DRIVER FOUND: HUYETT AIMS TO DOUBLE VW AUTO SALES: EXEC LOOKS TO HARLEY EXAMPLE IN STRIVING TO KINDLE UNIQUE BOND FOR BRAND

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Since 1971, David Huyett has spent all but five years at Volkswagen of America or its sibling, Audi of America. Since January, he's been in charge of marketing the resurgent VW brand.

Back in '91, Mr. Huyett served as marketing services director at VW, and he recalled those dark days for the brand, when in '93 sales reached their U.S. low.

"We spent more time on political relationships," said the Reading, Pa., native. "Now we're looking at how to make things better instead of fighting internally."

He arrived at his new post from core process leader for distribution and parts, in the wake of a turnaround and rising sales.

NOT ROCKING THE AD BOAT

"I'm not going to rock the boat" on advertising, he said. "It's working very well. Liz and our agency [Arnold Communications, Boston] understand the psychographics of our customers."

He was referring to Liz Vanzura, director of advertising and marketing, who reports to him.

Mr. Huyett plans to work closely with his counterparts at parent VW in Germany to develop brand direction and marketing synergies. He oversees brand image, strategy, product planning, pricing and advertising, and already has transported some of Arnold's ad executions for the Beetle to Europe.

He sees his biggest challenge as maintaining the momentum as VW moves upstream.

"We know in the future we're moving our brand upwards," he stated. "The challenge is to hold onto our customers and to attract conquest customers."

Mr. Huyett said VW's goal is to sell 500,000 vehicles in the U.S. in 2002. The brand sold 219,679 last year, according to Automotive News.

As sales rise, the brand's annual $150 million in measured media spending is likely to go up as well.

One of Mr. Huyett's dreams is to develop VW into a Harley-Davidson type of brand, referring to the intense loyalty of the motorcycle owners.

Mr. Huyett wants to extend VW's merchandise line and make its logo a Harley-like one "people really want to wear." He said 20% to 30% of Harley's total revenues are from branded merchandise, not bikes "We could move in the same direction, too. With our kind of buyers you could do this."

VW already is putting out brochures offering a wide array of VW merchandise, now available in limited variety only at dealerships and its Web site (www.vw.com).

VW INSTITUTE TRAINING

When Mr. Huyett first joined the company, he went to the VW Institute in Boston for training. That was right after his graduation with a master's in economics from California State University at Fullerton.

He then joined VW's computer group and, in 1981, moved to Detroit to work on market planning, product planning and research.

He left the company in 1985 to head marketing for luxury car importer Sterling. The British brand is no longer marketed in the U.S.

After rejoining VW in 1990, he switched to Audi as marketing director in '93, then back to VW in 1995.

Mr. Huyett said he enjoys a team atmosphere, and looks forward to the 25 people who report to him working together as a team.

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