When it broke that VW had committed one of the biggest automotive frauds known to man I wondered aloud whether the brand would survive.
Instinctively I felt that it would – there is just too much history and brand equity floating around – the VW beetle is one of the iconic vehicles of all time – cute, reliable, affordable and never took itself too seriously – what’s not to like? Overlay this with the fact that it was Hitler who requested Ferdinand Porsche design the VW beetle in the first place and you see that brands can overcome some pretty horrendous associations and links over time if they provide tangible and unique benefits along the way.
So they cheated on the emissions side of things and they betrayed a legion of brand fans – especially those where the green credentials of their vehicle is paramount. This should have at least thrown some doubt on a key attribute of the brand, that being that it is German engineered. But they still make a good car with above average cache – the Golf is another example – stylish, well made, German heritage, reliable, (not so affordable) with seriously useful performance in the higher specced sports models.
So it appears that maybe VW did enough to stave off total disaster – key executives have appropriately fallen on their swords and there has been the requisite number of resignations and firings. Fines have been issued and billions of dollars budgeted to fix the problems, both at a vehicle level and from an image and brand perspective.
From our side we put our money where our mouth is, having just bought a Golf Wagon and VW transporter for mobius Future Racing the cycling team we sponsor – I guess we weren’t all that worried. Why did we purchase these vehicles? They look good, they are fit for purpose and the deal was pretty compelling – one is diesel, the other is not. Did we think about Hitler or cheating software? No to the former and yes to the latter, but through it all we just like the VW brand. Plus, I unusually took the time out yesterday to actually read what Volkswagen Assist offers and went wow, these guys think of everything.
So how is the VW brand tracking? A case of fluff trumping substance? Overall, I’m not sure – but our cycling team is pretty chuffed and we feel that the vehicle brand still aligns pretty well with our brand.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The agency’s senior suit and more. With over 25 years brand development experience in Australia, Singapore & Japan, Guy offers the marketing knowledge, strategic insight and creative acumen needed to ensure your product & communications solutions have a winning edge.