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Volkswagen chases ‘top tier’ goals

Resuscitated: Volkswagen’s Jetta range has been given new life this year on the back of repositioning and a television advertising campaign.

Steady core model sales growth brings closer VW’s volume brand aspirations

Volkswagen logo13 Jul 2015

By TIM NICHOLSON

RENEWED interest in some of its core models is helping to inflate Volkswagen sales in 2015, but the company’s local boss says he is not out to overtake rival brands such as Ford in the year-end sales race.

The latest VFACTS figures released last week show that at the halfway point of 2015, there are less than 4000 units separating Mitsubishi (35,866), Ford (34,810), Nissan (32,950), and Volkswagen (32,020), all of which are in contention for a top-five placing.

Of the four brands, Volkswagen has experienced the most growth, with sales up 12.1 per cent so far this year – Mitsubishi has increased by 9.8 per cent in the same period – which is a marked difference from January to June in 2014 when about 14,000 sales separated the then fifth-placed Ford and VW.

Speaking with GoAuto at the Skoda Fabia launch in New South Wales last week, Volkswagen Group Australia managing director John White said the company’s growth strategy was not focused on outpacing any particular manufacturer.

“We don’t have any one manufacturer that is or isn’t in our sights,” he said.

“We would like to be a top tier volume brand between 2018 and 2020 in that timeframe.

“So it depends on not only what we do but what the others do. But we are not targeting Ford or anybody in particular. I don’t know what their product plans are and we don’t know what will happen from their perspective or from any other manufacturer.”

Mr White said “things look promising for the back half” of the year, indicating further growth is expected on the back of a refreshed model line-up that includes new-generation versions of the popular Caddy and Transporter light-commercial vans, as well as an all-new Passat mid-sizer.

A number of VW’s core models are performing well, notably the Golf, which has found 11,829 homes this year, a 12.4 per cent rise, making it the fourth best-selling small car in Australia, easily outpacing the locally built Holden Cruze (7974) and Ford’s run-out Focus (4087).

While the hatchback is selling strongly, Mr White said he is not happy with Golf Wagon sales, but added that forthcoming variants and fleet sales should give it a nudge.

“Golf wagon numbers I am dissatisfied with because we haven’t had enough cars,” he said. “But in the second half of the year with the Alltrack and the Golf R wagon, we have also discovered a little niche for some commercial fleet business with Golf wagon so there is a lot more upside in the Golf wagon.

“We would definitely have sold more in the first half if we had more. We probably under-called it.” But it is the four-year-old Jetta small sedan range that has finally found its mojo, lifting by 51.9 per cent to 1326 units this year.

Mr White explained the increase was a result of “three things”, including a successful television advertising push that recently launched.

“...We never talked about the car in the past. Number two, we repositioned the car twice over the past couple of years. I think we found the sweet spot,” he said.

“Number three, we changed the product content. There has been a bit of a facelift on the car, new equipment in the car so you get more for your money.

Mr White added that while the company was hoping for an improvement in Jetta sales, it did not anticipate the sales levels it has achieved.

“For me it's all three things put together that are responsible for that,” he said. “I think we still have upside, because we figured we would grow, but we didn’t think we would grow to the extent we have, so we have asked for more production in the back half and we will see what sort of opportunity we have.”

Other VW models behind the brand’s recent momentum include strong growth for the Touareg SUV, which is up by 56 per cent this year to 1346 units, while the Polo light hatch is also blossoming, up 52 per cent to 4744, putting it ahead of mainstream players such as the Holden Barina (3392), Hyundai Accent (4131) and Ford Fiesta (2545).

Light commercials are also playing their part for the brand Down Under, with solid growth from Amarok 4x4 (+21 per cent), Crafter (+22.7), Caddy Van (+21.5), and Transporter (+12.3), despite a replacement for the latter two expected within months.

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