German carmaker Volkswagen found over 8 million buyers for its vehicles worldwide in 2011. Managers attending the Detroit auto show said the company aims to become the world's top seller by 2018.
Europe's biggest carmaker, Volkswagen (VW), sold 8.156 million vehicles worldwide in 2011, breaching the 8-million mark for the first time in the company's history. The sales included vehicles bearing the Volkswagen badge as well as models from the group's Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti, and Lamborghini brands.
VW's 14-percent increase over 2010 sales allowed it to overtake the champion of the previous three years, Toyota. The Japanese manufacturer sold 7.9 million cars last year despite production setbacks linked to the Sendai earthquake and tsunami.
US rival General Motors has not yet reported its annual sales, but analysts expect the Detroit-based giant sold some 9 million vehicles based on projections from the first three quarters.
Volkswagen managers attending the Detroit auto show said the company's 2011 performance could be attributed improved marketing and service combined with markedly higher demand for cars in China, Germany and the United States.
VW chairman Martin Winterkorn said he did not expect a recession this year to dampen sales: "Even if the prospects for Europe are not bright, we continue to build on the growth of North America and China."
VW Passat driving in front of Chattanooga plant in the USVW wants to increase its presence on US streets The Wolfsburg-based company said another big sales offensive for North America is already in the pipeline. VW sold 324,402 vehicles in the US in 2011, a 26.3-percent increase over the preceding year. Its managers want the number of cars rolling through its North American showrooms annually to reach 1 million by 2018 at the latest.
Seeing is believing
The product strategy and marketing chief for Volkswagen of America, Rainer Michel, said the company needed to double its US market share.
"Our aim should be being visible on the street, so every five or six cars out of 100 on the road [in the US] should eventually be a Volkswagen," Michel said.
Volkswagen's ongoing sales offensive in the US will rely heavily on the carmaker's new plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which opened in May 2011. The facility is capable of churning out 150,000 Passat cars a year. The $1 billion (787,340 euros) investment is meant to make it easier for VW to keep in touch with local market trends and avoid exchange rate fluctuations.
Other new production facilities have recently been opened in India and China. According to VW managers, they all serve one big objective: to sell at least 10 million units annually in six years' time and make Volkswagen the world's undisputed number-one carmaker in the process.