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Auto blogFri, 14 Mar 2014 18:31:00 EST
It's a good time to be in the luxury car business. In Volkswagen Group's financial report for the 2013 fiscal year, it is revealed that that Porsche enjoyed an operating margin of 18 percent. That means the Stuttgart brand made on average about $23,200 per car sold, according to BusinessWeek. Bentley wasn't far behind, and Audi (which was combined with Lamborghini) posted a 10.1 percent margin. This compares to only around 2.9 percent for the Volkswagen brand.
"Luxury brands are on fire," said Dave Sullivan, an industry analyst at AutoPacific. He said that the average profit margin is between six and eight percent. Brands like Porsche and Bentley have the benefit of competing in rarefied markets. Buyers looking at one their vehicles have fewer models to shop against and don't care as much about price. They can also charge more for options, which further boosts income, according to BusinessWeek.
In a way, we should be more impressed by the continued success from Audi. Its models generally have direct competitors in every segment from the other premium automakers. Plus, their buyers aren't the captains of industry who are shopping for a Bentley. Still, the Four Rings is leading rivals in sales so far this year.
The struggle over unionization at the Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, TN, continues to get more complicated. There's now a second union fighting to organize at the plant; although this one is staunchly against the actions of the United Auto Workers. At the same time, the UAW is still signing up voluntary members to its recently created Local 42 at the facility and is reportedly near having a majority of the hourly employees on its side.
The new, anti-UAW union campaign is being spearheaded by employee Mike Burton, according to Reuters, and he calls his group the American Council of Employees. He claims to already have 108 signatures in support of his organization. Burton believes that the UAW is harmful to businesses, and his goal is to force another vote to determine a preferred union among workers.
The UAW was initially defeated (712 to 626) when it attempted a union vote at the Tennessee plant in February. However, UAW secretary-treasurer Gary Casteel told Reuters that Local 42 has already signed up over 700 members. If it can reach a majority of the roughly 1,500 employees, the group hopes VW might consider recognizing it as the factory's union.
This was bound to happen. Volkswagen's relentless drive for big volume has the brand mining seemingly every niche it can find for additional sales worldwide. And with its CLS Shooting Brake, fellow countryman Mercedes-Benz has already shown that a wagon based off of a "four-door coupe" can look dead sexy and command extra dollars. So it follows that the Volkswagen CC (whose existence is all but directly attributable to the success of the original CLS sedan) will also get a load-lugging variant. That's according to the UK's Autocar, which notes that the five-door will come in the CC's next generation.
According to the report, the next CC will be available in front and all-wheel drive variants with the usual assortment of gas and diesel four-cylinders found in the Wolfsburg empire, with the possibility of a gas plug-in hybrid model, too. The rakish estate will ride atop VW's MQB architecture, a shorter variant of which is also found underneath the new Golf. The scalable chassis is set to spread like kudzu throughout the company's lineup, but the CC probably won't happen until after the launch of the next European-market Passat in 2015.
Will we get it in North America? Hard to say. Volkswagen sells the standard CC saloon here, but not in particularly large numbers, and when the company moved to a North American-specific Passat, it dumped the wagon variant. The traditional VW estate apparently continues to pick up sales momentum abroad, however, making the CC Shooting Brake a seemingly natural fit for buyers who still want the utility of a two-box form but can afford to sacrifice a bit of cargo room in the name of style.