The downturn in vehicle sales around the world is affecting nearly every carmaker in some way or another, but not equally in each market. Volkswagen, for example, has been on a four-year downturn in the U.S., with 2008 merely marking a particularly rough spot. But the company is working to turn that around, planning the launch of several new models and aiming for the 'sweet spots' of the U.S. market.

A full five new models will hit the U.S. over the next several years, including an all-new sedan that remains cloaked in secrecy, reports The Detroit News. The German makers of the people's car is targeting its main Japanese rivals - Honda and Toyota - with the new vehicles, especially a new small car and a new SUV to slot below the Touareg and above the Tiguan.

Most important, however, are the high-volume car segments, where VW needs a more affordable offering than either the Passat or Jetta. The new car will be geared more toward typical American uses than the German Autobahn duty the Passat is built for, says Stefan Jacoby, president of VW U.S. That doesn't mean features will have to be cut back, but it does mean that building in capabilities for extended runs above 100mph (160km/h) or more isn't a priority, which could help cut costs.

The new targets for production and sales in the U.S. are 130,000 to 150,000 units of both mid-size and compact cars, up from the current totals of about 140,000 Passats and Jettas combined. That would put VW on a course to draw nearer its goal of eight million in global sales by 2010, and also toward its goal of surpassing Toyota not just in terms of value, but total volume.

Already VW has revealed the new Mark VI Golf (Rabbit) and GTI, the Jetta TDI and Sportwagen and the new CC sedan. The next vehicles headed for the U.S. could include an up! variant or a new Beetle, though neither is likely to arrive before 2010.