one page summary and one page opinion

The Germans Are Coming Volkswagen wants to be the world's No. 1 carmaker, but first the company has to win over America. For a new CEO, first impressions matter. Early in his tenure as president and chief executive of the Volkswagen Group of America, Stefan Jacoby got an angry letter from a VW dealer in California, declining his invitation to attend Jacoby's first all-hands dealer meeting. Jacoby was about to become the most recent in a long line of Germans bearing promises." 'I don't want to come to Orlando and hear all these lies,' "he recalls, quoting the note. "I was impressed with the honesty, and to a certain extent, I could really understand it." Jacoby has had to labor to absorb a lot of lessons since arriving in his adopted country in 2007. Another early one came from Jill Bratina, his new head of corporate communications. "He kept asking me why I was so thirsty all the time," says Bratina, who is rarely seen without a big bottle of water in hand or jammed into a cup holder in her ear. "I'm not thirsty, exactly--I just like to make sure I have water available." All the time. Who doesn't? Well, Germans evidently. For Americans, who spend so much time sitting in traffic, their cars are extensions of their offices and family rooms. In the absence of an autobahn, comfort and convenience--and cup holders--can be more important than torque. It's become a running joke. As we leave a dealer meeting, Jacoby watches as Bratina hurriedly scoops up armfuls of bottled water for the half-hour ride to the next meeting. "Jill, I am so terribly worried that we will not have enough water for our long journey," he deadpans. But Jacoby's importance to VW's business is no joke. In the last quarter of 2009, Volkswagen leapfrogged from the No. 3 spot in worldwide car sales to challenge--and, perhaps, when the final numbers are in, unseat--Toyota as No. 1. It's an uncertain perch VW owes largely to its recent combination with Porsche and to a surge in sales spurred by European...