“We have to be realistic,” he said in a recent interview at the launch of VW’s new Golf hatchback in San Francisco. “The vision is right, but timing is a huge challenge.”
The CrossBlue, a crossover-utility vehicle, for instance, should be in production by now. Mr Horn’s predecessors were counting on it to build momentum; its absence has left a huge hole in VW’s line-up in a market where utility vehicles are still among the biggest sellers. To make matters worse, the launch of the American version of the updated Golf was also delayed.
By the early 1990s annual sales had dropped to around 54,000, and VW gave serious thought to abandoning the American market, following other European brands, such as Renault, Peugeot and Fiat. The firm chose to stick it out, but sales rebounded only gradually.
The original plan was to produce it in VW’s new assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but a controversy over unionisation, which the firm’s management supported, may make it reconsider those plans.
“We’ll only succeed in America if we build the cars people want here,” he said. Mr Horn has good reasons to be optimistic: Martin Winterkorn, VW’s chief executive, recently acknowledged that the firm cannot take the industry’s top spot if it continues to neglect America.