Tag Archive: Martin Winterkorn


“In the darkness, we found the light. Introducing a new era of electronic driving.” – Volkswagen’s new advertising campaign tagline

“Hello, darkness, my old friend; I’ve come to talk to you again …” – Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s, “The Sounds of Silence”

Is the best defense a good offense?

Is the most effective present-day defense utilizing a Baby Boomer anthem and harkening back to the 1960s with its brightly colored Volkswagen Beetles and (Hippie) Microvans?

After being rightfully bashed and bloodied starting in the autumn of 2015 for deploying defeat software to deceive anti-pollution testing of its vehicles (Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche), heads rightfully started to roll at Volkswagen AG corporate headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.

On the line with “Dieselgate” was Volkswagen’s brand, but also the reputation of Germany’s legendary designers and engineers. Consider, there is probably no nation on earth that prides itself more than Germany for its commitment to the environment (note the recent electoral successes of die Grünen).

The Volkswagen cheating scandal was akin to catching a falling knife. Using another well-worn metaphor, the shocking story has legs and has been running unabated for nearly four years.

The scandal started in September, 2015 when the U.S. EPA charged Volkswagen with using illegal (air quality testing) manipulation devices. A related Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation was launched. Volkswagen’s chief executive officer Martin Winterkorn was fired.

A continuous chorus of charges, fines, lawsuits, increased governmental regulation, falling stock prices and recalls mounted against Volkswagen and its Audi and Porsche subsidiaries. Last year, German authorities indicted Winterkorn on aggravated fraud charges.

Almost DailyBrett noted that Volkswagen did not follow to the letter the four basic tenets of Crisis Communications: Tell The Truth, Tell It All, Tell It Fast and Move On. In many ways Volkswagen management was just hoping this mess would simply subside.

Volkswagen management, employees, shareholders and even Kanzlerin Merkel and the German government had to confront the metaphorical Scheisse-Sandwich … you don’t nibble.

Back To The Drawing Board

At some point, the world’s largest automobile designer/manufacturer would have to go back on offense.

In doing so, Volkswagen realized it could not assume a business-as-usual approach.

Ultimately, Volkswagen appreciated that it has to acknowledge its wrongdoing, beg for forgiveness, and somehow, someway commence the hard work of rebranding … essentially moving on.

Volkswagen of America hired New York’s Johannes Leonardo advertising agency, and secured the rights to “The Sounds of Silence.”

The question posed to VW management: Can a major ad buy (part of a reported $2 billion campaign) for its 1:45 second spot featuring a Baby Boomer/Yuppie anthem make everything right in the world for Volkswagen?

In and of itself, the answer is obviously: no.

Almost DailyBrett has always believed that Volkswagen is engaged in a marathon, not a sprint. Volkswagen’s story, which began in 1937, deserves another chapter.

Americans are credited for being an understanding people. They will not forget, but are they willing to forgive and give … even a corporate entity … another chance?

The Johannes Leonardo creative, which debuted with the NBA Finals and the NHL’s Stanley Cup last week, is edgy as it literally starts in the darkness with a news announcer directly referencing the Volkswagen scandal.

One suspects that securing VW’s management approval for an open acknowledgement of moral failure was easier said than done. As Chairman Mao found out, the long-march back starts with the first step.

In our world of advertising bombast and overkill, it’s the extremely clever advertisement that stops the viewer in his or her tracks and commands attention.

The dark Sounds of Silence images convey going back to the drawing board. The result is the coming resurrection of the VW microvan … a concept vehicle for now … with the message the company’s environmentally friendly electric vehicle does not contribute to climate change. Volkswagen envisions 22 EVs (electric vehicles) by 2028, and becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Volkswagen has stumbled for nearly four torturous years. The questions are with its new ad campaign and beyond: Has the company finally learned its lesson, and are we as consumers willing to forgive, while certainly not forgetting?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEvNL6oEr0U

https://www.fastcompany.com/90359361/volkswagen-aims-for-feel-good-redemption-in-new-major-ad-campaign

https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a27784322/vw-hello-light-commercial-column/

https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/dieselgate-timeline-germanys-car-emissions-fraud-scandal

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/15/business/winterkorn-volkswagen-emissions-scandal.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidkiley5/2019/06/06/vw-goes-back-to-the-future-in-new-ad-campaign-to-put-dieselgate-in-rear-view/#1026a00d3aa5

https://www.vw.com/

http://johannesleonardo.com/

Glad we got that all cleared up.

