Volkswagen World’s Biggest Carmaker


In October 2010 I wrote the following.

….when it comes to automobiles I love German engineering and the styling of Volkswagens. In the past decade I have owned only VW’s, and swear I am never driving domestic again. There just is no comparison with comfort, under the hood precision, lack of problems once purchased, or price for the whole package.

I commented that…

With news that VW has a business plan in place to take over as the world’s largest auto maker comes a concern from guys like me who like to be just a little unique in everything, including the cars we own.

“A lot of people worry that we are going to start making VWs for the masses,” says Mark Barnes, VW’s U.S. chief operating officer. “I like to say we’re going to bring the masses to VW.”

Time will tell.

Now comes news that VW is indeed conquering the world.  My concern however still lingers—is VW making cars that look like all the other vehicles on the road?  The new Beetle, for instance, is not anything more than an ordinary looking sedan-type car.  The new model lost all the charm of the iconic Beetle that many loved around the globe.

When Ferdinand Piëch arrived as Volkswagen’s chief executive in 1993, things looked dire. The carmaker was overspending, overmanned and inefficient, and had lost its reputation for quality. How things have changed: last year the VW group’s profits more than doubled, to a record €18.9 billion ($23.8 billion). As other European volume carmakers seek to close factories and cut jobs, VW is seizing market share in Europe, booming in China and staging a comeback in America. It plans to spend €76 billion on new models and new factories by 2016. Its global workforce is more than half a million, and growing.

Mr Piëch’s plan was for VW to become the world’s biggest carmaker by volume by 2018. Last year, however, as Toyota struggled with the aftermath of Japan’s tsunami and GM floundered in Europe, VW reached its goal seven years early (see chart), if you do not count Subaru, Toyota’s distant affiliate, or GM’s Wuling joint venture in China, which mainly makes Chinese-branded cars.

The 8.5m vehicles VW made last year cover all corners: Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT in the mass market; Audi in premium cars; Porsche, Bugatti and Lamborghini in sports cars; Bentley at the luxury end; plus various commercial-vehicle brands. Most (SEAT excepted) are firing on all cylinders. IHS Automotive, a forecaster, expects VW easily to beat its target of 11m sales by 2018.

 

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