When the news emerged that Volkswagen had been using a cheat device to pass emissions tests in 2015, the whole world was shocked. The scandal, which can only be described as a corporate catastrophe has been in the spotlight for more than a year now and the group is still working hard to rebuild its brand.
But how does a brand built on trust and reliability even begin to rebuild and repair its reputation after such a ruinous crisis?
This week, Volkswagen took the next steps in the process of trying to repair what is left of its brand by announcing a new corporate strategy.
Volkswagen had already taken what many saw as the first step with the appointment of a new CEO, following the company’s former CEO Martin Winterkorn’s resignation. This came with a public admission of guilt, with Witerkorn saying in a statement: “I accept responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines.”
But actions speaker louder than words, so what else has the organisation done to try and salvage its reputation?
Unlike many organisational crises that happen due to an external issue, the emissions scandal came from the inside. An internal investigation was instigated to get to the bottom of the problem and to provide answers – not only for crucial stakeholders such as employees and consumers, but for the organisation itself to understand the cause of what went so wrong.
By being both transparent and forthcoming with the results of the internal investigation, the organisation has eliminated the risk of false information and negative publicity spreading.
While these steps seem to have been successful at preventing further reputation damage, have they actually contributed to the rebuilding of the brand? The short answer to this question is no, but Volkswagen had a trick up its sleeve – a new corporate strategy.
The company’s ‘TOGETHER- 2025 strategy’, which was announced by the company’s new CEO Matthias Mueller, will be the biggest change process in the Volkswagen Group’s history. It aims to offer twenty new electrical cars or plug-in hybrid models by 2020 and thirty electric models by 2025, which could be viewed as a direct attempt to make amends for the potential environmental damage resulting from emitting 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide. So, is this enough to put things right and turn around what could be one of the worst PR nightmares of 2015?
The new strategy is just the beginning of the group’s road to recovery and only time will tell whether it is a genuine movement which will see Volkswagen redeem people’s trust to become a global leader of sustainable mobility or whether the announcement is purely an attempt by the company’s PR team to turn its reputation around. Watch this space.