2014 Volkswagen Passat Sport at the Chicago Auto Show.

The Volkswagen brand sold 407,704 cars last year, a 6.95-percent decline compared to 2012, and it's down a further 8.36 percent through the end of April 2014 compared to this time last year. In order to to put the sales football between its Strategy 2018 goal posts, the brand would need to add 100,000 more sales every year to achieve the lofty 800,000-unit target. Coming to grips with how unreasonable that is, VW US CEO Michael Horn has said, "For now, we have to have realistic targets."

The reasons for the brand's slow-down are imprecise, but lots of folks are throwing lots of reasons around. Last November, VW Group Chairman Ferdinand Piech told Bloomberg, "We understand Europe, we understand China and we understand Brazil, [but] we only understand the US to a certain degree so far." Analysts say the brand hasn't had midsize and compact SUV offerings, especially an overdue retail version of the CrossBlue, and the ones it does have are priced too high for their segments. It "didn't introduce enough new engines, or alternative technologies or model variants" for the Passat and Jetta. It devoted so many resources to China that the US market suffered. It was being outspent two-to-one on advertising by competitors. Its J.D. Power dependability ratings aren't high enough to overcome its past. It "has never really taken the US customer seriously." And so on.

There's still no official admission of defeat concerning the target, but reading between the lines there are some VW execs that appear to accept it won't happen short of some deus ex machina. Still,
Horn told TheDetroitBureau.com, "The vision is right... long-term. But timing is the huge challenge."