Volkswagen May Aim A Little Lower With Aggressive U.S. Sales Targets

I've heard more than one American Volkswagen employee grumble that the company's way of setting sales targets is taking existing figures and adding zeros to them. VW execs have said they want to sell 800,000 vehicles in the U.S. by 2018, but now they may be dialing back those ambitious goals a bit.

The Detroit Bureau reports new VW USA boss Michael Horn has conceded that the company aimed a little too high with the sales targets first defined in 2008. While Horn thinks 800,000 annual U.S. sales is do-able, he said he recognizes that will be hard to do by 2018.

"For now, we have to have realistic targets," Horn said, during an interview in San Francisco coinciding with VW's launch of the all-new, seventh-generation Golf hatchback. And hitting the sales target by 2018, he acknowledged, "is a challenge."

That said, Horn stressed, "the vision is right… long-term. But timing is the huge challenge."

Horn said he's not ready to make a formal statement revising the sales plan quite yet, though.

The problem with Volkswagen's current U.S. lineup is that it's missing a few critical components for volume sales. The all-new 2015 Golf is going to be great, sure, and they've tweaked the Jetta so it's better than when it launched, but they lack compact and midsize SUVs that are sized and priced right for American needs. The pricey and too-small Tiguan and Touareg really don't fit the bill.

That's why the planned seven-seat (and possibly American-built) Volkswagen CrossBlue is such a huge deal for the company. This SUV will be critical to U.S. sales, and if it is built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that plant could be significantly expanded to build another SUV possibly built on a stretched version of the Tiguan.

But while everyone knows Volkswagen has kind of been in the weeds in the U.S. since the demise of the original Beetle, The Detroit Bureau suggests there may be another more recent reason for this: we're old news compared to the Chinese market.

"China took precedent," said one insider, noting that cash originally targeted at the U.S. was diverted – effectively. VW last year nudged past archrival General Motors to become the largest automaker in China. And that could pay off on a broader scale. VW also passed GM in global sales and is now chasing close behind Toyota, which it hopes to leapfrog before decade's end.

But hey, the U.S. is hugely important market. Can they build the cars Americans really want?

Hat tip to TTAC!