J. Stuart Perkins

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J. Stuart Perkins was president of the U.S. sales subsidiary of Volkswagen, Volkswagen of America, from 1965 to 1978. During his tenure as president of Volkswagen's American operations, sales of Volkswagen cars peaked in the United States, the model lineup was greatly expanded beyond the Volkswagen Beetle with new rear-engined, aircooled cars, and Volkswagen offered its first front-wheel drive vehicles.

Perkins was born in London in 1928, and was one of Volkswagen's first three U.S. employees when the American sales office was established in April 1955. In June 1965, Perkins was appointed vice president and general manager of the operation, and he became president that December, succeeding Dr. Carl Hahn.

He enjoyed great success in expanding Volkswagen's dealership network and increasing sales figures in America - the company sold 569,696 vehicles the United States in 1970, Volkswagen of America's best year ever - and Volkswagen had a tremendous advantage in marketing the Beetle's front-wheel drive replacement, the Rabbit (known as the Volkswagen Golf in Europe) when it was introduced in January 1975. By 1976, however, Perkins was at odds with the company's plans to build Rabbits in the United States when it seemed a questionable idea due to logistical problems. He was further agitated when the job of running Volkswagen's new Westmoreland Assembly Plant, was given to James McLernon, a manager from Chevrolet, whose cars were distinctly different from Volkswagen's.

Once the Volkswagen plant commenced production of the Volkswagen Rabbit, the North American version of the original Volkswagen Golf, Perkins was no longer president Volkswagen of America but only the president of the sales and marketing department, which remained at Volkswagen's original American offices Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. He now reported to McLernon, who assumed leadership of all of Volkswagen of America as well as the manufacturing end of the business. Perkins left the company shortly thereafter, and McLernon closed the Englewood Cliffs office and consolidated Volkswagen's American business in Troy, Michigan, which was his base of operation.


Kiley, David, "Getting The Bugs Out: The Rise, Fall and Comeback of Volkswagen in America", Adweek, 2002