Guten Tag! As I mentioned in last week's column, I've spent this week in Germany with the main purpose of attending Volkswagen's 2011 Financial Conference. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of, well, numbers. Between plant tours, financials, and executive salaries, tons of numbers were discussed but these were the ones that got me thinking.
Globally in 2011, the Volkswagen Group grew new deliveries by 14.3%. Out of all of its regions, the largest increase came from North America at 21.4%. Despite having the most growth, it's also VW's smallest market. With the US leading the way in global auto sales for decades before China came along, it's hard to imagine we are the smallest market for anyone, let alone one of the largest automakers in the world. This also helps answer the age old traveler question - why do I see so many Volkswagens when I go abroad? Here is how all the markets stack up:
The US' Volkswagen brand represents the majority of that increase as they gained 26% during this time period. It was the fourth highest gainer of all US brands in 2011 behind Jeep, Mitsubishi, and Kia. Who else showed strong year-over-year sales growth? Here are the Top 10 gainers:
I alluded to China earlier because you really can't talk autos on a global scale without mentioning this hotbed of sales. Mass market aside, there were some exotic vehicle stats that blew my mind. There was the same number of Lamborghinis delivered in China than all of North America in 2011 - 400 to be exact for each market. This segment of sales in China is booming - Lamborghini experienced a 63.2% growth from 2010. Likewise, Bentley posted a 97.6% sales gain - delivering 1800 vehicles in 2011.... a mere 200 less than what we saw in North America.
500 can mean a lot of things, but in this case it's the daily average of customers who take delivery of their new VW (or SEAT) at the Autostadt. Never heard of Autostadt? Don't feel bad. Most American's haven't. Located next to the Wolfsburg factory, it is described as the "world's leading automotive destination." From my experience, it's like a mini VW Epcot Center combined with a very slick vehicle delivery process. And I can honestly say, it's unlike anything I've ever seen. Germans love their cars and I think this stat proves it. Imagine there are 500 people daily who chose to make the pilgrimage from different parts of Germany to pick up their new car and visit this VW theme park. Granted, Germany is a smaller place than the US but most of us complain about driving to a neighboring city. And I won't even mention the unlikelihood of ever making the 2,138 mile journey from my home in Los Angeles to VW's factory in Chattanooga — Autostadt or no Autostadt. It's a unique and costly experience in brand building, but VW Group seized 36% of all new car sales in their home market last year, and to grow a high number even higher, one has to think out of the box. To put that number in prospective, Ford and GM combined captured 36% of the US market last year.
Ready to break from the numbers for a gratuitous car beauty shot?
This was taken from my camera phone of a Bugatti covered in liquid silver in the Premium Clubhouse Pavilion at Autostadt.
To put it mildly, the VW currywurst has obtained near rock star status in Germany. 51,594 people work in the factory in Wolfsburg, and many are demanding this curry-flavored sausage for lunch. The German sausage is taken so seriously that they even have their own butcher on staff that executes this secret recipe daily. He and his team made over 4,000,000 currywursts last year and it is a profitable business unit within VW. It was once taken off the menu at Autostadt restaurants but visitors protested so fiercely that it was soon reinstated. After hearing those type of stats, I had to try it.
My verdict? It was delicious. The butcher should do road shows.
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Jessica Caldwell is the Senior Director of Pricing & Industry Analysis for Edmunds.com. Follow @jessrcaldwell on Twitter.