Volkswagen is the flagship brand of what is now the world's largest automotive manufacturer, whose portfolio houses more than 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. 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 key US market in 2015 as a result of the "Dieselgate" emissions-cheating scandal, but its most important territory is now China. Global registrations were 6.91m passenger vehicles in 2018, placing VW second behind Toyota by volumes. (Light commercial vehicles under the VW brand sold an additional 500k units in 2018). The Tiguan SUV narrowly overtook longtime champion Golf for the first time as the brand's top-selling model worldwide. The two were the world's #5 and #6 best-sellers, while Polo ranked #8. China alone accounted for almost 3.2m cars, more than double the country's next biggest seller. 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. Partly in response to the Dieselgate scandal, Volkswagen has made electric mobility a key focus for future development. It unveiled several concept models under the all-electric ID banner in 2018 and 2019. 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 13th June 2019
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Adbrands Account Assignments tracks account management for the world's leading brands and companies, including details of which advertising agency handles which accounts in which countries for major markets.
Historical profile information for Volkswagen brand
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.
Adbrands Daily Update 2nd Jan 2020: "The Last Mile". Johannes Leonardo bids farewell to what is, especially in the US, a cultural classic. This sentimental paean to the original "people's car" was the centrepiece of a lavish New Year's Eve billboard display in Times Square. VW's Beetle was popular all over the world, of course, but nowhere more so than the US where it became a symbol of the free-living Sixties, and also of course helped to cement the fame of newly launched advertising agency Dane Doyle Bernbach. The original Beetle stopped being made in Germany in the 1970s, replaced by the Golf, but its popularity was such that it continued to be sold in America until 2003. (It was imported from Mexico). The new Beetle, introduced in 2002, never achieved the same iconic status, which is probably why it doesn't appear in this film. It too was consigned to the auto scrapyard last summer. So why the ad, and why now? It's another example of Johannes Leonardo's iconoclastic approach to the account. They spent much of last year advertising all-electric VW models that won't be on the road for another year or two. "From the beginning we've set out to break convention with our work on Volkswagen," says JL CCO Leo Premutico. "So what better way to send off the Beetle than to create an advertising campaign for a car VW is no longer selling? We felt any product that's played such a big role in our culture, across multiple generations, shouldn't go quietly."
Adbrands Social Media 19th Jul 2019: "A New Mission". Here's the latest submission from Johannes Leonardo for Volkswagen USA. Like the first collaboration between the auto giant and its new US agency, it's big on concept and light - very light - on selling product. That stunning first 30 seconds gives way to text-heavy exposition; the sort of thing that's usually considered anathema in TV advertising. Presumably VW know what they're doing with this approach (or think they do), but it's a risky move indeed to be promoting all-electric vehicles that won't be available for at least another year or two. Still, the company has some leeway. US VW sales for the first half-year were up almost 7% against the prior period, and 10% in June alone. Both were the biggest increases for any of the mass-market car brands. Has advertising played a part? Hard to say, but at least the solid performance gives the company some room to be a little more conceptual in its approach. For now.
Adbrands Social Media 10th Jun 2019: "Hello Light". The first ad from newly appointed Johannes Leonardo for Volkswagen USA is bold... or perhaps brave would be the more appropriate word. American consumers are used to seeing "mea culpa" ads from carmakers - General Motors ran several during its 2008 bankruptcy - but it's odd to see Volkswagen's appear so late in the day. It's now almost four years since the emissions cheating scandal broke, and most American consumers have probably forgotten about the whole thing. Yet the new ad chooses to put it front and centre once again as the motivation for VW's big push into electric vehicles. All that in one of the most deliberately oblique and arthouse ads we've seen so far this year. Darkness indeed. Does it work? Hmmm. Not so sure. We're betting Johannes Leonardo will be expected to come up with something very much more sales-orientated for the next spot.
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