Model and U.S. sales change from a year ago:
Touareg up 106.8%
Jetta up 58.6%
Tiguan up 57.8%
CC up 50.1%
Golf up 30.7%
Eos down 2.8%
Routan down 23.3%
Beetle down 99.7%*
Passat down 99.9%*
Volkswagen's U.S. sales rose in May to the best monthly mark in seven years with its clean diesels comprising nearly a fourth of the total.
VW officials said Wednesday the results lift hopes for the Chattanooga-made Passat, especially the clean diesel version with its midsize segment-leading 43 mpg on the highway. The new Passat goes on sale this fall.
"It's better than the hybrids," said Serban Boldea, a VW product manager, to a group of auto journalists in Chattanooga to see the new Passat. "It offers fuel economy without the compromise (of performance)."
Jonathan Browning, VW of America's chief executive, said the company's sales in May climbed 27.9 percent last month over a year ago.
Browning said during a conference call with journalists that VW broke the 30,000 monthly sales mark without the new Passat in the mix yet.
"We see good momentum for the high-mileage clean diesels," he said.
The redesigned compact Jetta led sales in May at 16,671, up 58.6 percent from a year ago, according to VW.
An auto analyst said the strategy VW has used in selling the new Jetta, cutting some content in order to make it more affordable and appeal to a wider audience, is the same it will utilize with the Passat.
Michelle Krebs, Edmunds' AutoObserver.com's senior analyst, said Jetta critics complain the vehicle's quality was cheapened, but the strategy has worked and allowed VW to raise the Jetta's price a bit.
"Look for the same strategy on the upcoming 2012 Beetle and Passat and possibly the same outcome," she said.
But, Krebs said VW will need to steadily exceed this month's sales mark to meet its lofty goal of selling 800,000 of the brand a year by 2018.
Randy Lioz of ALG, an auto industry data company, said VW has taken content out of the new Passat compared to the European version it replaces.
He said he likes the clean diesel version though it will take an effort to educate U.S. buyers.
Journalist Roman Mica of TFLcar.com said the launch of the Passat is key for VW.
He said that Internet postings on the car so far show about half believe it's "conservative" while the other half have a more favorable view of the new vehicle.
Boldea said VW is projecting the Passat's clean diesel and its cars with the bigger V6 engines will account for up to a quarter of all Passat sales.
VW said the Passat with the 2.5-liter, 5-cylinder engine will make up the bulk of sales.
Boldea said the Passat, which will start at $19,995 and top out at $32,950, is priced at the heart of the midsize sedan market.
"It's an alternative to 80 percent of the market," he said.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.