Volkswagen is the flagship brand of the world's largest automotive manufacturer, whose portfolio houses eight other international passenger car marques. VW still dominates the Volkswagen Group, accounting for more than half of total volumes. The brand has proved far more long-lived than its origins as a concept car for the Third Reich might have suggested. Reintroduced after World War II by Germany's post-war occupying authority, it was subsequently adopted as a symbol of the counter-culture revolution of the 1960s, especially in America. Since then, VW has successfully modified its appeal to become arguably the most "classless" car of the modern age, with a broad appeal to all levels of society, underpinned by a reputation for fine engineering and consistently effective advertising, which features regularly among the winners at awards ceremonies around the globe. As a result, it remains well and truly the "people's car" it was originally designed to be. The brand's reputation took a sizeable hit in the US in 2015 as a result of the "Dieselgate" emissions-cheating scandal, but its most important territory is now China. Like all auto brands, global registrations were dented by the Covid crisis, falling from 6.91m passenger vehicles in 2018 to 5.73m. It still sits in second place behind Toyota by volumes. (Light commercial vehicles under the VW brand sold an additional 372k units in 2020). The Tiguan SUV narrowly overtook longtime champion Golf for the first time in 2018 as the brand's top-selling model worldwide, and extended its lead in 2020 with sales of 607k units, ranking #5 overall. Golf slipped back to 8th place with 492k units. China alone accounted for almost 2.9m cars (down 10% on the year before), almost double the country's next biggest seller. However production was hampered by a shortage of electronic components towards the end of the year. The VW brand is marketed there through three separate joint ventures with local partners. The Lavida sedan - designed specifically for the local market and sold almost nowhere else - was the country's single best-selling car in 2020 and the global #9 with 464k units. The Polo and Passat were both among the global Top 20; the Bora and Sagitar (another China-only model) were among the Top 30. Partly in response to the Dieselgate scandal, Volkswagen has made electric mobility a key focus for future development. It has unveiled several concept models under the all-electric ID banner since 2018. The ID.3 became available for sale for the first time during 2020; the ID.4 launched in 2021. Herbert Diess is executive chairman of parent Volkswagen Group, and was also CEO for the Volkswagen passenger car brand until Spring 2020. He handed over that role to Ralf Brandstaetter, previously COO of the VW brand.
Capsule checked 22nd January 2021
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Historical profile information for Volkswagen brand
Adbrands Daily Update 31st Mar 2021: A marketing stunt conceived by Volkswagen USA backfired this week in the build-up to April Fool's Day. Two days before April 1st, the PR department of Volkswagen of America published a release on the company website announcing a change of name to Voltswagen of America, to highlight the group's commitment to electric vehicles. The release even quoted regional CEO Scott Keogh: "We might be changing out our K for a T, but what we aren't changing is this brand's commitment to making best-in-class vehicles for drivers and people everywhere." Needless to say, the release caused a commotion in traditional and social media and - more seriously - also triggered a sharp increase in Volkswagen Group's share price above the market average. Yet the whole thing was intended as a gag. Volkswagen HQ in Germany quickly backtracked, rightfully nervous of prompting accusations of misleading investors: "There will be no name change," they confirmed. As it struggles to put the whole Dieselgate fiasco behind it, Volkswagen can ill-afford another regulatory investigation. However, even if Keogh and his team might get a reprimand for testing the limits of acceptable marketing, they were at least very successful at generating plenty of column inches for the company's electric cars.
Adbrands Daily Update 9th Jan 2021: "The Wheel". Here's Johannes Leonardo's latest for Volkswagen in the US, an update of sorts to the celebrated evolution of man pictogram, but applied here to vehicular transport by way of the zoetrope. The final reveal of the VW ID4 shows a rather nifty electric SUV, but the main fascination of this ad comes from the preceding 75 seconds. These moving picture machines are astonishing. They were all built for real for the ad, even though most of them had never previously existed. Yes, electric cars are brilliant too, but the Babylonian stone disc zoetrope which opens the ad is a real gobsmacker.
Adbrands Daily Update 15th Sep 2020: The Volkswagen brand's most senior worldwide marketer Juergen Stackmann is departing the group. He is replaced as board member for sales, marketing & after-sales by Klaus Zellmer, previously CEO of Porsche North America.
Adbrands Daily Update 9th Jun 2020: Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess has surrendered his additional role as CEO of the VW car brand in order to focus on wider problems within the group as it struggles to rebound from the fallout from Coronavirus, as well as internal technical issues. In addition to plunging automobile sales, the group has been wrestling with software problems in both the new Golf and also the ID-3 electric car. This prompted a rebellion from union leaders who fear job cuts and demanded a separation of Diess's twin roles. Ralf Brandstaetter, previously COO of VW, will move up to CEO of the brand.
Adbrands Daily Update 9th Mar 2020: "The Accountant Part 1". Creative boutique Johannes Leonardo finally appears to have found its feet on the VW USA account with this excellent campaign. It follows a series of slightly oblique, almost deliberately arty films that haven't really seemed to try to shift cars so much as reposition the brand. This new ad is the first of three which are a little more vehicle-centric, helped by some top-notch casting in Paul Giamatti and Kieran Culkin. It's an attractive concept too: Giamatti is a celebrity accountant attempting (with mixed success) to rein in the excessive spending of star client Culkin. Nicely done. We look forward to parts two and three.
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