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Volkswagen names Jonathan Browning new head of U.S. operations

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By Marjorie Censer
Capital Business Staff Writer
Monday, September 13, 2010; 9:07 PM

Volkswagen Group of America on Monday named Jonathan Browning, a General Motors and Ford veteran, to lead the Herndon-based company as it moves to improve U.S. sales.

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Browning, who handles the Volkswagen Group's national sales companies, will become president and chief executive effective Oct. 1. He previously was vice president of global sales, service and marketing at GM and oversaw the company's European sales from 2001 to 2008. He also worked for Ford, in marketing for Ford Europe and for Jaguar, from 1997 to 2001.

Browning replaces Stefan Jacoby, who left in June and now runs Volvo.

During a news conference, company officials said the German carmaker is committed to the U.S. market. The firm moved its U.S. headquarters to Herndon in 2008 and is in the process of opening a manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. The company said it has hired more than 1,000 workers for the plant.

According to Christian Klingler, a member of the management board of the Volkswagen Group for sales and marketing, the company is seeking to sell 800,000 Volkswagen and 200,000 Audi vehicles annually in North America by 2018.

For his part, Browning said he is focused on the launch of three new vehicles geared toward the U.S. market: a Jetta that recently premiered in Times Square; a mid-size sedan planned for launch next year; and a next-generation Beetle slated to follow the sedan. Browning said the sedan was specifically designed for the U.S. market and that the company expects the United States to be the highest-volume market for the Beetle.

But he acknowledged that he faces a challenge. The company has not surpassed its 1970 benchmark, he said, when it sold 577,000 vehicles.

In comparison, Toyota last year sold more than 1.7 million vehicles in the United States.

Volkswagen is the third-largest car company in the world but claims only about 3 percent of the U.S. market.

"We know that we've got a lot of work to do," Browning said.

censerm@washpost.com


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