VW said last month that it would debut as many as 30 electric-vehicle models within the next decade, so domestic production for some of those would make sense. The emphasis on drivetrain electrification is also fortuitous, as the company is looking to move away from diesel-vehicle production in the wake of its emissions-testing scandal that broke last September. VW last month reached a settlement with US regulators that could cost the company as much as $15 billion in compensation, repairs, and other costs involved in the half-million US diesel vehicles that contained the so-called "cheat" software. Some of that money will be earmarked towards zero-emissions vehicle technology, while reports surfaced in May that VW was considering building its own version of Tesla's giant "Gigafactory" in order to reach economies of scale for battery production.
Volkswagen's US electric-vehicle sales have so far been limited to the e-Golf, so there'd certainly need to be a broadening of plug-in vehicle choices in order to justify North American EV production. This year, US sales of the e-Golf through June fell 9.4 percent to 1,257 units. By comparison, Chevrolet moved about 9,800 units of its Volt extended-range plug-in, while Nissan sold almost 5,800 battery-electric Leaf vehicles.
Woebcken was named VW North America chief in January. He was formerly with industrial brake manufacturer Knorr-Bremse, and worked for BMW before that.