It wasn’t that long ago that Volkswagen basically gave up on making money in the U.S., for the short-term. But that was before the Taos, a retrograde sort of machine that was inevitably thus very popular with American car buyers. On Friday, VW said it had its best American sales year for nearly a decade.
Well, best since 2013 to be precise. Over three-quarters of fourth-quarter sales were VW SUVs, including the Taos, but also the Atlas, Tiguan and Atlas Cross Sport. Delightfully, sales for the Arteon, which is an outstanding car, were up 53 percent year-over-year, the biggest jump of any VW. Sales of the Golf, Jetta, GTI, and Golf R, on the other hand, all nosedived. (Update, 5:01 p.m.: VW emailed to note that GTI and Golf R sales were down because the company “barely had any to sell, since GTI was a run out model and R production ceased after the 2019 MY. But we do have Mark 8s getting into the showrooms, as you can see from December’s sales numbers.” Also: VW Group of America CEO Scott Keogh said that crossover production was prioritized this past year over Jetta production because of the chip shortage, which helps explain Jetta’s numbers. My apologies for not including this context before. As you were.)
VW is also very excited about ID.4 sales, which totaled 16,742 for the year, which is not zero but is still a drop in the bucket. Via Automotive News, VW claims it “could have sold four times that amount” and that Keogh said, “What VW dealers are saying is that this is the most excitement they’ve had on the shop floor since 1998, when we brought the Beetle back,” which actually is saying something, given how much of a A Thing the new Beetle was back then. (Here, for example, is no less than Steve Jobs talking about it.)
Two other nuggets, via Auto News:
• The company had granted its more than 4,000 employees in Chattanooga a 10 percent wage increase this year. “In light of all the issues in employment, it’s absolutely the right thing to do,” VW Group of America CEO Scott Keogh said. “You want a satisfied workforce that’s ambitious and motivated to work in the plant. This is a competitive labor environment everywhere across America, full stop. All industries know this, so you have to compete.” The UAW tried unsuccessfully twice to organize the workforce at VW’s plant in Chattanooga.
• VW will continue to import ID4s into the U.S. from Europe as it ramps up local production of the BEV compact crossover in Chattanooga this year, with locally produced versions beginning to appear in dealerships in the second half of the year, Keogh said. As expected, VW will offer a lower-priced version of the crossover with a smaller battery pack later this year that will start “in the $35,000 range,” but otherwise expects to hold pricing in the current environment, he said.
Volkswagen is still eligible for the full $7,500 EV tax credit, so an EV in the $35,000 range minus the tax credit almost qualifies as cheap in a world of $50,000 cars. My optimism for Volkswagen in the U.S. is suddenly very high.