Volkswagen took its most solid step yet toward trying to restore the affection of its American customers amid Dieselgate, by launching a “2.0L TDI Customer Goodwill Package” (click here for details) for owners of affected diesel vehicles that includes incentives of $500 in cash (in the form of a prepaid Visa loyalty card) and a $500 credit that can be used at a US Volkswagen dealership.
Another aspect of this charm offensive has kicked off with a new web-video series that Volkswagen has released in English and German to provide an inside look and insights into the company—and communicate that it’s a new, transparent era for the brand.
The first episode of the corporate video series (“How a car is made: part 1”) explains the Volkswagen Group’s process and philosophy across its brands, but it’s the description that’s interesting.
The video description, no doubt prompted by a lawyer, addresses any fuel consumption discussion or claims in its videos:
Dear Madam, Dear Sir,
As we informed you in the press release entitled “Internal investigations at Volkswagen identify irregularities in CO2 levels” (http://vwgroup.to/UjHpk) issued on November 3, 2015, the CO2 values and therefore the fuel consumption data published by Volkswagen for some models are incorrectly stated. We are currently reviewing which models are specifically affected.
Please take into consideration that the CO2 emissions and therefore the fuel consumption data published on www.youtube.com/volkswagengroup are therefore subject to reservation until this issue has been resolved and may be incorrectly stated.
In cooperation with the responsible authorities, Volkswagen is doing everything in its power to clarify the further course of action as quickly as possible and ensure the correct classification and presentation of the CO2 and fuel consumption values for the vehicles affected.
Thank you for your understanding.
Volkswagen Group Communications
The automaker has been struggling to get out in front of its emissions-cheating scandal — just late last week, it revealed some funny business with carbon-dioxide emissions testing on European vehicles in addition to the nitrogen oxides that are at the center of Dieselgate — and so its US dealers, employees and many customers presumably will welcome the initiative that Volkswagen AG announced on Monday.
The $500 in a prepaid Visa Loyalty Card is going to each owner of a 2-liter “Turbo Direct Injection” (TDI) Volkswagen vehicle affected, while the $500 Volkswagen Dealership Card, the Wall Street Journal reported, is “linked to purchases at a VW dealership.” A third aspect of the package is the offer of free, 24-hour roadside assistance for the affected TDI vehicles for three years.
“Providing some financial relief to current owners is another important step” in Volkswagen’s attempt to come back fully from Dieselgate, said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for Autotrader. But, “Next,” she said, “Volkswagen must lay out a plan on how it will fix affected cars. These are good and necessary first steps but Volkswagen has much more work to do ahead.”
Yet, because there’s no specific playbook for handling a brand-damaging scandal of this magnitude, new CEO Matthias Mueller still is obviously feeling his way and will have do to much more to buttress VW’s position in the US and global markets, even as he continues to deal with new, unfolding dimensions of the scandal.
“While the damage to VW’s market value, resale value and sales numbers are easy to track, the damage to its image is more difficult to measure,” said Karl Brauer, senior director of insights for Kelley Blue Book. “This type of incentive should counter the drop in customer loyalty, though its long-term effectiveness is similarly nebulous and will be difficult to validate.”
Meanwhile, one of the latest new revelations was that a whistelblower revealed to popular German newspaper Bild am Sonntag that the methods used in the recently disclosed carbon-dioxide emissions cheats included inflating tires more than normal so they would perform better in the tests. That would be a different kind of Inflategate than Tom Brady’s.
VW’s board met on Monday to (in the words of Bloomberg News) “discuss cutbacks and the emissions investigation, which gained new urgency last week after internal whistleblowers uncovered irregularities broader than the carmaker had originally disclosed… The admission that cheating may have been broader than the 11 million diesel vehicles previously disclosed has plunged Volkswagen deeper into the worst crisis in its history. “