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Volkswagen: Can It "Drive" Down A Successful Road?

It's hard for me to find a more perplexing automaker than Volkswagen. Mainly because it is a brand and a company with so much potential, so much brand loyalty, and yet, from my perspective, it has not achieved what it should.

I bring this up because of comments in the last week from VW executives about the automakers plans to boost global sales. VW's plans reflect the automakers' efforts to keep up with Toyota , GM , Nissan/Renault , etc. in an increasingly competitive global auto market. And yes, when you look at VW, it's still a major player worldwide.

I say this because Volkswagen has been on a steady and painful slide here in the U.S. At the end of 2002, VW sold 424,000 vehicles in the U.S. Heading into the last month of 2007, the company is on pace to sell about 100,000 fewer models. It's been several years since the company had a "buzz-generating" car. Still, this brand has substantial appeal.

It's not uncommon for me to hear from car buyers or auto industry followers about how much they love the Passat or Jetta. When I point out that sales for both are down this year as the designs of the current models have become older, the usual response is "Who cares, it's a VW." Interesting.

All of this is my way of saying I won't be surprised if Volkswagen can successfully re-invent itself both here in the U.S. and overseas. The next two years will show if VW execs have the right game plan.

questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

Autos