Dealer group bosses are being urged to support showroom and other ‘frontline’ staff in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions’ issue.
Malcolm Miller, managing director at the UK-based automotive learning and development agency RTS Group, said staff needed to be supported in how to deal with the “understandable and inevitable” customer mistrust.
This mistrust would spread beyond VW.
“The emissions test issues in the USA for VW are challenging for the brand and there is a need for frontline dealer staff to be as well informed as possible – the whole sector is likely to be challenged in the coming weeks,” he said.
The crisis at VW is a result of findings by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US, which revealed that software in several diesel cars could deceive regulators.
The German carmaker was ordered to recall half a million cars and faces fines that could add up to billions of dollars.
There may also be criminal charges for VW executives.
Miller said: “This current challenge will highlight any mistrust that the public has in published test figures on emissions and consumption figures.
“Customers will challenge frontline sales and aftersales staff directly as they see dealers as the representatives of the brand.
“Dealership staff need to be equipped with the right answers and how to answer customers’ concerns truthfully.
“The PR teams will be working overtime to ensure the message that the press get is factual and positive, but this message may not get to the frontline staff at dealerships; an email to the dealer principal is a good start, but don’t rely on that message to get to the service adviser who is under pressure from a customer.
“A classroom training solution in this case will take too long.
"We suggest leveraging the speed of video or podcasts online or on mobiles to support frontline staff quickly, and manage customers’ concerns truthfully, honestly and positively.”