As much as leadership changes in the automotive industry are both predictable and inevitable, each one brings an opportunity to have a direct impact on the future of a brand.
That exact opportunity is being presented to Daniel Weissland, who is making the transition from two-and-a-half successful years at the helm at Audi Canada to an office across the hall to become head of Volkswagen Canada.
By virtue of his experience at Audi, Weissland moves into his new role with the advantage of understanding the Canadian market and the ways in which it differs from the United States, a subtlety that executives who arrive from overseas sometimes never fully grasp. He also inherits a brand that is rebounding. Sales are consistently up after dipping post Dieselgate in late 2015, and six consecutive months of moving 10,000-plus units from May to October of 2017.
That said, there are two key opportunities Volkswagen has not seized upon in Canada that Weissland could look to for further growth. One is the brand’s lack of presence in the small-utility arena. By launching the new Tiguan as a long-wheelbase model with an optional third row, buyers don’t see it in the same class as the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V.
That strategy is a solid one for the United States where larger vehicles rule, but it’s a disaster for Canada: The subcompact and compact segments are the fastest-growing in the country.