Consistently beating sales records month after month, Volkswagen AG is riding a virtual sales tidal wave into the new millennium.
Thanks to new products and improved quality, VW is enjoying stellar U.S. results. During the first eight months of the year, the automaker's sales jumped 38.5% to 211,629 units.
Even VW seems surprised by its U.S. performance. When the company launched the New Beetle in January 1998, executives said VW would grow 20% to 30% a year until 2000. Last year's sales rocketed a staggering 60.1% over 1997 and swift sales are expected into the new century.
Feisty Ferdinand Piech, VW's chairman, has turned around the company and brought to market a strong vehicle lineup that has been completely redesigned in just the past two years. Although all but unchanged for 2000, VW should continue to see strong sales from its young-in-age and young-at-heart line of cars.
The company's New Beetle still turns heads. The newly redesigned Jetta and Golf are affordable, yet perceived as strong German performers. The Passat sedan and wagon continue to hold their own among the market's few truly stylish family cars.
But VW is looking to new U.S. segments to increase sales. It will enter the booming sport/utility vehicle market around 2002 with its Colorado SUV. Late to jump on the "bigger is better" bandwagon, VW should gain some repute for developing the vehicle with high-status Porsche AG.
Further accommodating to U.S. tastes, the company also is looking at building a pickup truck based on the SUV.
VW also will go head-to-head with rival Mercedes-Benz and with VW Group family member Audi AG with a new large car. The vehicle, dubbed the Passat Plus and Passat S in the press, is set to debut in 2001 with a 450-hp W-12 engine. If VW proves to have the credentials to play in the premium segments, there could be huge growth into the next century.