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VW's new U.S. chief sees Jetta, used-car sales as priorities

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VW's new U.S. chief sees Jetta, used-car sales as priorities

September 15, 2010 06:01 CET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Strengthening dealer networks, successfully launching a redesigned Jetta, and boosting used-car sales are top priorities for Volkswagen America Inc. under Jonathan Browning, the unit's new chief executive.

Browning, a former European sales and marketing executive for General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co., was introduced on Monday by Volkswagen AG executives. He succeeds Stefan Jacoby, who now heads Volvo for China's Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd, a unit of Zhejiang Geely.

Although he built his career in Europe, Browning, an Englishman, noted at the start of his remarks that he felt at home in the United States following years of work for GM and Ford. He earned a graduate business degree from Duke University.

Under Browning, Volkswagen will continue its ambitious multibillion-dollar expansion in North America where it hopes to more than triple sales by 2018 to 800,000 vehicles. Including its Audi unit, Volkswagen hopes to push the total beyond 1 million.

Robust U.S. sales of nearly 240,000 vehicles have helped Volkswagen AG post double-digit global growth of deliveries through August.

"I'm looking to make sure we're executing the plan we've all signed up for in terms of driving growth over the longer term," Browning told reporters after a news conference announcing his appointment. "This is about sustained growth. It's not about one month or one quarter. It's about building the business."

Browning's goal is to further boost U.S. sales, which peaked at nearly 600,000 vehicles in 1970, and reverse a string of annual losses at the Americas unit.

The company is banking on a strong launch of the 2011 Jetta, which features more leg room and a lower price.

Part of Volkswagen's strategy is to make more cars in the United States and strengthen its dealer network. The automaker plans to produce a yet-to-be-named, mid-sized sedan for the U.S. market at its new plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 2011. Volkswagen has invested $1 billion in the facility.

Browning: An Englishman who feels at home in the U.S.

Browning, 51, also said the company was well positioned to address the expected shift toward more passenger car production by resurgent U.S. rivals.

"We have a history of a strong organization in the car sector -- small to large. We have a well-developed global engineering, supply chain process. The VW group is well prepared for any shift," Browning said.

Volkswagen America is also going to push its network of 800 dealers heavier on balancing new and used business.

"If we're going to drive the sort of volumes that we're looking for, we have to have a better capability across the network in total in terms of generating pre-owned business," Browning said.

"They're (dealers) are fully aware of it. They're fully on board," he said.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100915/ANE/309139802/1131#ixzz0zbWiGCKi

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