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VW auto sales in the US stagnate amid market upswing

Growth in the US auto market remained strong in September, driven by low fuel prices and interest rates. Volkswagen sales, however, rose only slightly as the carmaker's pollution scandal is taking its toll.

Scandal-hit German carmaker Volkswagen (VW) on Thursday reported a slight increase in US sales for September in spite of a sales stop for its diesel models in mid-month caused by an exhaust emmissions scandal.

Last month, VW sold 26,141 vehicles of its core brand, up by 0.06 percent from September 2014.

However, VW's luxury subsidiary, Audi, which has also been implicated in the carmaker's emissions cheat scheme, saw its sales rise by 16 percent due to strong US consumer demand for sports utility vehicles (SUVs). Audi sold 17,340 vehicles in the United States in September, while Porsche sports cars - also a brand in the VW Group - sold 22.7 percent more vehicles.

In September, the US auto market kept humming along, with most auto makers reporting higher sales than Volkswagen. US carmaker Ford topped the list in the month with an increase of 23 percent, followed by Japan's Toyota, up 16.2 percent, and Fiat Chrysler which sold 14 percent more.

Encouraged by low fuel prices and historically low interest rates in the US, American consumers are currently buying cars like mad, which could boost total US sales to more than 18 million this year - the highest number since 2000.

VW trundles behind

Demand for cars of the VW brand is comparatively meager among US customers. To change this, former Volkswagen chief Martin Winterkorn had launched a sales offensive based on new and allegedly greener diesel models.

But the strategy backfired when US regulators on September 18 announced that Volkswagen's Clean Diesel models violated air quality rules because the German carmaker had installed cheat software in some 500,000 cars intended to evade emission limits for nitrogen oxide and other dangerous pollutants.

Following Thursday's announcement of VW's US auto sales, Volkswagen of America chief operating officer Mark McNabb thanked customers and dealers for their "continuing support."

"Volkswagen will continue to work diligently to regain trust and confidence in our brand," he added in a statement.

Puebla plant slowed down

Meanwhile, the German carmaker is slowing production at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, which is Volkswagen's second largest worldwide, putting out about 500,000 cars every year mainly for American markets.

German news agency DPA reported Friday, VW was reviewing plans for extra shifts on Saturdays. Weekly production from Monday through Friday would, however, be maintained, DPA quoted a VW spokesman as saying.

The spokesman also rejected media reports on Thursday which had claimed the Wolfsburg-based carmaker was planning short-time work and production stoppages for its plant in Mexico.

uhe/pad (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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