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New mid-size VW takes aim on USA market
When Volkswagen AG set out in 2007 to become the world's leading automaker, it targeted Toyota Motor Corp. VW executives benchmarked the Japanese giant and even characterized a car they were developing for the American market as their "Camry-fighter," after Toyota's bestselling sedan.

Volkswagen is preparing now to roll out the all-new, as-yet-unnamed, midsize car Monday at the Detroit auto show, taking on Toyota and ratcheting up the pressure in the biggest segment of the U.S. auto market.

"It's already a very crowded market with the Japanese and domestics going at it, and now you're going to have Europeans, too," said Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends at TrueCar.com in Santa Monica, Calif.

Sales in the midsize car segment totaled 2.9 million cars last year, accounting for a fourth of the U.S. auto market.

Volkswagen is banking on the new model to help the company reach an ambitious goal: triple its U.S. sales by 2018.

"Success in this market is critical to Volkswagen's global growth strategy," Jonathan Browning, president of Volkswagen Group of America, said recently.

"The Volkswagen Group is already first in Europe, first in China and second in Brazil in the passenger car market, but we cannot truly rise to the top globally without significantly improving our performance in the United States."

But Volkswagen is likely to meet fierce resistance in the American midsize car market. The longtime leaders, Toyota and Honda Motor Co., assign their best talents to the Camry and Accord cars. Ford Motor Co. has a strong contender in the smartly equipped Fusion, while General Motors Co. has produced a stylish, vastly improved Chevrolet Malibu.

South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co. is grabbing a bigger share of the segment after a radical redesign of its Sonata sedan, and Nissan Motor Co.'s latest Altima is a stunning vehicle.

Toyota, buffeted during the past year by record recalls, is expected to fight hard to keep the Camry on top when it launches the seventh-generation model this summer.

"The midsize car segment is going to be a real dogfight," said Michael Robinet, an analyst at IHS Automotive in Northville. Detroit News

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