Volkswagen Group’s chest-beating display of its newest cars on the eve of the Frankfurt Motor Show last month gave no indication of the turmoil that was about to envelop the company.
A selection of pages from the November issue of AM
Exactly a week later, headlines were screaming accusations of emissions deceit and rule-breaking, leading to the rapid resignation of VW Group’s chief executive Martin Winterkorn and its admission that 11 million vehicles globally, from Audi, Seat, Skoda, Volkswagen and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, will be recalled to remove a ‘defeat device’ that cheats NOx emission tests.
- Some Volkswagen franchisees reluctant to commit to 2016 targets
- We take a look at past Volkswagen scandals
- Jim Saker says the emissions scandal may do Volkswagen more long-term damage than recalls have done to other brands
For three weeks, consumers have had a daily diet of news exposing VW Group’s deception and its inability to act fast enough to reverse it. Considering the brand’s American operation knew its NOx emissions were under question by the US Environmental Protection Agency for months, it seems ludicrous there was no action plan for when it all became public.
A month later, the fact that UK franchisees know they are affected, but still don’t know how they will be supported seems even more ludicrous.
These are the ones who have invested millions of pounds into VW’s ‘blended retailing’ concept, Audi’s ‘terminal’ showroom style, and are still updating Skoda and Seat showrooms on the promise of rising sales volumes. These are the ones who are placating customers and who will be in the front line in the months ahead, rebuilding trust for the car brands. These are the ones who trusted that, as the ‘junior partner’ in the relationship, they would be looked after by manufacturer brands that, in the words of their leader, “couldn’t exist without our retailers”.
If there is a bright side, it could be a good time to bolt on an authorised repairer franchise for the VW Group brands. In the UK, there are 1.2 million vehicles to sort out in 2016 and, as we discover on page 6, the Audi and Volkswagen brands in particular are going to be very busy.
The whole scandal smacks of complacency, arrogance and chasing sales volume at any cost. Let’s hope lessons will be learned.
In AM - Automotive Management this month:
- How to add a sense of theater to your car showroom
- How Motorline chairman Glen Obee has managed his group's rapid growth
- The latest expert insights from the AM Digital Dealer Conference