Volkswagen- also known as the people’s car- was originally founded in 1937 under the watchful, militant eye of the Nazi regime. Over the course of their long and winding history, Volkswagen has seen their fair share of bad times. During the 80s, things were so bad for Volkswagen that they were forced to shut down a number of plants here in America because they couldn’t compete with major Japanese competitors like Honda and Toyota. At the time, consumers believed that Volkswagen cars were too pricy, mediocre, and that they sounded terrible.
However, Volkswagen has seen their share of good times too, especially as of late. Volkswagen has won 4 of the last 5 World Car of the Year awards, and their profit margins have risen steadily year by year. According to Volkswagen, this is all groundwork for the future, which has been the focus of the company for the past few years. Volkswagen CEO, Martin Winterkorn, says, “We are starting at exactly the right time. We are electrifying all vehicle classes, and therefore have everything we need to make the Volkswagen Group the top automaker in all respects, including electric mobility, by 2018.”
Currently, Volkswagen is the third most profitable auto manufacturer in the world, ranking only behind GM and Toyota. But, Volkswagen has a detailed plan to take down these historic juggernauts. The mission- which was originally launched in 2007- has been labeled Strategy 2018. The details of Strategy 2018 have been presented a number of times by the Volkswagen team and circle around a few basic philosophies that include:
- A commitment to deliveries, success, and profitability. This will help to make investors comfortable backing their line, so they can continue to push the boundaries of the auto industry.
- A commitment to employee and customer satisfaction. This, of course, is unrivaled in importance, as they will take into consideration what the market wants.
- A commitment to the environment and society. With the shift in the automotive industry, this is an important strategy to make sure that Volkswagen stays relevant in the modern world.
These philosophies would be meaningless if there was no plan of action to be followed (just look at the current mess in American politics), but Winterkorn has given numerous speeches and published a number of reports going into further detail. More importantly, these words have translated into some bold actions, as well.
Since the beginning of Winterkorn’s appointment as the CEO of Volkswagen, he has not shied away from expectation. Recently, he has been quoted as saying that he expects Volkswagen to sell an average of 1 million vehicles per year in the United States, which is a number that many naysayers have scoffed at. However, the growth that he has achieved on a worldwide level makes the number seem attainable. When Winterkorn first took over Volkswagen in 2007, the company was selling 6.2 million units per year; now, they sell over 10 million!
To continue the upward trend and ensure future success, Volkswagen is now investing 80 billion dollars in their operations, an unheard of number. They plan to use the money to build manufacturing plants around the world, create new products (like diesel, plug-in hybrids), and create more American-friendly products (a complete turnaround from the depleted 80s). Nobody is more excited about the execution of the plan than Winterkorn himself. He says, “We have our sights firmly set on our long-term goal: We want to and will make the Volkswagen Group a beacon for the automotive industry.” Looking at their trajectory, it wouldn’t be surprising if they end up there.