With its diesel emissions scandal still brewing, Volkswagen is showing that it is taking steps to win back the trust of the volks, promising to double down on the US market and make things right with its customers.
At a press conference on Sunday night ahead of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Müller reaffirmed its commitment to the US market:
“To our American customers, thank you for your loyalty and support on our way forward,” said the recently minted CEO.
Before taking the reins at the Volkswagen Group, Müller was the Chairman of Porsche.
Porsche Cars North America
The statement comes amidst mounting industry analyst concern that VW’s costly Dieselgate scandal and soft sales could affect the company’s long-term strategy in North America.
The first step in Muller making good on that recommitment is the promise to roll out no fewer than 20 additional electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles globally by 2020. Currently, VW Group, which also includes the Audi and Porsche brands, offers the all-electric e-Golf,Audi A3 Sportback e-Tron and Q5 Hybrid, and the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, and Cayenne S E-Hybrid.
Though Volkswagen claims to be satisfied with its worldwide sales in 2015, executives certainly can’t be happy with the company’s fortunes in the US. That’s not only due to the diesel scandal, but also because VW has been slow to capitalize on the crossover SUV craze, leaving the brand to suffer a sales downturn in a market characterized by large sales increases last year.
Currently, the German automaker’s only SUV offerings are the elderly (and relatively expensive) Tiguanand Touareg. Most other mainstream automakers already offer many more choices for consumers. To reinvigorate itself in this hot segment, VW plans to invest more than $900 million to bring a new mid-sized SUV to market by the end of 2016, and the model will be built the company’s new Chattanooga, TN factory. VW remains mum as to what the new SUV will look like, but it’s expected to have three rows and be priced more aggressively than the luxury-oriented Touareg. In addition, VW is showing off its Tiguan GTE Active Concept at the Detroit Auto Show, a showcar that presages the second-generation production Tiguan.
Executives at VW have talked a pretty talk about “uncovering the full truth” behind Dieselgate and “making things right,” but so far, have offered little in the way of walking the walk. However, offering up new zero-emissions vehicles and filling in their SUV offerings could go a long way toward helping consumers forget all about the company’s current problems.