2016 NAIAS: VW Commits to the US Market (duh)

Matthias Mueller, the newly drafted CEO of the Volkswagen Group, said the following during a press conference at the 2016 NAIAS (aka the Detroit Auto Show):

“The US is and remains a core market for the Volkswagen Group…We know we deeply disappointed our customers, the responsible government bodies, and the general public here in the US. I apologize for what went wrong at Volkswagen,” Müller said, and promised: “We are totally committed to making things right.”

 

For those (outside of the media) who actually thought VW would turn tail and abandon the US market, Mueller makes it clear.  Plus they should have more common sense. If you think the apologies are a sign of weakness, get ready.  They will continue to flow until VW’s attorneys and publicists say it’s OK to stop.

Get your head out of the diesel scandal and think.  VW delivered almost 10 million vehicles in 2015, including an increase of 600,000 in the US market alone.  Wolfsburg plans to spend a little over $1 billion on improvements to the Chattanooga, TN plant. Most of all, remember it’s not just VW in the VW Group.  It’s VW, Audi, Porsche and a few smaller marques.  If Toyota can come back, VW should be able to as well.

Here’s another painfully obvious statement:

“…Müller identified the Volkswagen Group’s most important task in 2016 as winning back trust. He said this not only involved technical solutions for the vehicles affected by the emissions issue, but also reestablishing credibility, especially by uncovering the full truth of what happened. In addition, Müller reiterated that the Volkswagen Group will undergo fundamental realignment in terms of its structure and culture, as well as its future strategy, which is to be presented in the middle of 2016 and will provide answers to the central challenges facing the industry….”

 

As we used to say back in the day, “duh.”  It’s not about the statement, it’s how VW will take steps to outpace expectation.  How transparent will they treat developments on remediating the diesel scandal; and how will their engineers tantalize us with innovation?  These are the things that can restore the good name of VW.  Audi and Porsche aren’t as tainted as VW, meaning there is opportunity to showcase innovation relatively free from scandal.  Time does heal, and each day moves the debacle farther behind.  But innovation and transparency are the only things that guarantee better favorables in the mind of the customer years from now.

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Sebastian James

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