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Volkswagen's U.S. Goal is a Cool 1 Million Sales Annually

Volkswagen's long-term hopes to become the world's No. 1-selling automaker include a sales goal of no less than 1 million units annually for Audi and VW combined in the United States by 2018.

That's far more than VW has ever sold in the U.S. market, even in the heyday of the first Volkswagen Beetle. Nor does that sales goal include Porsche. VW is in the process of acquiring Porsche. Nor does it include VW's other global brands, like Bentley.

All told, that spells well over 1 million units per year in the United States, including 800,000 per year for the Volkswagen brand, and 200,000 per year for the Audi brand. VW calls its master plan "Mach 18," for 2018.

VW started talking about 800,000 units annually in the United States after it confirmed that it will build a $1 billion factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., with an initial annual output of 150,000 units a year, starting in 2011.

In interviews, Volkswagen of America executives had gotten a little artfully vague about that 800,000 goal, for instance whether it included all of North America or just the United States, and whether that was the goal for all VW Group brands, or just the Volkswagen brand.

But Stefan Jacoby, president and CEO of Volkswagen of America, reiterated the goal of 800,000 for VW at a New York auto show press conference in April 2009. "We will not waver from this goal one inch," despite the U.S. recession, he said.

Then in June 2009, Don Jackson, president of VW's Chattanooga production facility, said in a presentation sponsored by Automotive News that the Mach 18 plan calls for 800,000 for VW and 200,000 for Audi.

Recently, with General Motors just out of bankruptcy and Toyota also retrenching, Volkswagen has started doing the math for what it would take to become No. 1. For the first time since the 1960s, the United States is becoming a much more important part of that mix.