DETROIT — Volkswagen has outlined ambitious plans to become the world’s top-selling automaker within the next four years, but its lackluster sales in the United States have been a significant drag on meeting that goal.
On Monday at the North American International Auto Show, the German automaker showed that it had no intention of scaling back those ambitions, announcing that it would bring new models to the United States and invest $7 billion in North American production.
Volkswagen hopes the new models will bolster its lagging sales and help it reach its goal of selling a million Volkswagen and Audi brand vehicles in the United States by 2018.
A day earlier, Martin Winterkorn, chairman of Volkswagen, said the company would invest the money over the next five years to produce a midsize sport utility vehicle for the American market and increase its dealer network.
The United States market is crucial to helping Volkswagen achieve its goal to sell 10 million vehicles a year worldwide by 2018, but sales for its Volkswagen brand fell 6.9 percent last year, though the company got a lift from Audi, whose sales rose 13.5 percent.
Volkswagen, Kia and Volvo were the only three mainstream brands to post sales declines in 2013. Industry wide sales surged 7.6 percent for the year as consumer confidence rebounded and new models unleashed pent-up demand.
The American market “is the second-largest new vehicle market globally and a core part of VW’s strategy to become the No. 1 automaker in the world,” said Tom Libby, an analyst with IHS automotive. “The company needs to regain the momentum and growth it had here prior to 2013.”
Volkswagen trails Toyota and General Motors in worldwide sales.
“Volkswagen needs both a compact and midsize S.U.V. here as soon as possible,” Mr. Libby said.
The midsize seven-seat sport utility vehicle Volkswagen is building for the United States market will not go on sale until 2016. The automaker has not said where it plans to build the vehicle. At its factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., the United Automobile Workers union has sought to organize the workers.
On Monday, VW introduced two variations on its Golf compact car — a seventh-generation Golf R, which will go on sale in early 2015, and an eGolf electric car, which was first shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.
Michael Horn, incoming chief executive and president of the Volkswagen Group of America, on stage next to the Golf R, called it the highlight of the show. “I’ve got it at home in Germany in my garage.”
But the new Golf models are unlikely to appeal to a broad enough market to lift sales by much, said Alec Gutierrez, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.
“While the Golf R and eGolf are exciting, it’s the full 2015 Golf line that will provide VW with the most significant boost in the near term,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “Golf sales were down significantly this year as most consumers interested in a Golf or GTI were delaying their purchase until the intro of the new generation which should launch early this year.”
Sales of the Golf, Volkswagen’s third most popular car after the Jetta compact and the Passat sedan, fell 24 percent last year to 30,931 vehicles. Production on the new Golf starts on Tuesday, in Puebla, Mexico, and will go on sale this summer.
The weak spot in Volkswagen’s lineup, Mr. Gutierrez said, is lack of a more affordable and fuel-efficient update for the Tiguan sport utility vehicle.
“This segment is growing and VW has failed to keep pace due to a high price point and fuel economy well below the industry average,” he said.
The automaker will most likely get help from the Audi Q3 entry-level crossover it introduced in Detroit this week. Sales of luxury crossover utility vehicles are one of the strongest segments of the car market, rising 12.2 percent last year to outpace most of the industry, according to Kelley Blue Book.