a J.D. Power and Associates appeal study – VW was listed 31st of 33 brands ranked by Power for initial quality. Audi placed 12th, just under the industry average.
“I’m looking for us to deliver sustained improvement in the perception of customers of the Volkswagen Group brands,” says Browning, who joined VW in June after leadingCo.’s Vauxhall brand and holding a senior position at Jaguar Cars.
VW’s current product plan is well-suited to establish the auto maker as “an essential part of the automotive landscape here in the U.S,” he adds.
An all-new midsize car and a planned next-generation Beetle, both due next year, combine with the redesigned-for-’11 Jetta to spearhead VW’s market push, Browning says, noting also the auto maker’s expanding U.S. manufacturing footprint.
The midsize car, referred to only as the “NMS,” will be assembled at a new plant in Chattanooga, TN.
All three cars were designed with American consumers in mind, Browning says. The U.S. market is a “very high priority” within Volkswagen Group and “the engineers understand that.”
The U.S. market will be “by far, the largest global market for the next-generation Beetle.” VW also has a research facility in Palo Alto, CA. The site will be a “key focus” for advanced technology development, he adds.
Browning replaces Stefan Jacoby, who last month became CEO of Volvo Car Corp.