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VW brings in former GM, Ford executive

NEW YORK — Volkswagen has named a former GM and Ford executive to lead its ambitious plans in the U.S., where it aims to triple sales in the next decade and run a car plant for first time since the late 1980s.

Volkswagen AG announced yesterday that Jonathan Browning, 51, will become CEO of Volkswagen Group of America on Oct. 1.

The company, based in Wolfsburg, Germany, hired Browning in June to lead its national sales companies. Before that, he was a vice president at General Motors Co. He has also worked as an executive at Ford Europe and managing director of Jaguar.

Browning replaces Stefan Jacoby, who left in June to run Volvo.

The new CEO wants to improve several areas of Volkswagen’s U.S. business, including customer satisfaction, its dealer network and used car operations. He noted the company has never surpassed its 1970 sales record.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do across a number of facets of our business,” Browning told reporters at a press conference announcing his promotion in Washington, D.C.

Volkswagen — which also sells cars under the Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini brands — sold about 300,000 vehicles in the U.S. last year. It aims to sell 1 million by 2018, with 200,000 coming from its Audi luxury brand.

A key test for Volkswagen comes in October, when it releases a redesigned Jetta sedan in the U.S. It cut the price of its best-selling U.S. car by $1,735. The 2011 version will now cost about $16,000. It also made the car larger than its predecessor, hoping to more closely tailor the car to American tastes.

VW will also open a car plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., next year. The $1-billion factory will have the capacity to make 150,000 vehicles a year.

Volkswagen once operated an assembly plant in New Stanton, Pa., but closed it in 1988 amid sluggish sales.

VW is the third largest automaker in the world behind Toyota Motor Corp. and GM, but it commands less than 3 percent of the U.S. market. Sales peaked decades ago thanks to early successes like the “Beetle” and the “Microbus.”


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