Vielen Dank VW CEO Herr Matthias Müller (many thanks, Matthias).

We can now rest assured that Volkswagen is not a criminal brand.mueller

Richard Nixon told us he was not a crook.

And Bill Clinton did not have sex with that woman.

What is it with chief executives and their repeated association with the permanent stigma of a negative declaration with super-charged adjectives?

Criminal? Crook? Sex?

These are notorious words that stand the test of time. They are ominous and eternal. And once they are uttered, there is simply no way to take them back.

And yet this mistake happens again and again to the best and the brightest.

Words That Make You Wince

“We are not a criminal brand or group. We haven’t been that. We have made a huge default, technical default, but there was no intention against customers or authorities.” – Volkswagen AG Vorsitzende Matthias Müllervolkswagan

As Almost DailyBrett can attest, PR folks certainly love our metaphors:

You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

You can un-ring the bell.

You can’t put the bullet back in the chamber.

And sometimes we are guilty of drinking our own bath water.

And now you can’t separate German auto designer/manufacturer, “Volkswagen,” with the extremely unfortunate phrase, “criminal brand.” Thought those two words apply to the Mafia and North Korea, not a car conglomerate (e.g., VW, Audi, Porsche …) long associated with legendary German engineering.

The VW PR team accompanying Müller to Detroit for his first exchange with American media since the company’s “defeat” emissions-standards software scandal broke had to be cringing when he uttered these infamous words.

Müller also said: “We didn’t lie,” another negative declaration attached to a super-charged word.

Hopefully, he did not beat his wife … Please don’t ask him that specific question.

Was he coached to not repeat loaded, supercharged words contained in reporter queries?

Was he told to respond always in a positive vain, and to never use incendiary words?

Remember: When it doubt, declare victory.

For example, how about the following for Volkswagen: “We are a firm that will always be dedicated to observing all rules and regulations. We will overly comply. We will cooperate with authorities.”

Here’s another answer: “We are sorry. We pledge to adhere to all environmental regulations and standards, including those passed by the United States, European Union and other governing bodies. It will be hard to regain public trust, but we are beginning our quest to do just that.”

Americans are a forgiving people. We will give those, who deserve it, a second chance … but only one second chance.

To be fair to Matthias Müller, this debacle is not of his doing. He was the head of Porsche, when his predecessor Martin Winterkorn was shown die Tur. The media, regulators and lawyers are circling like a pack of vultures, looking to pick apart the legendary Volkswagen brand.

There will be even more screaming headlines in the coming weeks and months for Volkswagen as recalls start, lawsuits are adjudicated and fines are levied. Volkswagen will most likely survive, but the unfortunate linkage to a “criminal brand” will ensue.

“This Is the Worst Disaster Since My Election” — Pat Brown

Former California Governor Pat Brown (Jerry’s dad) was touring the flooding of the Eel River near the Northern California coastline in 1965.

We all know what he was trying to say, but the words didn’t come out quite right … worst disaster since his election. Was the Eel River flooding the disaster or his election?pat-brown

In some respects the late-Pat Brown can be excused even though those words haunted him for the rest of his governorship and life.

Volkswagen’s Müller is more of an engineer, who made an eternal mistake, forever attaching “criminal brand” to VW. He deserves his share of blame, but the same applies to his undoubtedly well-compensated PR, marketing and reputation management teams.

These are words that should never have been spoken.

Alas, they will live in infamy.

.http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2016/01/10/volkswagen-detroit-auto-show-naias-matthias-mueller-emissions-scandal/78603744/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthias_M%C3%BCller_(businessman)

http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/TheStrategist/Articles/view/11344/1120/In_the_C_Suite_Scandals_at_VW_and_Takata_Highlight?spMailingID=12579553&spUserID=ODkxMDgzMDgwMTkS1&spJobID=663351066&spReportId=NjYzMzUxMDY2S0#.VpaMhPkrLIU

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/11/462682378/we-didnt-lie-volkswagen-ceo-says-of-emissions-scandal

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Winterkorn

http://www.volkswagenag.com/content/vwcorp/content/en/investor_relations.html

http://articles.latimes.com/1994-01-19/news/mn-13310_1_human-suffering

 

 

 

 

 

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