The “Dieselgate” scandal, in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has accused Volkswagen of deceitfully installing software designed to fool emissions tests, has the potential to inflict catastrophic damage to the VW brand. Marketing and branding experts believe that the scandal will cause VW drivers to abandon the carmaker in droves. But how much do VW owners and intenders care about the brand values on trial?
To answer this question, Resonate looked at the audience of current Volkswagen owners, as well as those consumers who have expressed interest in purchasing a Volkswagen as their next vehicle. At a combined size of 6 million people, this audience represents 3.3 percent of the U.S. adult online population. Here’s what we found out about them:
They aren’t driven by trust.
Contrary to the opinions of pundits, Volkswagen’s deceitfulness in itself doesn’t foretell an irreparable break with their customers. That’s because VW owners and intenders don’t consider Trustworthiness as a key purchase driver they seek from carmakers:
Given that VW fans are less concerned about the brand’s trustworthiness than is the general population, the carmaker’s duplicity won’t necessarily force a permanent break with the brand.
They’re driven by environmental concerns.
What purchase drivers do matter to VW fans? Environmental concern, for one; they over-index on a number of values and product attributes related to environmental protection:
Many VW owners purchased a VW diesel-engine vehicle precisely because the company promised lower pollutant emissions without sacrificing torque or fuel economy. Since VW fans also seek innovation from auto brands (161 index), they likely saw VW’s diesel engine technology as more innovative than the competition. While less concerned about truthfulness, VW fans are more concerned about the environmental impact of their auto purchases—and the news that the company’s vehicles are far less green than they have admitted may prompt these fans to vote against the company with their wallets.
What does this insight mean to a VW marketing team now tasked with damage control? Our consumer insights suggest that the company should focus less on the mea culpa in their messages, and more on brand building that reaffirms Volkswagen’s commitment to the environment. A merger with Tesla, perhaps?