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VW Marketer Set to Depart

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DETROIT Volkswagen will replace David Goggins as director of product and marketing strategy after just 14 months, per sources.

Goggins will join Kerri Martin, VW's ex-director of brand innovation, and Karen Marderosian, former director of marketing and brand experience, in leaving the marketing ranks at VW.

He could not immediately be reached. VW representatives declined comment.

Goggins is returning to Bentley, where he was marketing chief until his appointment at VW in July 2006. Toscan Bennett, who was last a spokesman for Ferrari, will replace him.

"I've very surprised and disappointed to hear that David is leaving," said Bob Grace, chairman of the VW National Dealer Council. "He was very good at what he did."

Martin's departure in January left VW without a face to its marketing team. Goggins had filled that role, speaking to reporters at press events and auto shows.

Grace said that the dealers met recently with VW's U.S. chief Adrian Hallmark and were assured that Martin's replacement would be hired soon.

"He told us that they were still interviewing and to hang on," said Grace, a dealership owner in Baton Rouge, La.

Martin, who brought agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky aboard shortly after she joined VW in 2005, left in January, and Marderosian departed in June. In all, nine key employees have left the company in the past 18 months.

Also factoring into the turmoil is VW's announcement this month that it will move its U.S. headquarters to northern Virginia from the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills, Mich.

Sources said that the marketing department would be overhauled, with few of the current team being invited to make the move. Goggins' departure is the first major personnel move since the company announced it would move.

VW's ever-evolving power structure is part of what is stalling U.S. sales, as dealers lost their enthusiasm for the brand, and this year's lack of new product has kept VW out of the nuts-and-bolts news.

Early this year, Martin Winterkorn came over from sister brand Audi to replace VW CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder, and brand chairman Wolfgang Bernhard resigned.

"I think with all of the personnel problems they are having, some of their marketing strategy is very fuzzy," said Art Spinella, head of Bandon, Ore.-based CNW Marketing Research. "Volkswagen has always had a very strong following, but also very niche, and that seems to be dissipating on them. And this is going to happen when you keep making all of these changes."

After a year of limited new product, next year will see a windfall and an undoubted ramp-up of marketing activity to support a bevy of new vehicles.

VW spent $295 million on domestic ads last year and $90 million through June, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.