Trounced by the recession, including a sharp drop-off in diesel-car sales and vigorous competition from the Japanese, Volkswagen of America is approaching its 30th anniversary in the United States with a crisp frontal attack on the marketplace.
Come fall, VW will launch both an all-new notchback Jetta and a slightly larger, less-angular successor car to the Rabbit, which will be renamed the Golf - the name by which the car is known all over the world with the exception of the US.
The Rabbit name, as well as the image, has simply worn out. Besides, it was ''just too cute,'' according to Peter Weiher, head of sales for Volkswagen of America, Inc.
Getting set for the transition in names, the US subsidiary of Volkswagenwerk AG continues to emphasize its West German roots, with help from a new array of specially equipped and priced Wolfsburg-edition car models.
VW is also touting its European-delivery plan, in which a buyer has to nail down a sale by May 26 and take delivery by next September. For his trouble, the buyer gets a free plane ticket to Frankfurt, transportation to the car-delivery site, and free shipment of the car to the US.
VW expects to increase its European-delivery program from 1,500 in 1983 to 5, 000 in '84.
After a stunning success last spring with its Wolfsburg-edition cars, Volkswagen of America has expanded the list from four a year ago to seven in '84 . Conspicuously missing is the Jetta, which is in short supply. James R. Fuller, head of the VW division in the United States, says, ''We can't begin to get enough of them to meet the demand.''