At Volkswagen, Winterkorn Makes Quality Number-One Priority

WOLFSBURG, Germany — Volkswagen's new boss, Martin Winterkorn, has ordered a thorough review of quality as part of a program aimed at raising the company's international competitiveness following embarrassingly low scores in recent J.D. Power quality reports.

In a meeting with high-ranking Volkswagen managers at headquarters here recently, Winterkorn vowed to take the lessons learned during his time as head of Audi to make Volkswagen a leader in quality in its class.

Central among the plans laid out by Winterkorn is a quality benchmark described as fitting the profile of Toyota.

"Future Volkswagen models will have exterior appearance and retained value to beat the competition," he is reported as saying by an Inside Line source who attended the secret meeting.

As part of Winterkorn's quality initiative, the incumbent head of quality at Volkswagen, Falko Schling, is expected to be replaced by Audi quality boss Hans-Joachim Rothenpieler. Among the measures already taken to bolster the quality of future Volkswagen models is the replacement of the proposed door seals on next year's sixth-generation
Golf with an alternative proposed by Volkswagen's new development boss, Ulrich Hackenberg. Another car coming under intense scrutiny is the upcoming fifth-generation Polo, which is being reviewed with an eye toward improving the trim materials used for its dashboard.

What this means to you: Audi quality at Volkswagen prices? Not quite. But Winterkorn's plan does have merit and fits well with its positioning as a premium volume marque.