That latter period can be categorised as anywhere between disappointing and total catastrophe.
Dieselgate isn’t the first major failure. VW had a factory in Pennsylvania that lasted a decade (1978-1987) before being closed. The facility was a byword for poor quality and massive losses. Across the 1980s, VW’s US sales dropped by 60%.
The new Atlas comes at the tail end of Dieselgate. VW’s £12 billion fine has now been signed off by the courts so customers can be compensated.
The Atlas certainly has things going for it. For once, it’s the right kind of car for the US market: a big, straightforward and powerful SUV. (The old Volkswagen Tiguan was laughed off the forecourts for its tiny interior.) The Atlas is also being built in the US, so it should be well priced.
But is the American car buyer in a forgiving mood? VW’s US sales have already slipped from just 3% of the market in 2012 to 2% in 2015. The Atlas is that rarest of things: a genuine make or break model.