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lo-res_42-15410106-sIs it possible for Volkswagen to come back from the emissions cheating scandal and resulting betrayal of consumer trust? The company hopes so, and in support of that effort, it plans to “Think New!” That is, Volkswagen has shelved its long-running “Das Auto” tagline in favor of the new phrase, as the company tries to make a fresh start and rebuild its brand.

To win back the trust of auto consumers and stay relevant in the U.S. market, Volkswagen has introduced a new a mix of family-friendly SUVs and electric vehicles. The cars are designed specifically to appeal to younger car buyers who value high-tech features, such as smartphone integration and easy-to-use interfaces with convenient services such as Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto. With this innovative tact, Volkswagen hopes to lure drivers back to drive vehicles that are fun to be in, as well as fun to drive.

Prior to the emission scandal in 2015, the company heavily relied on its so-called clean diesel vehicles to appeal to environmentally friendly consumers; 20 percent of the company’s total U.S. sales featured such vehicles. Losing this market, as well as contending with an overall reduction in VW sales, has made it hard for the company to turn the page and start anew.

It has taken several steps forward in these efforts though. Volkswagen of America has been granted new autonomy from its German headquarters, allowing the company the freedom to respond to the changing market demands in the United States. The company thus hopes to fill a void in its current product line with a new seven-passenger SUV. It also has expressed its goal to emerge as one of the leaders in the electric car market, with ambitious plans to sell 1 million electric cars globally by 2025.

Volkswagen but even with a fresh line-up of cars and SUVs, the road to redemption in the hearts and minds of the American people will be slow to come. The company plans to continue its aggressive spending on advertising, in which it will highlight new vehicle offerings along with a consistent, core message that outlines what the Volkswagen brand stands for and where the company wants to go in the future.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What challenges will Volkswagen face as works to rebuild confidence in its brand?
  2. What branding strategies are most likely to result in success?

Source: E.J. Schultz, “Thinking New: Inside Volkswagen’s Plans to Become Relevant Again,” Advertising Age, January 11, 2017

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