Volkswagen Group of America is the US sales arm of Volkswagen AG (VW), Europe's largest automaker. The company sells Volkswagen and AUDI cars through about 800 dealerships in the US. Volkswagen Group of America also handles other VW brands, including Bentley, Bugatti, and Lamborghini, in North America. In addition, it offers leasing and financing through its subsidiary VW Credit (VCI). Volkswagen of America operates research and development facilities in Arizona, California, and New Jersey. Volkswagen founded the division in the US in 1955.
Volkswagen AG recognizes that its US operations are crucial to its global goals. Though the entire industry was negatively impacted by the Great Recession, the US and European markets sustained a particular economic insult. Volkswagen of America's parent company ponied up $4 billion for investment in its US operations. Of that amount, $1 billion is going to the construction of a new manufacturing plant in Tennessee, scheduled for opening in 2011. The facility will produce a mid-size sedan designed specifically for the North American market to compete with the Chevrolet Malibu and Honda Accord. VW AG also gave thumbs up for its American branch to move its headquarters from Michigan to northern Virginia in 2008 to be closer to key markets and customers. That same year, Bentley's North American headquarters were relocated to Boston for the same reason.
The new factory in Tennessee will help the company achieve its production goals. While VW car sales in the US totaled a little more than 213,000 vehicles in 2009, the company is intent upon making VW a leading brand in the country, and is looking to double that number by 2012. Its ultimate goal is to reach one million car sales (VW and Audi) by 2018.
With its share of the US market waning, VW has decided to court American drivers with a host of new models. VW has introduced four new vehicles for the US market: a convertible (EOS), a small SUV (Tiguan), a minivan (Routan), and a large luxury coupe (CC). The Routan is built through a partnership with Chrysler and shares a platform with the next-generation Dodge and Chrysler minivans.
Matching engineering with styling, Volkswagen Group of America's research and development facilities are focused on developing technologies for synthetic fuels, natural gas, hybrid, and electric vehicles, as well as safety features including lane change assist, blind spot protection, adaptive headlights, and adaptive cruise control. The company has post-production and parts distribution facilities across the US.
In mid-2010 CEO Stefan Jacoby left VW Group of America to run Volvo Cars. EVP and CFO Michael Lohscheller served as interim CEO until Jonathan Browning was named president and CEO in October. A newcomer to Volkswagen, Browning previously served as VP of global sales, service, and marketing at General Motors.