Volkswagen(VW) is one of the most successful automotive manufacturers worldwide—operating in 14 countries and more than 150 markets, with a record 6.1 million vehicles delivered in 2014. “Das Auto” has stood for high quality, affordability, reliability, innovation, and sustainability—and has also played a significant role in VW’s witty advertising and marketing campaigns.
Then came September 2015: News broke about the manipulation of emission test results for widely used diesel engines—an event with yet unknown consequences on the entire automotive market. What matters most now is how VW manages a turnaround—how quickly and genuinely the brand acknowledges its actions, how swiftly and transparently it corrects these issues, and how it sustains these changes in order to earn back its credibility.
This has hit the brand at its core: its authenticity—the honest and earnest “what you see is what you get” value proposition that has been central to the brand’s long term success. Undoubtedly there is still some capital of trust left with certain consumers and stakeholders, and VW will need to prove that this trust is well deserved. But strong brands can prove to be resilient assets, and VW remains true to its goal: to achieve the highest customer satisfaction while being the most innovative and sustainable volume carmaker in the automotive world. The aim is backed by its ambition to “democratize” automotive innovations and environmentally friendly technologies made available through its Think Blue initiative, as well as creating future mobility solutions that are more intelligent and connected.
Among German brands, VW has a large range of electric and electro-hybrid models, positioning it well in the race for sustainable automotive mobility. Together with other carmakers (BMW, Chevrolet, and Cadillac), VW joined ChargePoint in
an initiative to build a network of fast-charging stations by the end of 2015. In late 2014 it launched Volkswagen e-load-up, a fully electrical vehicle targeted at urban small delivery service companies, and also launched its first plug-in hybrid model: the Golf GTE, winner of the 2014 Grünes Lenkrad award for environmental innovation.
VW is also proving that it has one of the highest R&D investment rates worldwide. At CES in January 2015, it unveiled its Golf R Touch show car, which demonstrates the company’s vision for future communication between drivers and machines—users control the car’s features through gestures and touch, using a 3D-camera. The Connected Golf shows VW’s current development status. The online-based functionalities brought together under Car-net will enable car users to connect via app to three systems: Mirror link, Android Auto, and Car-Play. Other concepts include the Media Control infotainment app for the integration of tablets and smart watches, a parking guide, and a digital key.
Chairman of Porsche AG, Matthias Müller Has been tapped as the new CEO of Volkswagen Group, to lead the turnaround and leverage the brand equity VW has retained to guide it through. In Müller’s words: “My most urgent task is to win back trust for the Volkswagen Group…If we manage to achieve that then the Volkswagen Group with its innovative strength, its strong brands, and above all its competent and highly motivated team has the opportunity to emerge from this crisis stronger than before.”